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ARMOUR OF GOD – Praying at all times

Today we finish our devotional series through the armour of God, with a surprising additional piece of equipment:

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Ephesians 6:14-20

The list of armour, which starts with a ‘belt’ and ends with a ‘sword’, continues into a discussion on prayer. Notice that ‘praying’ continues the sentence which includes specific pieces of armour!

It’s for this reason that some call prayer the seventh piece of armour, which may in fact be the most important! The emphasis on prayer is the climax of this list, and in fact could be the climax of the whole book.

This is not just due to placement, the call to pray is repeated four times, and each time the qualifier ‘all’ is added.

Sometimes when my wife and I are having an argument we might say ‘You always..’ or ‘You never..’. Of course we don’t use this strong language in a literal sense, but to add emphasis. That is certainly the case here: a very strong emphasis on prayer at the end of this list.

Charles Spurgeon puts this in context by saying:

When you cannot use your sword, and even when you can hardly grasp your shield, you can pray. The weapon of ‘all prayer’ is the handiest kind, because it can be turned in any and every direction.”

C.H. Spurgeon

The four ‘alls’ divide into two main instructions regarding prayer:

1. Praying at all times in the Spirit

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”

Ephesians 6:18a

I sometimes feel inadequate when I read instructions like this in scripture. Does it literally mean at all times? Like even now while I’m writing? Of course it functions primarily as an emphasis, but I do believe we are being pushed to engage with God in prayer further than just a morning & evening prayer, or perhaps grace at the dinner table.

I heard one Pastor say that perhaps prayer is simply inviting Jesus into the conversation in your head. You know, the constant thoughts we have while we’re driving, in the shower etc. Perhaps this kind of ‘praying at all times’ is simply that: inviting Jesus into the everyday circumstances off our lives.

I believe this is what Paul means by praying ‘in the Spirit’. I don’t think that refers to a specific kind of praying, like in tongues or things like that (that’s another whole discussion topic!). I believe it’s simply this: engaging with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the concrete circumstances of our lives.

2. Making supplication for the saints

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”

Ephesians 6:18b-19

It’s amazing that apostle Paul repeatedly asks for prayer at end of his letters, and almost always, with the exception of 1 Thessalonians, it was specifically for the  advancement of gospel.

This is an appropriate place to wind down this series through the armour of God: a call to pray for the advancement of the gospel, particularly in these tough times.

As you go about your day ‘praying at all times’ be sure to ‘make supplication for all the saints’, specifically that the Kingdom would advance through the proclamation of the gospel. Remember, this is not just a prayer for preachers, its for ‘ALL the saints’! Lets pray for each other ‘boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel’


Activity for kids

(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)

1.       The Lord’s prayer, prayer stations:

Set up interactive stations around your home and pray through the Lord’s Prayer as a family (Matthew 6:9-13). You can set up stations in any way you like, but here are some ideas: 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name – God is our Father in heaven, who cares about us and loves us a lot. He is also holy and worthy of all our praise. Write or draw what it means to be God’s beloved child, and what you are praising God for today.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – Build with playdough all the ways you would love to see God’s kingdom on earth. What would you like God to restore?

Give us this day our daily bread – Break a piece of bread from a loaf. As you eat it, remember God’s past faithfulness and thank him. Then, bring your needs before him and ask God for his provision.

And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors – Using sticks, break one and pray about your own sin. As you mend the pieces together with a plaster, thank God for how he has forgiven you and fixed your broken relationship with him through Jesus. Break a couple more sticks, praying about ways you have been hurt by others. Mend the broken pieces together as you ask God to help you forgive others.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – Paint or decorate a rock or smaller stone/pebble. Ask God to help you live in obedience to him and walk closely to him. Ask that he may protect you against temptation. Ask God to help you be like the wise builder in Matthew 7:24-27, so that you will hear God’s word and put it into practice.

2.       Prayer box/journal:

Decorate a box to place prayers in, or write them in a notebook – be creative and have fun with this! Spend time as a family filling the box / journal with prayers and perhaps make this a weekly habit. Look back at your prayers after a period of time to see how God answered them.


ARMOUR OF GOD – Sword of Truth

Somewhere in a movie, I’m sure we have all witnessed this scene before. The playground bully approaches the boy he always picks on. ‘Hey loser, give me your lunch money.’ And before he knows what’s coming, the boy he’s picking on remembers what his dad told him ‘The best form of defence is attack’, and he punches the bully in the nose. The bully is so surprised that he runs away.

Well, the same applies in our spiritual fight against Satan. Sometimes as Christians we have this view that we are these helpless victims, sitting ducks, waiting for Satan, the bully’s next attack. But Paul certainly doesn’t believe that that is biblical. On Tuesday Pastor Justin pointed out that although we have some armour that clearly is for defence, Paul also makes it clear that a very necessary part of our armour are weapons we can use to attack.

In Paul’s mind, we aren’t to be sitting ducks, waiting for Satan to torment and destroy us. No! Paul says ‘Fight back!’ Look at what he says in Eph 6:17

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

The sword is a dreadful weapon. Powerful and sharp enough to cut through flesh and bone, and sometimes even through armour. Well, God has given you a sword, one that is sharper than any earthly double-edged sword and one that you can use to really thwart the attacks of Satan and with which you can do some serious damage. And that sword is the Word of God.

