Every task, job or game has its own set of tools and rules – if you do not master these tools and rules you are unlikely to develop competency in the practice you have chosen. Trying to fight a fire with the tools of a baseball player would be a rather frustrating and dangerous task. Using the tools and rules of a doctor would not be very helpful if your desire is to plant a garden. Familiarity with and commitment to the “tools of the trade” is a necessary part of anything you want to achieve.
This should be obvious, yet when it comes to spiritual growth too many people want to achieve the result without a corresponding commitment to the tools and practices of the task. No one is naturally good at spiritual growth, rather it is a learned task with a particular set of practices that help promote proficiency.
Paul, while under house arrest, wrote the letter to the Ephesians, to encourage these Christians to grow up in Christ. As he wrote he was always in the presence of his Roman soldier guard. He took the armor of a legionnaire and used it to explain the tools and the rules of spiritual growth. Listen to his words: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes... Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-11, 14-17 NIV) Paul reminds these disciples of the six tools that will help them fulfill their mission to be salt and light in a dark world: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God!
The image of a disciple fully dressed in the armor of God is a powerful and helpful image.
· It reminds us that we are part of a large group of people all seeking to accomplish the same task – if there is only one soldier in the army, it is not an army!
· It points out that we are not just passing time doing whatever interests us, rather we are committed to the will and mission of the commander.
· It helps us focus on who we are committed to, and who our enemy is – “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood” – we are engaged in a spiritual battle. (This is important to remember when facing people who are fighting for the enemy – they are not the enemy, rather they are being used by the enemy!)
· It calls us to be committed to taking a stand and refusing to go AWOL! Imagine how the world would change this week if all those who follow the Prince of Peace put on their armor, and loved the world like Jesus does!
Suit up and get in the fight alongside Jesus…
- Kenny Payne