- Suiting Up
- Ephesians 6:10-18
- Lyndol Loyd August 26, 2018
This morning we are continuing in our series, “Game Ready.” Just as football teams from Pop Warner all the way up to the NFL have been gearing up for their first games of the year, we’ve been thinking about what it means to be “Game Ready” as Christians, as modern day disciples of Jesus Christ.
We took a look at how Jesus formed His team by calling His disciples to leave what they were doing and to come and follow Him. We saw how Jesus invited them to participate in a vision bigger than themselves. We discovered that, for Jesus, the ultimate value was upon people- loving people, caring for people, seeing and valuing people. We also noted how Jesus didn’t simply see people as they were, but how He looked at them and saw the potential within them even when they couldn’t see it within themselves. As Christ-followers, today we seek to do the same – value people and to see the potential within them, to see them as Christ sees them.
Last week, we examined the early training Jesus did with his disciples as found in Luke 9. We found out that to be on God’s team requires our willingness to go where God calls. We saw how it isn’t about our capabilities, but about relying upon God’s resources. Most importantly, we saw Jesus training them to know Him as the Lord, the leader of their lives.
This morning we shift toward suiting up. When watching football, it’s easy to take for granted that the equipment utilized by the participants is the same as it has always been, standing ready to protect the players from the tough physical demands of the game.
When football first began being played in the United States it was indeed called football, but it looked far more similar to the game of rugby that had been imported to collegiate fields from across the Atlantic from England.
This means that there were no players wearing headgear when Princeton and Rutgers squared off for the first college football game in history in 1869. Today, helmets are made using technology to protect players from concussions.
The first pads are said to have been made of leather and wool and were sewn into the competitor’s jerseys as opposed to being worn as a separate piece of equipment.
Here’s a cool visual demonstration of uniform changes over time. On the right is LakeRidge’s own Jake Kirkpatrick, who is a freshman and on the Texas Tech football team this year. In the middle is Jake’s father, Ben, when he played for the Red Raiders in the late 80’s and early 90’s. On the left is Jake’s grandfather, Jack Kirkpatrick, when he played for Tech in the 50’s. Notice that granddad doesn’t have a face mask on his helmet. Pretty cool visual of the changes in football uniforms over time.
You might not realize it, but the Bible offers those of us who are seeking to play on God’s team some words about suiting up. In writing his letter to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul gives his own guidance about how each one of us should outfit ourselves. We find it in Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT):
10A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. 11Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.
13Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. 16In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. 17Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
As we pick up with this passage of Scripture, Paul is closing out his letter to the Ephesians by sharing with them his desire for them. It also just happens to be God’s desire for each one of us.
God’s desire for us is that we would be strong with the Lord’s mighty power.
Paul understood that life is full of all kinds of challenges, that to live this life is to be engaged in a spiritual battle. He also knew that we have a sly and cunning adversary in the devil who will do whatever he can to cause us to stumble.
Paul didn’t want this church that he loved so much to fall victim to all of this so he pours out his heart to them in this passage of Scripture. As your pastor, I have that same desire for you. It is my prayer that each one of us would be able to say that we are strong in the Lord’s mighty power.
In order to do that, Paul says you better suit up in a spiritual uniform. Trying to face the challenges of this life without making sure we first have on the correct equipment to handle the challenges we face wouldn’t be wise.
What are we supposed to wear? It is an ensemble called the “full armor of God.” It begins with…
- The belt of truth
A girdle was a belt. It’s most immediate and practical use for a soldier was to gird (or hold tight) his tunic so he might be free in his movement; it also provided a place to hang his sword.
The imagery here is that truth holds together all other virtues and makes them effective. Without the truth we may end up guessing our way through life. But when we walk in the truth of Jesus Christ, we experience freedom of movement like we have never known before.
Lies, distortion, and deception will only serve to slow us down or entangle us. Living in the truth sets us free and allows us to move through life with greater ease.
- Breastplate of righteousness
The breastplate’s purpose is to guard the vital parts of the body; likewise, righteousness or “right living” is what protects those of us who seek to follow Jesus.
When we allow Christ’s character to live within us, some amazing things happen. Our passions are redeemed and redirected. Our desires are refined. All of that together protects us like a suit of armor. It makes it difficult for the devil to get at us.
It has been said that words are no defense against accusations, but a good life is. There is a story about Plato and his supporters being accused of some terrible crimes to which his response to his supporters was, “Well then we must live in such a way as to prove that his accusations are a lie.”