We know that the Words in your Bible come from the mouth of God. We know that they are powerful words. Listen to these verses:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. ”

2 Timothy 3:16

or:

” And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

Genesis 1:3

When God speaks, things happen. And He has spoken in the Bible. There is immense power in pages in your Bible.

But Dave, how is the Word of God a sword in my fight against Satan? How is it helpful against his attacks, his oppression, his temptations, the seeds of doubt he sows, the lies he tells me?

A couple of weeks ago I did a devotion on self-control and I pointed us to a passage where Jesus practised immense self-control when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Have you noticed what Jesus did in the face of temptation? He fought back! And how did He do that? With the Word of God!

We looked at these verses last time, but look at Luke 4:3-4 :

“The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Luke 4:3-4

Satan came back twice more and twice more Jesus attacked back with His Father’s Words. And what was the end result? The text tells us that the devil left Him until an opportune time. It was like he was saying, ‘Ah it’s no use now. Jesus keeps fighting back with Scripture. I can’t get through. I’ll try again later.’ Actually, maybe it was more like ‘Ouch! That stings. Man I can’t take this anymore. I’m done tempting Jesus right now. I need to recover from my wounds.’

Friend, if you’re struggling with feeling like a victim. If you feel oppressed by the devil or accused by him or tormented by lies, cut at him with the Word of God. ‘No Satan, my God says you’re the father of all lies. I believe only what He says.’ If Satan tells you you’re worthless or not good enough or guilty, dig that Sword into him – Well that’s just not true Satan. Because my God says that there is no more condemnation for me, that He is for me and that no one can bring a charge against me.’

James tells us that when we resist the devil he flees. When we resist Satan with God’s Words I believe he trembles and gets the heck out of there!

At times, it may feel like the devil is winning the battle, but he has lost the war. He does not have authority over you. Only God does. In your fight against the devil, take up your sword and fight. Stand on the Word of God. Choose to believe it for yourself. I believe that we will live as more than conquerors if we do this.

Stand strong brothers and sisters.  


Activity for kids

(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)

1.       Learn from Jesus:

Read Matthew 4:1-11 with your children to see how Jesus, when he was tempted in the wilderness, fought against the Devil with God’s word. Discuss how we can fight against the enemy with God’s word, and perhaps start a new habit of memorising Scripture together as a family.

ARMOUR OF GOD – Helmet of Salvation

Story of Meli falling off his bike.

And that reminds of me this next piece of armour in our Lockdown Lookup series of devotions that we have been looking at. So I want us to look at Ephesians 6:17. Paul writes and says “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. We are looking at the first part of that verse; “Take the helmet of salvation”.

Justin put it well yesterday in saying that Paul switched gears here from the first three pieces of armour (armour that you have in Christ they are fixed to your body) to the next three pieces of armour (are things you take up in each instance of battle). These are the ones you take up in going to battle. You pick up a helmet, your shield and sword and you go for battle.

So how does this apply understanding apply to taking the helmet of salvation?

Salvation is received as a gift from God and gives the protection that comes only from the Lord. We cannot ‘put it on;’ he puts salvation on us.  So what this passage is not saying is that we need to be saying the sinner’s prayer daily to accept Jesus. So this doesn’t talk about being saved again and again.

However, we do have to put on a helmet of salvation every day: and that is the helmet of the hope of salvation.

A good commentary of that statement is found in 1 Thess. 5:8 where Paul has been dealing with the subject of the Day of the Lord “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet”. So as children of God we are admonished to live in light of our new identity in anticipating the Day of Lord. This is the state of mind we ought to have.

Putting on the helmet of salvation

So this helmet is the helmet of victory that has been achieved for us. We receive it as an assurance that the decisive battle has been fought and won on our behalf.

One of the biggest battlegrounds for us as Christians is the mind. The battle can be won or lost there. Just like in the battlefield, the rest of the armour can be pointless if the soldier has been destroyed in the head.

The devil plagues us with doubts daily. Our present battle with COVID-19 can place doubts in minds. The devil wants to put doubts on our salvation ultimately and injects worldly thoughts all the time Paul admonishing the Roman church in chapter 12:1-2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed in the renewal of your mind.

Putting on the helmet of salvation we are continually living in hope because of what our salvation means. 

One commentator, Hope Bollinger  put it this way:

“We need to refresh our memory every day by staying in Scripture, pray during all circumstances, and remember who has the ultimate victory.”

Hope Bollinger

Satan wants to keep us trapped in the here and now. We see awful tragedies on the news, we encounter doubts, and we worry we’ve lost our salvation. But in times like that, we have to renew our trust in the Lord.

We have to remember that if he claims he will save us, and that we’ve put our trust in him, that he will not abandon us to Sheol (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27). 

Prayer:

A Prayer for Your Helmet of Salvation

Heavenly Father, salvation comes through you alone. Please give me the assurance that I am your child and that you will do all you have set out to do on earth. In this broken and dying world, remind me of your promises. Help me to renew my mind. Purge any thoughts that are not holy or not true, and equip me for the battlefield of today. Destroy any doubts that may cloud my mind and help me to keep my mind on the things of eternity, even amidst the worries of every day. I love you Lord, and am trusting in you today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.


