The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Isn’t it nice to get an extra day off during the week where we can take a break? That’s what we get tomorrow as our nation celebrates Labor Day. Back in 1894, Labor Day was made an official federal holiday where we as a nation should “pay tribute … to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership … the American worker.” So to pay tribute to the American worker, most of us get the day off and we will probably enjoy some burgers, brats, and hot dogs on the grill as we unofficially close out the summer season.
As nice as Labor Day is, as nice as it is to get an extra day off to spend with family and friends … do we really get a day off? Sure, we get the day off of work, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a day off say from … life? Wouldn’t it be nice to get a day off from the various problems of life which we face? I’m sure we would all appreciate that, but unfortunately we aren’t granted such a blessing. Instead we wake up each morning in this sin invested world full of a whole host of problems. Problems we often think are unique to us.
But let me tell you about Frank. Frank was a one-eyed dwarf who was raised by an abusive alcoholic father in a small coal-mining town where the unemployment rate was 18%. His wife of seven years left him the day before Christmas in 2008 after he lost his janitorial job at the local high school for smoking pot during his breaks. Broke and broken down, Frank took to wandering the streets at night in a drunken stupor, muttering under his breath, “Nobody understands what I’m going through. Nobody’s felt this much pain. Nobody’s gone through so much dirty rotten stuff as I have.”
You know what? Frank’s wrong. He isn’t special. Sure, he may be the only one-eyed dwarf in the history of the world who’s gone through exactly that series of unfortunate events, but he’s not the only one with a physical challenge or disability. He’s not the only one raised in an alcoholic home. He’s not the only one in a broken marriage and he certainly isn’t the only fired for doing something stupid. Frank isn’t special, he isn’t a unique sufferer … he is simply human.
You and I, we have a habit of talking about our problems as “personal problems.” What we mean by that is that our personal problems are something special to us, they are our own struggle. You may not want to hear this, but here’s the thing … they’re not. Of the many problems we have, nothing we’re dealing with is a novelty, nothing we are dealing with is something which is unique to our human condition because the royally screwed up human condition is really, really old. You and I are just the most recent ones to be dealt this deck of cards. Our great-great-great-great grandparents struggled with skirt-chasing husbands, insufficient funds, rude neighbors, foolish coworkers, cancer, terminal diseases, and hemorrhoids, just like we do.
Now I don’t want it to sound like I’m minimizing the problems we face, the things we are suffering with, because I’m not. If anything, I’m doing the exact opposite. I’m maximizing them, deepening them, I’m making them more universal. To be human means that we get to live a life that can often stink. But when we look at the problems we face and compare them to a different, an even bigger problem we have … they are very minute.
Of all the problems we face in this life, there is one which we should be most concerned about. This problem is a spiritual problem, it is one which has to do with our eternal salvation and it is addressed in our Epistle lesson from Ephesians 6. Paul writes that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Simply put … our biggest battle is not against depression or drugs, it isn’t against cancer or cantankerous co-workers, it isn’t against deadbeat parents or depleting finances … our biggest battle is against Satan and all of his little minions. If Satan wins this battle, there is no eternal salvation for you or me. The horrifying thing is that Satan is not just good at what he does, he is great at it.
Satan tempts us with all kinds of things to lead us astray. He tries to make us think that the various problems we face are because we don’t pray enough, we don’t follow God good enough, that we don’t read the Bible enough, that we are being punished for some sin which we committed. Satan opposes God’s way and he assumes so many different disguises so that we won’t recognize him. He creates doubt, denial, and confusion. He seeks to destroy your faith by telling you how you don’t need a Savior, you don’t need Jesus because if Jesus was truly all powerful, you wouldn’t be experiencing your problems and suffering. Satan goes on to make sin look attractive. Satan tries to break up families and he seeks to discredit anything taught in the Bible by perverting it.
Satan doesn’t do all of this to you at once. He doesn’t come at you with a firehouse and try to drown you with guilt. Instead he works little by little. I’d compare it to the opening of a can of Pringles. Once you pop, you can’t stop. You can’t just eat one Pringle. I find myself constantly returning to the can for a couple more, and a couple more, and then a small stack, and another small stack. Next thing I know, they’re gone and I feel guilty as all get out for having just eaten the whole can in the course of half an hour. This is how Satan works on you and me … little by little.
Personal problems and spiritual problems … they are something universal to us all. And if the problems we face are universal and are not unique to any of us, then we need a universal solution. This universal solution though doesn’t seem like much of a solution though. And maybe that is because it’s not your typical kind of solution. It isn’t a wonder drug, a silver bullet, a psychological treatment or a financial seminar by Dave Ramsey. This universal solution is simply another human being.
But thing with this human being is that he is unique. He is unlike you and me in that he actually wants problems, he wants your problems, both personal and spiritual. Only he doesn’t come to make everything look nice and smell pretty again. He doesn’t walk around throwing handfuls of rose petals on people’s head and singing kumbaya.
Instead, he is the shield Paul talks about with which you can extinguish the all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Eph. 6:16). Jesus doesn’t solve our problems … instead he takes them and makes them his own. He sinks into our pain. He’ll hear the doctor’s bad diagnosis with us. He’ll sit with us when we binge watch Netflix or YouTube because we are too depressed to do anything else. Gradually, he will bend our heads upward from staring at our own navels to looking at him in the eye.
You know, I really wish that Jesus would literally take all of our problems and just throw them into some cosmic black hole so that we wouldn’t have to worry about them and give us a break, give us at least a day off from our problems every once in a while. But instead of doing that, Jesus leads the army of his saints into battle. He leads them, but not out onto the battlefield, but to the base of a steep rocky mountain. Jesus leads his saints to this base, but he doesn’t lead them up the mountain. Instead he says to wait there for him as he marches on into battle. A battle against our personal problems and our spiritual problem. He takes all of our hurt, our disappointment, all our dumb decisions, all our me-centered actions and he nails them to his very own body.
All of your problems, all of the world’s problems hang with him on a horrible, ugly, gorgeous tree. It’s there that humanity’s problems, addictions, bombings, death and the spiritual battle with Satan take place. On that cross, Jesus is your shield protecting you from the flaming arrows of Satan. He absorbs them all into his own dying body.
But when he steps forth from the tomb on Easter … the wounds of Satan’s arrow, the wounds of all the problems of the world are gone. All that stuff passed away with him in the tomb never to be seen again.
Jesus fights the battle against Satan and sin for us. He holds us up in the midst of our problems and defends us. He does it all for us out of his amazing love. Easter is our glimpse of the end and the beginning of what Jesus has and will do. The end of all the bad, all the problems, all the attacks from Satan, and the beginning of all the good, the good of eternal life where we will not just get a day off from problems, but we will forever be on vacation from the problems of this sinful world. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.