The best way to defend ourselves against all of the accusations people would hurl at Christianity is to live in such a way so that our lives speak louder than their words, to show them the difference that Jesus Christ makes in daily living.
- Shoes of good news
Military boots were one of the most important parts of the Roman soldier’s equipment. They were designed for long marches over every kind of tough terrain. It has been said that the attention given to soldier’s boots was the secret of the Roman conquest.
Paul is drawing upon that same idea with this metaphor. He believed that the good news, or gospel, of Jesus Christ prepares each one of us for all difficulties, that the gospel gives us sure footing.
It allows us to march over the rough terrain of life, over the mountain passes of excruciating pain, through desserts of fear and terror, without falling out on the journey.
Paul is also highlighting for us how important it is that we are prepared to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to OTHERS. He reminds us how important it is that we help people understand how practical faith in Jesus Christ is for daily living.
- Shield of faith
One of the most dangerous weapons of ancient warfare was the fiery dart. The heads of the darts or arrows would be wrapped with flax, soaked in pitch and then set on fire before they were launched.
A wooden shield could be set on fire by them. For that reason, the shields were covered with a layer of hide. It is also why they were made large enough to protect the whole body. Even though the dart may pierce the shield, the fire would be quenched.
What a picture for us! Faith is a shield, guarding those who trust in Jesus against all attacks of the enemy. But by faith, Paul wasn’t speaking about mere belief in someone or something. Paul was speaking about trustful obedience to Christ.
Life’s journey is covered with the wreckage of Christians who never discovered how to combat the devil. They depend upon their own moral strength and inner fortitude to make it. Sometimes that is enough, but often it isn’t.
Moral strength, at times, wears down. We end up wearing out. We need something more. We need the resources of Christ who stands with us and fights with and for us against every onslaught of sin.
Trustful obedience, characterized by our utter commitment and daily dependence upon Christ, is our only true shield we can have in life.
- Helmet of salvation
Paul sees this helmet of salvation, worn by the Christian soldier, as the guarantee of divine protection and ultimate deliverance. He wants us to know that we can have a sense of assurance about our future.
If we take the helmet of salvation we are safe – not only in the sense of being delivered from conflict and suffering, death and sin, but safe from evil.
Salvation, then is not only forgiveness of past sins, it is strength to overcome, even conquer, present and future sins as well.
When we wear this helmet, we have confidence – confidence that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. So if God is for us, it doesn’t really matter who is against us.
- Sword of the spirit – the word of God
If we want to meet life’s challenges it is absolutely essential that we are rooted in Scripture, for Scripture is the primary source of God’s word to us.
Paul’s suggestion goes further here than simply including the Bible. Paul’s suggestion is that Christians can always depend on receiving the needed word from God.
It may be a word of comfort during a time of emotional turmoil.
It may be a word of hope in a dark time.
It may be a word of courage at a time when we have trembling knees.
It may be a word of challenge when we are apathetic about life.
It could be a word of condemnation when we wallow in sin.
It may be a word of witness to the goodness of God.
Our sword, then, is the Bible, but it is more. It is the word of the Bible made alive by the Holy Spirit for our edification and witness, admonition and exhortation with others.
- An added touch – pray in the Spirit
Whenever I get dressed for the day, one of the things I quite often do after I have all of my clothing on is to give a squirt of cologne. I figure a guy like me can use all of the help he can get. It is an added touch.
Paul offers an added touch as well. After he has presented the full armor of God he mentions one more item. He doesn’t present it as a piece of armor, but more so as something that brings everything together.
He says after you’re fitted with the armor, make sure that you also pray in the Spirit. He saves the most powerful weapon of all for last– prayer.
Prayer gives us the opportunity to speak with our God. Prayer allows us to verbally express ourselves through words or to offer up our thoughts and feelings from deep within our being.
Prayer gives us the opportunity to praise. It allows us to give God our worship. It even provides the opportunity to repent and experience the cleansing power of God’s grace in our lives.
Through prayer we are able to intercede on behalf of others. We are able to get outside of ourselves and make a difference for someone else.
When I used to be in youth ministry, a youth director friend of mine had a t-shirt that was based on this passage of scripture. It said, “Don’t Fight Naked”.
I don’t think there are too many of us, if any, who would ever consider walking out of our homes in the morning as we head off to work, school or to run errands without being fully dressed. It’s just not something we would do.
It is just common sense to dress appropriately for the task ahead of us.
Likewise, I want to encourage each of us not face life’s challenges without wearing the full armor of God. It is what being appropriately dressed in the spiritual sense is all about.