Activity for kids

(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)

1.       Whose hat/helmet is that?

Collect different hats or helmets from around the house, or find some pictures. Let your child say what each of those hats or helmets are used for, or who it belongs to. Explain that Roman soldiers’ helmets protected their heads, but they could also show whose army the soldiers belonged to and who they were fighting under. Explain that the ‘helmet of salvation’ shows who we are and belong to. When we put our trust in Jesus, we are no longer our own, but belong to God – he bought us at a price (Corinthians 6:19-20)! Find verses in the Bible that remind us of our identity in Christ and put them up around the house as reminders.

2.       Explore the brain:

Let your children explore facts about the brain, or share these with them (from FactSlides.com):

  • When awake, the human brain produces enough electricity to power a small light bulb.    When you learn something new, the structure of your brain changes.
  • We have more brain cells as a new born baby than we will ever have again in our lifetime.
  •   You have about 70,000 thoughts a day.
  •  The human brain has enough memory to hold three million hours of television.

Discuss why it is important to protect our brains. Also talk about how we need spiritual protection for our minds – the enemy wants us to believe lies about God and ourselves, so we need protection to believe God’s truth instead. Explain that the ‘helmet of salvation’ is the truth that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. Memorise a verse about salvation as a family, like 1 Thessalonians 5:9 for example: ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’.

3.       Decorate a hat:

Let your child decorate an old cap or hat. You can also give each other interesting hairstyles! Discuss today’s devotion with your child, explaining what salvation is, how we are saved (Romans 10:9-10) and how the helmet of salvation protects us from the enemy’s lies.

ARMOUR OF GOD – The Shield of Faith

During World War I, British Admiral, Lord David Beatty discovered that there was a major flaw in the British ships, which caused many of them to sink quickly. It was discovered that although the British ships had heavily armoured hulls, their wooden decks offered almost no protection against long-range artillery shells that dropped from overhead. Only after the British began to armour their ships on top as well as on the sides did their ships stop sinking.

That reminds me of the next piece of armour in our Lockdown Lookup devotional series on the armour of God. Let’s look at the shield of faith which protects us from long-range enemy attack.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Ephesians 6:16

Paul switches gear here. He has looked at the first three pieces of armour – the belt, the breastplate, the shoes and now he says: “in addition to all this” and begins to speak about the last three pieces of armour. I believe there is a difference between the first three pieces of armour and the last three.

What are the two different categories of armour?

= armour that you have vs armour that you take!

The first three pieces of armour are things that you already have. You have already put them on and they are fixed to your body. They are the basic preparation for the battle. So yes, it’s true, we need the armour of what God has done for us in the past, but we also need armour for the present. The last three pieces of armour are things that you take up in each instance of battle.

That is why Paul now says: take the shield of faith; take the helmet of salvation; take the sword of the Spirit – you do not fix these things to your body; they are something separate from you. They speak of activity!

Picture a Roman soldier waiting in the barracks. When the alarm is sounded, he doesn’t only then put on his armour! It would waste too much time! Even a Roman soldier who is not actively engaged in battle is still in uniform! But when the call to battle comes, he takes up his shield, puts on his helmet, and picks up his sword.

What is the Shield?

It wasn’t a small shield, but a large, oblong door-shaped shield (about 1.2m tall). You could hide your whole body behind it so that you could advance safely against the enemy. The first three pieces of armour are backup, but the shield is primary (it’s out in front), able to be flexed, angled and moved. It was the first line of defence against long-range enemy attack. A whole lot of shields, if placed together, could form a solid line of defence against the enemy. The shield could be covered in either a thin layer of metal or leather. The leather could also be soaked in water to extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy.

What are the flaming arrows?

They are darts or arrows which could be dipped in a kind of tar and set alight. When those arrows hit a target, the tar would explode and shower flames of fire in every direction. The flaming arrows were often the first line of attack from the enemy, designed to send confusion and panic to their enemy. The flaming arrows prepared the way for a mass attack as troops ran in and got up-close and personal!

Satan fires these flaming darts at God’s children. Sometimes there are even seasons when the flaming arrows are flying fast & furiously! Don’t underestimate the evil power of Satan – he is a defeated foe, but he won’t go quietly. You don’t know what any day will bring. Sometimes you can have had a great day of blessing but the next day you are assaulted from all sides.

  • we’ll be busy praying – wham! Suddenly we are filled with doubt or a lustful thought or with anger towards someone!
  • we’ll be reading God’s Word – wham! Suddenly there are hundred other tasks on our to-do list screaming for our attention!
  • we’ll be busy serving God & others – wham! Suddenly we hear a whisper: “ who do you think you are to serve God – you’re not good enough!”
  • we’ll be busy worshipping – wham! Suddenly we will doubt if God even exists and whether our worship makes any difference at all!

The flaming arrows can be darts of doubt, evil thoughts, accusing questions, confusion, animosity towards God, negativity, worry, sudden fear, laziness, self-absorption, lusts, temptations, our imagination fantasizing about evil, picturing scenarios (“Maybe I would be better off if I wasn’t a Christian”), etc. These darts can often be delivered through persecution, sickness or suffering.

How come Satan never fights against us watching our favourite TV show with a good bowl of popcorn? But let us try and pray or open a Bible and he sends a barrage of flaming arrows our way! How come our minds can meditate for hours on making money, but when trying to focus on God we have a grasshopper-mind that jumps all over the place! Some of the greatest heroes of the faith in history have even had blasphemous thoughts about God right when they least expected it!

