Cosmic Threats Need Cosmic Protection
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:11-12)
The devil isn't some Sunday school threat to coerce children in believing in God. He isn't some archaic attempt to define what's bad in this world. He is a very real force, and he is on your heels.
He will destroy you if he can, and he'll leave your faith like shattered glass on the floor.
When Paul tells the church in Ephesus to put on the whole armor of God, he is telling them to make sure that they must make use of God's protection. The threat is real, so just as in Ephesus, we must avail ourselves of God's protection. We need to use it all. Not just a sword here, or maybe a helmet there (until it gets heavy and makes us sweat), or a breastplate if it goes with our shoes.
We need all of it. Right now.
Be Careful When You're Comfy
"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,...Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Your comfort is your anesthesia. You are sedated when life is good, and you are completely oblivious to the threats around you. Most notably, you. When your bank account is full and you're healthy and it's all good, you will get a little spiritually sleepy.
Wake up for a moment and let's talk about it.
Suffering is normal in a broken world, but we like to act like it doesn't exist - that is, until our life flips upside down. It's like cold water to the face. Suffering wakes us up to the reality of the pain or our existence and our need for salvation. So when you suffer, don't shake your fist at God - open your eyes and look around and be prepared for God to teach you something.
Faith is a Verb
Love is not a feeling, it's a verb. Faith, too. We don't have faith in Jesus when we feel like it. Or actually, maybe we do. That's why we can go on a church retreat and levitate around drunk on faith and then go home and get right back into our sinful rut.
Faith must be a choice. Sometimes it feels illogical, but it isn't. Sometimes it's really hard to pray and the words won't come. I've been there. Pray anyway.
Paul says we need the "shield of faith". A shield is a defensive weapon which defends against swords and arrows of the enemy. And thus, this begs the question: what does Paul mean here?
Hebrews 11 says faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Hope is safety. Hope allows us to be courageous even in the face of evil. Faith is meditation on hope, and our hope is bound up in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our faith (hope) in Christ will protect us from temptation and other false promises which pale in comparison to the riches in Christ.
We don't need to constantly look over our shoulders or pray unceasingly against the devil. I have known people who talk more about spiritual warfare than love, and I believe that's a problem.
God is not an absentee father, sending a check now and then so we can buy a little something. He is here, right now - and he has our backs. We have no need of fear - none. But we need to remain awake. We need to know where to turn when we feel the presence of something dark in our lives. Not if, when.
Spoiler alert - God wins. Always. And just what does he win? Our souls. So put on your armor, my friend - and bask in his safety.