Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Fight Club

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  Ephesians 6:10-11  NKJV

I think it is safe to say that at one time or another most all of us have experienced some sort of conflict with someone else.  Life being what it is, we as humans seem to always find someone we don’t get along with yet have to interact with for one reason or another which then leads to conflict.  The nature of the conflict may take many forms depending on the personalities of the individuals, yet I have no doubt all of us have experienced what is commonly described as a “fight”.  There was even a major motion picture released a few years ago called “The Fight Club” where individuals actually joined a club with others with the sole intention of fighting someone else.

Now while I am sure none of us really likes to fight, and most if not all of us try to avoid a fight if we can, when we study the New Testament it certainly appears that most of the writers go out of their way to prepare us for the reality that we are actually in a big one.  By choosing to believe in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and making the commitment to live our lives according to His commands, we are entering quite literally the fight of our lives.  In this passage from his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us detailed instructions concerning this fight, and how we are to approach and prepare ourselves for it.

One of the most important points Paul makes here is in verse eleven where he tells us that what is expected of us as believers is simply to "stand". He repeats this in verse thirteen where he tells us that after doing "everything", we stand firm. In his way, God is telling us through Paul that the only thing He expects from us is that we play defense, not offense.  In verse fourteen we are told we can stand firm if we remember those parts of God's armor we have already put on when we made the decision to follow Christ. Those were reminding ourselves of the truth of Christ in which we believe, remembering our position before God thanks to the righteousness of Christ, and resting in the peace that is ours from the knowledge of the first two which was promised to us in the gospel of Christ.

So where do we go from here? Well, in verse sixteen Paul introduces us to the most practical piece of our armor, the one that we will need to use the most, and that is the shield of faith.

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  Ephesians 6:16  NKJV

Now personally I like this picture because to me, it really illustrates well what Satan is trying to do to us as believers, and the way he tries to attack. First of all, an arrow is not all that large, and if one is coming straight at you I expect it is pretty hard to see. Second, I have watched people shoot arrows with the compound bows used today and I can tell you for a fact that those arrows fly very, very fast. Third, they are pretty quiet as well. You can look at an arrow as the first of the stealth weapons, because the first time you will probably hear them is when they hit you, and obviously by then it's too late to do anything about it. Fourth, and even more important is the kind of arrow Satan uses. It's not your everyday arrow, but a flaming arrow which not only wounds you, but starts a fire that will continue to burn until put out.

As a result, God tells us that we need to take up the shield of faith. Hopefully like me, you have had the opportunity to watch a movie that illustrates the use of a shield to defend against an attack by arrows. I know I have seen a few that have done a great job showing what it must have been like to be in a battle like that. You have an army marching forward, carrying their shields which are almost as big as they are tall, and the opposing army launching their arrows. As soon as they fire, their opponents kneel down and hide behind their shields as thousands of arrows fall from the sky. As the attacking army continues to fire their arrows, the defending army simply waits behind their shields until the advancing army is out of arrows, and then they begin their attack. God tells us something in verse sixteen that I think is very critical for us to remember. He says that if we take up the shield of faith we WILL be able to "extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one." Not some, ALL. That is the sort of reassurance we as believers all need to remind ourselves of daily.

Since we know we can win with God's help, it is also important to understand what these arrows will look like so we can recognize the "stealth" attack by Satan. I think the clue is in how God describes them when He says they are "flaming". Obviously a flaming arrow will start a fire, which then burns until put out. How does Satan "burn" us inside? I think these arrows will have two characteristics no matter what form they may come in. Remember they are coming from Satan, and we already know his method of attack. Satan wants us to doubt the truth from God in which we have believed, so first of all these flaming arrows will come out of our own thoughts. It's a sneak attack that seems to come from nowhere when we begin to doubt what we believe in.

Secondly, they will attack our position in Christ, the faith in Him that we have, which has already been described in the first pieces of armor we put on. You see, the key to overcoming a good defense is to first create doubt in the mind of your opponent that he is capable of defending himself. That works in any sport you can think of, as well as our fight against Satan.

Most important to us, though, is to understand the difference between what we believe, and the shield of "faith" which we are instructed to take up. What is faith? The best answer I can give you is faith is "acting" on your belief. You see, belief is one thing, but making decisions, taking action, demonstrating your belief in what you do is faith. Faith is always action. I can say I believe that the airplane will fly, but unless I get on board I won't be demonstrating faith. The fact that you may have doubts proves that you have faith. So apply your belief to everything, every situation you find yourself in, and you will be demonstrating faith and defeating Satan and his arrows. We need to be "active" believers, Christians DOING not just believing. Ever notice how the defensive players in football are always moving around just before the snap? That's what we need to be as believers, moving targets that make it harder for Satan to hit.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  James 4:7  NKJV

This verse tells us that if we "resist the devil", (another way of saying take up the shield of faith and act), the devil "will flee from you". We can win this battle. God has not only told us how, but given us the tools. We only need to follow His instructions to be successful in our fight. But the best part of all is the understanding that we only have to play defense.  

Keep watching.