These fiery darts are from the evil one. Satan wants us to think: “How can I even be a Christian if I have thoughts like this?” Satan always wants to attack our position in Christ? (Rev 12:10) To get us to focus on sinful-self, instead of Christ – to see the flaming arrows and to forget all about the shield of faith!

So how do you combat the flaming arrows?

You take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. You hold up the shield of faith and hide behind it!

The shield represents faith? Faith is the ability to quickly apply what we know and believe to be true. We need a quick answer to everything that Satan hurls at us from every direction and to move the shield of faith quickly into position. Faith is belief in action. If I believe that a chair can hold me, then what do I do? I sit on it. I entrust myself to it! Until I have acted on my belief I have not exercised faith. But my faith is only as good as the object of my faith. Faith always points to its object not to itself. This is God’s armour – not mine! The shield of faith is God’s shield.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield,”

Genesis 15:1

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear

Psalm 46:1

Faith points to God’s promises, God’s power & God’s presence. So, hold up the shield of faith and say: “Lord, you’ve said it, I believe it, I’m going to act on it; I’m going to step out in faith on your promises, in your power and with your presence.” And when the flaming arrows come, hold up the shield of faith and shout: “Jesus died for me and rose again. He loves me! I am bought with a price! I am his!” Hold up the shield of faith to temptation and cry out: “I won’t believe a lie! Temptation (whatever your name, whoever you are) you will not bring me the happiness that only be found in Christ!” Hold up the shield of faith and declare: “I am not alone! Jesus is making intercession for me right now from the very throne room of heaven.” 

Oh fellow soldier of Christ: you may not be able to stop the flaming arrow from being launched, but you can extinguish & nullify its damage. Even Jesus was tempted, just like you are; he too felt the flaming arrows, but those arrows never penetrated the force-field of faith that came from the truth of God’s Word. Resist the devil & he will flee, don’t retreat, stand your ground, trust God and step forward in faith and the gates of hell will not prevail against you!


Activity for kids

(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)

1.       Have a fort sleepover:

Build a fort with your children, using blankets, pillows and furniture. You can play pretend and imagine you’re all on an adventure. What do you need shelter from? Discuss today’s devotion with your children, explaining how we need shelter from the enemy’s attacks. Explain that our faith is like a shield, or a fort, that protects us from the enemy. However, this is not because of the strength of our faith – it’s all because of the strength of the One we trust, Jesus!

2.       Make your own shield – and aim…fire!

Let your children make their own shields, using cardboard, trays, dustbin lids or anything else they can find around the house. Determine the rules for your ‘war’ – let your children use straws and cotton balls, paper balls, or anything else you feel comfortable with to ‘shoot’ at each other, and use their shields as protection. Reinforce today’s devotion, and explain how faith in Jesus is like a shield that protects us from the enemy’s attacks. When we trust in Jesus, he protects us against the enemy. And he has already defeated and disarmed the enemy!

3.       Blindfold treasure hunt:

Hide an object in the garden or the house. Blindfold your children and let them try to find the treasure following your voice and instructions. Do this for another round, letting them hide the object and guide you. Read Hebrews 11:1 with them: ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’. Explain that they couldn’t see you in the treasure hunt, but they had to trust you and go in the direction you led. Talk about how faith in Jesus is similar – faith means we trust him and follow where he leads us, even though we can’t see him. Discuss how we can take up the shield of faith in the battle against God’s enemy this week.

3.       Big faith? No, BIG God:

Find various objects around the house and garden of various sizes, and let your child arrange them from the smallest to the largest. Talk about the shield of faith and explain what it means to have faith in Jesus. Explain now that our faith might be small (like some of the objects), but that it isn’t the size of our faith that matters. No, it’s all about God’s strength and how big he is! Explain that God is greater, stronger and mightier than anything or anyone else and that he fights for us and with us against the enemy.

ARMOUR OF GOD – The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

Welcome to the Lockdown Lookup series of video devotionals. We have been journeying through Ephesians 6, taking a closer look at the armour of God.

We have looked at the imperatives or commands to a. Strengthened in the Lord, to Put on, c. and to Stand. Pastor Richard, and Pastor Ndaba have already taken us through what the different garments are that make up the armour of God. Let’s read the passage one more time.

Last time, in looking at the first half of verse 14, we talked about the belt of the truth. We saw that the belt on the soldier’s armor, although a seemingly insignificant piece was actually one of the most important pieces. We could say that the belt was the foundational piece, or the unifying piece of armour. But, although the belt is so important, you cannot go into battle with nothing but your belt on. For although it is foundational, it doesn’t provide much protection. All it does is keep the rest of the armour in place. For protection, you need the other pieces of armour.

Today we are looking at verse 15:

“and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace,”

Ephesians 6:15

Other translations would say “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

Paul is using metaphors for the spiritual resources that we have in Christ which are the truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. So what does it mean to have your feet shod or fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace? So what does that mean?

Well, the armour of God has its origins in the OT, where we are given a description of God’s armour that he wore to rescue his people. I believe this background and the fact that Paul is in prison guarded by Roman Soldiers inspired Paul to use this language of armour.  

Isaiah 11, Isaiah 59 gives the language of the armour of God.

Is. 11:5

Is. 59:17

So the idea of armour comes from the OT.

Back our question: “What does it mean to have our feet shod with the stability of the gospel of peace?

Opinion is dived on the meaning of word “preparation”, which can refer to the readiness to preach the gospel;

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”,”

Isaiah 52:7

but the Greek version of Psalm 89:14 which has the sense of a ‘prepared foundation’,

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”

Psalm 89:14

And this has the idea of standing unmoved against the enemy. So to have a firm footing for the fight, we must put on these heavily studded shoes of the gospel of peace. And then we will be prepared for the war with Satan by the realization of our peace with God. Our morale for the fight against the evil one must be sustained by this realization of our own peace with God. So this calls for us as believers to be assured of our own acceptance or standing with God before we can withstand the assaults of the enemy.

Our challenge today is to be grounded – to have a firm footing in the gospel and are challenged to be ready to proclaim that (the gospel). Paul says of the gospel in Rom 1:16:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Romans 1:16

    

ARMOUR OF GOD – The Breastplate of Righteousness

It is a joy for me to welcome you again to our devotional series as we closely look at the Armour of God for believers. Since we are fighting against the, treacherous, invisible and powerful enemies in the spirit world, we need special equipment both for offense and defense. The good thing is that God has provided the whole or the full armour for us and we dare not omit any part as we go about living for him. Remember, Scripture says, Satan roams about like a roaring lion, looking for that unguarded area where he can make a beachhead or gain a foothold.

Last time, in looking at the first half of verse 14, we talked about the belt of the truth. We saw that the belt on the soldier’s armor, although a seemingly insignificant piece was actually one of the most important pieces. We could say that the belt was the foundational piece, or the unifying piece of armour. But, although the belt is so important, you cannot go into battle with nothing but your belt on. For although it is foundational, it doesn’t provide much protection. All it does is keep the rest of the armour in place. For protection, you need the other pieces of armour.

Let’s read together, Ephesian 6:14, again think about and reflect on the second piece of armour and think about its importance. Paul writes:

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,”

Ephesians 6:14

Now, let’s look at how the breastplate was used on the Soldier, how it is to be used for us as Christians in spiritual battle, and then I will conclude by talking about how we can put it on for battle.

  1. The Breastplate for the Soldier

So let’s begin with what the breastplate did for the soldier.

The breastplate, was a piece of armour, made of strips of metal plates or chains; it covered the body from neck to waist, both front and back. No Roman soldier entered battle without one showing how important this piece was.

Today it can be compared to a bullet-proof vest which protects the soldier’s vital organs like the heart and lungs. If either of these were affected or injured in battle, the soldier is as good as dead. So the breastplate was obviously important.


With that in mind, let’s move on to see how the spiritual breastplate is to be used for the Christian in spiritual battle.

2. The Breastplate for the Christian

To begin with, remember that putting on the belt of truth is putting on the Word of God. Studying it. Reading it. Learning it. Putting on the belt of truth is knowing what God’s Word says. It is gaining a knowledge of the Bible. Now, since that is the case, the breastplate of righteousness, which is attached to the belt, remember, is applying the truth of the Bible to our lives.

There is a major difference between understanding the truth, and living the truth. There is a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. There is a difference between being able to recite verses and list Bible facts, and actually living or applying those verses and Bible facts to your life.

Do you remember the Pharisees? They were Bible scholars. They were experts of the law. Most of them had the entire Torah—which is the first five books of the Bible—memorized. They knew the history of Israel forward and backward. They prayed and sang the Psalms. They could recite passages from the Prophets. And if you were living at that time, and you were to watch them, you would not only be amazed at how much they knew of the law, but also how obedient they were to it.

But guess what? It was only an outward obedience. It never made it into the heart. And because of this, Jesus reserves some of his most scalding rebukes for them. You can read all about it in Matthew 23, but let me just give you a taste of some of the things he says to them. The Pharisees, according to Jesus, were outwardly righteous. They appeared righteous to others. They had all the right words, and all the right actions, and all the right behaviors. But Jesus is saying here, “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, what do you look like on the inside? What does your heart look like?”

And that is what the breastplate is for, to get the truth of God, not just strapped around us, not just so we can quote Scripture—but to get the truth of God inside us, to protect our vital organs from damage—to know it and live it.


The breastplate is applying God’s truth to our lives so that rather than living in sin, we can live holy and righteous before God. Do you want to protect yourself from sin? Do you want to protect your heart from sin? You need to have on the breastplate of righteousness. Which brings us to our third point. How can we, as Christians, put on the spiritual breastplate of righteousness?

3. Putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness

Just like the belt of truth, we must understand first of all, that the breastplate of righteousness is Gods. When we put it on, it is his armour we are putting on. In Isaiah 59:17, we read that God wears righteousness as a breastplate. And Isaiah 59 reveals that this righteousness is not the positional, imputed righteousness that God gives to all believers the moment they believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Instead, it is the practical, day to day righteousness that God expects and desires all Christians to live by. It is living the holy life.

Just as the actual breastplate on a soldier protects his heart, lungs, and other vital organs, so the breastplate of righteousness, the practical holiness of a life lived in obedience to God, is what protects the heart of a Christian. H. A. Ironside, a Bible commentator and teacher, makes this observation,

“The breastplate covers the heart of the man, and when we think of the heart we think of the conscience…”

H.A. Ironside

In other words, to wear the breastplate of righteousness, we have to protect our heart, the centre of who we are, by keeping our conscience pure.

So how do you maintain purity in your life? Well, first of all, it builds on the belt of truth we looked at last time. As you dig daily into the Word of God, and feed your spirit upon the truth of Scripture, you will come across passages which convict you of sin in your life. In such situations,

  • take a moment, confess your sin and repent, remembering that God is good and when we confess our wrongdoings, he is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • Appropriate God’s forgiveness, in other words, believe God and take him at his word. Faithful is he who has promised and he will bring it to completion, says the apostle Paul.
  • Now live in the light of the victory Christ has accomplished at the cross for you.

This is how you put on, how you wear the breastplate of righteousness. God has given us his righteousness to wear, but we put it on by taking off the filthy clothes stained with sin and the chains wrapped tight around us. We do this through confession, purification and repentance. And when we get the breastplate of righteousness on, when we get it firmly in place, it becomes much easier to protect our heart. Only in this way will you protect your life from the deadly and suffocating consequences of sin.

So, like the true solders of the cross, with our bulletproof vests on, let us stand ready to stop the fiery darts that the devil shoots our way. May God be with you!


Activity for kids

(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)

1.       Make a breastplate:

Use paper, cardboard, or anything else you have at home to let your children make their make their own breastplates. As you sit with them, discuss and reinforce today’s devotion. 

2.       Where does righteousness come from?

Create a scavenger hunt for your children using the letters of ‘righteousness’ or the words of 2 Corinthians 5:21 (‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’). After they have gone on a hunt to find ‘righteousness’, explain how we do not put on the breastplate of ourown righteousness, but that we instead receive and live in Jesus’ righteousness.  


    

ARMOUR OF GOD – The Belt of Truth

After a few days of introductory comments on the armour of God passage we finally start with the list of the various pieces of armour to be employed against the devil. The first on the list is the ‘Belt of Truth’ (Ephesians 6:14).

To a solider at the time the belt was one of the most critical pieces of armour, because it held a few of the other pieces together. The breastplate could only be fitted with the belt in place, and of course the sword was kept on the belt.

In the metaphor of spiritual warfare this makes sense: truth is essential when standing strong against the devil! Through the Bible the devil is described as “…a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Indeed his first move in the war against mankind was a deception! (Genesis 3:1)

This makes truth essential when combatting the devil at all times, but especially in these times. In fact it may be fair to say that today more than ever before, truth matters. Especially for the Christian, truth matters.

I say that because more than ever before:

  • Our search for truth is being shaped in ways we may not realise. 
  • There is an abundance of falsity.

If you want to find out the answer to a question, where would you go? No doubt to Google, or perhaps if it’s a more academic question, then to Wikipedia.

I don’t have any issues personally with these platforms, but it is important to be aware of the mechanisms being used in providing us the information we’re seeking.

For Google, the genius of the search engine lies in its ability to provide you with the most relevant answer to your search. With the millions of pages of information pertaining to your search available, Google will return the ones most relevant to you, based on your searching history, profile etc. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, it’s really smart and helpful! However, relevance is hardly a criteria for establishing truth!

I tested this once, and googled ‘Islam’. Of the first 10 page results, 7 of the pages were Christian pages commenting on Islam from a Christian perspective! Of course that is relevant from my standpoint, but it’s hardly objective!

For Wikipedia it’s the principle of consensus. The principle is simply that the more people collaborating and corroborating information on an article, the closer it must be to being true. Again, not a bad way of organising a community-based encyclopedia, but for the Christian ‘narrow is the way that leads to life, and few will walk in it’ (Matthew 7:14).

Ultimately ours is a truth that is :

…folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

This means that there is a profound, life-changing, eternity-shaping truth that will not be found by consensus or relevance!


Again, this is not to say that technology, or these platforms, are evil or based on evil, rather simply to say that for a Christian our pursuit of truth is being shaped in ways we need to be aware of. Put even more simply: you can’t believe anything you see online! We have to dig deeper to find truth these days, which makes the belt of truth an absolutely critical weapon in the armour of God!

The second reason the ‘belt of truth’ is more necessary today than ever before is because of the abundance of falsehood. There is a mass of information available to us in this information age, a lot of which is false!

We have seen the power of fake news to shape modern society, and for the Christian truth matters.

Researchers from MIT did a ground-breaking study in 2018 of the articles posted on Twitter since it’s inception, and the reach it had in people seeing them and re-tweeting them. They analyzed every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years.

They wanted to see if the fake news, or the real news, had a greater reach. What they found is that a false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story. In fact a false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. In addition a false story is 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.

What that says is that we love fake news! Why? For the same reason we love gossip: the novelty, intrigue and sensation it produces.


For Christians, truth matters. Particularly in our online world.

Imagine, if Christians fall for every fake news story out there, what credibility would that give about our belief in the unlikely story of the Gospel of Jesus?

Ultimately, truth matters because God the Father is truth:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God” (John 17: 3).

And Jesus declared Himself truth:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14: 6)

And not to be missed out, the Holy Spirit is:

the Spirit of truth” (John 16: 13)

Truth is therefore not an attribute of God, God is truth, and thus truth is at the very heart of the divine nature of God!

God calls us to truth, and away from falsehood. Truth matters!


Activity for kids

(Click on the bold, underlined text in the activities below to go to the online link.)

1.       Is it in the Bible, family quiz:

Host a family quiz, where the aim is to say whether various phrases can be found in the Bible (True) or not (False). You can use these ideas for the ‘False’ phrases or come up with your own. Talk about how important it is to know God’s Word and to tell the difference between what he says is true and what isn’t.  

2.       Make your own belt of truth:

Let your child decorate a belt or make their own out of paper, and add verses about God’s truth (for example, Psalm 145:18, Psalm 119:160, Psalm 25:5, John 17:17). Talk to your child about today’s devotion, and encourage them to fight the lies of the enemy with the truth from God’s Word. 

3.       Is this truth:

Download and print these pages for 5-7 year-olds, or 8-11 year-olds. Let your children colour in the truth statements and scribble out the lies. Talk to your child about the lies they might be believing, and perhaps share with them a lie that you sometimes believe. Memorise a truth from God’s Word to fight that lie together and repeat it daily this week. 


    

ARMOUR OF GOD – Stand firm

Welcome again to our Lockup and look-up devotional series. Thank you for tracking with us in this series of devotionals, focusing on the Spiritual Armoury – perhaps it would be fitting to ask you: how are you doing in the war zone?   You see, the Christian life is a battlefield, but the beautiful thing is that the battle is already won, ours is to do the mopping work.

But still, the enemy is not relenting nor giving up, we must still wage the war and the engage him in every turn; we must still remain vigilant and attentive. What we have learned so far is that there are 3 imperatives found in this passage and Richard shared with us two of these, namely:

  • Be strong 
  • and  Put on

Today I will talk about the third one, but before I do that, please let’s turn to Ephesians 6:13-14a and this is what Paul says to the Ephesian believers: 

Therefore put on the full armour 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.  Stand firm…

Ephesians 6:13-14a

Imperative no 3 is simply: Stand or as some translation states – Withstand

To stand seems to suggest a determined state of readiness to do battle.  It means you’re aware and alert of your enemy and you’re attuned to the realities of the warfare you’re engaged in.

The business of the enemy is to attack, therefore we need to be ready at all times and be prepared to fight back. To stand means there is no thought of retreating, negotiating, and no thought of looking back.

Interestingly, the exhortation to stand, is repeated 3 times to show the importance of standing your ground in the midst of the enemy’s attack. The idea behind the word “stand” is holding in to a position, in other words, maintaining your ground even before you launch an offence. The devil is a master of ingenious schemes and strategies and his tactics must not be allowed to catch unawares.

What does taking a stand really mean for us today:

Here are three things I hope you will find time to reflect on and apply in your walk of faith as you do spiritual battle.

The first is, we have to know what we are standing on.

As believers we stand on the sure foundation of our faith and the source of newness of life – that foundation, my friends, is the Lord Jesus. Remember, in the earlier chapters of Ephesians, Paul reminds us of this reality:

….that at one time we were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Gods community and treated as foreigners to the covenants of the promise, we were without hope and we were without God in the world. But in Christ were made alive and now were are to take our stand in him and his finished work on the cross (2:12)

We also are stand on God’s word – the Bible is more than a book, the Bible is more than just a guide or a road map, for a believer. The Bible is the inspired word of God – it has the authority to determine how we live and behave.

I love what Martin Luther’s teaches us about taking a stand when it comes to believing in the authority of word of God and its teachings.  When Luther was confronted by the Pope and the rulers of the day, to recant his stance on what he believed the Bible taught, he boldly uttered the following famous statement:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.  God help me”.

Martin Luther

Luther took his stand, and suffered the consequences we too must take our stand!

Secondly, to take a stand means we will have to resist the devil and his lies

When we are struggling with our faith, Satan will whisper words contrary to God’s Word. We have to choose to cast down those thoughts by demolishing arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5).

As soon as we recognise thoughts of fear, doubt, discouragement, anxiety, or temptation, we have to CHOOSE to guard our minds against the deception of the enemy and choose to think God’s thoughts instead.

God has given us spiritual armour to help us stand. When we feel the challenges to our faith, we can remember to suit up and then take our stand.

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.

Ephesians 6:13

You know what stands out to me in that verse? After YOU have DONE everything. In other words, we have to do our part. We have to put on the armor. We have to actively choose to protect our minds from wrong thoughts, our hearts from pride, and our gut from lies. We have to take up the full armour.

We have to be self-controlled and alert and on guard. But when we have done our part, God does the rest.

The third thing is this, we can’t waiver between faith and doubt

We have to know what we believe and why we believe, so that when the challenges come, we are firm in our faith. Why did you decide to follow Jesus? Why do you choose to serve Him? What do you believe about God and His Word?

I think sometimes we still waver between wanting to follow God and wanting to follow the world. If that is the case, we will definitely struggle with our faith. The Lord is asking you today, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” If you know that God is God and God is good, there’s no question. Don’t let the devil make you think Satan has something better to offer you in the world.

Only God is God and He alone knows what is best for us. He alone is the path to life, love, and victory. Consider Abraham and his faith. He was a man, a real person, just like you and me. God gave him a great promise with little evidence that he could actually see.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Romans 4:20

I love that verse! Abraham made mistakes. He wasn’t perfect. But he was “fully persuaded.” Are you fully persuaded today that God is able to do what He has promised?

If you are still struggling to believe God because of trials, tribulations, or temptations that you are going through right now, let me encourage you that the Lord of all can set you free. He can lead you out of that miry place of doubt and confusion and pain, and give you a firm place to stand.

Open your arms wide to the love of Jesus and let Him lift you up. Trust that He is good and He loves you perfectly. He will make a way for you and keep you in His love and in His truth.

So, I urge you stand firm!  And God bless you.


Activity for kids

1.       Draw a Roman soldier:

Follow this link to watch a tutorial on how to draw a Roman soldier – have a go at it as a family! Discuss with your child how Paul uses the picture of a Roman soldier’s armour to explain how we are to fight the battle against God’s enemy. How is our battle different from a Roman soldier’s battle (See Eph 6:12)? Why is it important to put on the full armour of God?   


    

ARMOUR OF GOD – Put on

Our passage in Ephesians has three specific commands (imperatives) to inform our ability to withstand the opposition that comes from the devil:

  • ‘Be Strong’ (v10)
  • ‘Put on’ (v11)
  • ‘Stand’ (v14)

Yesterday we looked at the first imperative, which is to ‘Be Strong in the Lord’. Today we’ll look at the second one, which is to ‘Put on’ or ‘Take up’, referring to the classic list of the pieces of armour.

Lets see it again in context:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:10-14

Before we look at the various pieces of armour that we are supposed to be ‘putting on’ or ‘taking up’, it’s important to note the relationship between these first two imperatives.

To understand that relationship, think about what would happen if we lost one of these imperatives.

Firstly, what would our impression be if the Bible stopped at ‘Be strong’, and didn’t include ‘Put on’? Well we would certainly be encouraged as to the truth of the power for this battle belonging to God! However we may be left in a rather passive state, and ‘Let go and let God’. However, when it comes to this subject of withstanding the opposition from the devil, the Bible doesn’t leave us there! It says things like this:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith...

1Peter 5:8-9

The emphasis on ‘resist’ the devil means that there is certainly an active part to withstanding evil!

Now, think about what our impression would be if the Bible stopped at ‘Put on’ and didn’t first include ‘Be strong’?

In this error we may be tempted to think that the battle is all up to us, and we carry the burden of victory! If we had to compare errors this would certainly be the more dangerous one, which is why I believe the command to ‘Be strong’ comes first!

The truth in understanding this battle is to keep these imperatives together, and in the right order: Be strong + Put on! Those two will lead us to the final imperative which is ‘Stand.’


Activity for kids

1.       Dress up day:

Make an ‘Armour of God snack’ with your child, dressing up carrot sticks or crackers with the full armour of God. Let your child name and try to memorise all 6 pieces of the armour of God. They can also dress up a paper doll, or dress up themselves! Talk to your child about today’s devotion, explaining what it means to ‘put on the full armour of God’ and why it is important     


2.       What outfit would we wear for…

Cut out or show your child various pictures of different outfits (spacesuits, doctor’s white jacket and scrubs, suits, fireman’s uniform etc.) and discuss what we would use each outfit for. Next, talk about how Paul uses the picture of a Roman soldier’s outfit to explain what we need to ‘put on’ to fight against God’s enemy. Point out the importance of it being the armour of God, as our battle is not against ‘flesh and blood’.


    

ARMOUR OF GOD – To be Strong

Our passage in Ephesians has three specific commands (imperatives) to inform our ability to withstand the opposition that comes from the devil:

  • ‘Be Strong’ (v10)
  • ‘Put on’ (v11)
  • ‘Stand’ (v14)

Today we’ll look at that first imperative:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

Ephesians 6:10

This is a peculiar command: ‘Be strong’! How do you just make yourself stronger? It’s not like you can just take a supplement, head to the gym, and come back strong!

A better way of expressing this imperative is: ‘Be Strengthened

Immediately what this tells us is that the strength to succeed is not in us. It’s in God, and we have to actively draw on that strength. Constantly!

In fact if you think about it, the victorious Christian life is a life spent drawing strength from God.

This is quite simply because He has lots of it!Thats what ‘the strength of his might’ means. Gods might is His ability to assert His authority. He is very capable of asserting His authority! And we are not. So we draw on His capability all through our Christian journey.

In fact this has been one of the themes of the book of Ephesians: the abundance of power at our disposal.

  • 1:19

that you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe

  • 3:16

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being

  • 3:20

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us

Do you get the message?

We’re not powerful.

God is.

We have access to God.

And His power.

In 1 Samuel we read the story of David coming back from an expedition against the Philistines. As he returns to his fortress of Ziklag, he finds the Amelekites have attacked while the men are away and taken all the women & children.

Imagine the distress! The men are off fighting when they should have been at home protecting own! Imagine the:

Guilt. Failure. Deep depression.

David’s loyal men even spoke of stoning him because of his failure!

In this compromised mental and emotional situation David is in enemy territory.

Forget Philistines and Amelekites, Satan himself is going to use events like this to devastate your will and push you to give up.

David recognises this, and this is how he responds:

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

1 Samuel 30:6

This is a great example of how to ‘strengthen yourself’, especially at times when you’re compromised. May God strengthen you daily as you actively draw on His strength


Activity for kids

1.       Do a homework session:

[Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqLNxJe4L2I&list=PLyCLoPd4VxBvPHOpzoEk5onAEbq40g2-k&index=8]

Do a workout with your child at home, focussing on the exercises that make us strong. Discuss how we can do our best to be strong, but in the end, our power and own effort is not enough. Discuss how we need to rely on God’s strength – and his strength is invincible!      


2.       The Lord is my Strength:

Let your child make a poster and write the words of Psalm 28:7a on it:

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me’.

Discuss, write or draw all the ways that God helps us. Put it somewhere in the house as an encouragement and reminder to rely on God and be strong in him.