I recently heard someone quip that 2020 will soon become an adjective. As in, “I feel 2020” or, “That was very 2020 of him.” Someone else said it might be better to use it is as a verb: “Can you 2020 that?” (translation just in case: Can you make that unexpected, unprecedented?)
At this point in the year most of us are utterly exhausted and to some extent we feel more on survival mode than anything else. If you are like me, you long for fruitfulness and faithfulness but you feel your weakness.
I have found myself over the last few months going back often to Ephesians 6 and meditating on the armor of God, thankful for the gift that it is for God’s people. What I love about this armor is that it is the one Christ wore first. Several passages in Isaiah describe the servant of the Lord and the messianic King donning this armor to bring salvation, and defeat death (Isaiah 52). Later in the New Testament we learn that Christ is that servant and king.
I am so grateful for the heart of Christ for us. He wore God’s armor and with it defeated the enemy of our souls. Now he hands it to us and guarantees with it our own victory against sin and the flesh. In Christ, we are actually really well equipped to glorify our Father in the middle of all the changes, heartaches, challenges and maybe even devastation some of us have experienced this year.
With the whole armor of God, we are able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Yes, our fight is not against our children, or against our spouse or our kids’ teachers but against the cosmic powers over this present darkness. And yet we can stand in the presence of darkness because we are in the Light. Literally. We live inside the one who is the Light and He lives in us.
Let’s consider briefly each piece of this armor that enables us to remain firm in the face of such kind of opposition.
- Belt of truth
Isaiah 11: 5 talks about the Messiah wearing the belt of faithfulness around his loins. In Greek faithfulness is actually the same word as truth. So by wearing truth Christ was able to fasten his clothes around him and run towards the goal without the weight and sin that clings closely.
Lies keep us from running faithfully. These past few months, I have encountered many:
“God does not see my needs.”
“No one understands the specific circumstances of my life”
“I am alone in this.”
“I have to take care of myself because no else will.”
“My strengths (or my weaknesses) determine the success of this long season.”
“I know how this part of the story ends and it is not well.”
The truth is the Lord is for us in Christ. Being able to say with conviction to every one of the above statements: “This I know… He is for me,” helps us to lay aside every obstacle and run freely in the way of righteousness.
2. Breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation.
Christ saw the disobedience of the people of God, their great injustice and rebellion. He also saw there was no one to do anything about it. So he put on the righteousness of God and the helmet of salvation and went about the work of saving his people from the enemy of their souls (Isaiah 59: 16-17).
Doing the Father’s will was the Son’s delight (Hebrews 10: 9). By faith we now possess His obedience and righteousness. In times of trouble this is our confidence: that Christ knows how to live in these times in a way that honors our Father, and that he is able to do that in us and through us.
We need that confidence, because in this season, we may have a desire to see good results, but may seek those the wrong way. But friend, only one thing produces God’s righteousness: Christ’s righteousness. Not anger, not impatience nor any other work of the flesh (James 1: 20).
So hold fast to this: Christ has outfitted you with his righteousness and is able to produce obedience in you. Trust His ability to do just that for God’s glory.
3. Put the shoes on of the readiness given by the gospel of grace
Isaiah 52 talks about the beautiful feet of those who proclaim peace to Zion, who tell her the good news that the Lord reigns! And there are no more beautiful feet than the ones of our Savior. He was sent by the Spirit of the Lord to proclaim good news to the poor and liberty to the captives.
Like us this year, he faced death, sickness, hateful people and tragedy. And the middle of that, it was his joy to continually talk about the good news of the kingdom.
These days we often feel that we are barely surviving. But through his oneness with us, Christ readies us in survival seasons to not only fight against our sin, but also to share the good news of Christ’s complete salvation. The gospel literally makes us move towards those who need to hear. Paul says we are people that believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4: 13).
Who around you needs to hear the good news that God reigns? It might be either a believer or an unbeliever. Go tell them the news of Christ’s victory over sin, how he has delivered slaves, and that there is a hope kept in heaven for them.
4. Shield of faith
The flaming darts of the devil question his words. From the beginning he has been asking “Did God really say?” When that happens, faith shields us by taking hold of the promises of God and making us run to Him for refuge. Faith takes God at his word and knows him to be trustworthy.
Christ took the Father at his word. He believed his Father’s deliverance. When others said, “There is no salvation for him in God.” He was willing to face death because he knew his Father wouldn’t leave him in Sheol (Acts 2: 28). He entrusted his Spirit to the Father’s safe keeping. The Father was the Son’s shield and his great reward.
Dear friend, in this season marked by change, chaos, uncertainty and death we feel vulnerable. It is easy for us to feel afraid. We want some kind of guarantee that it will all be ok so we seek refuge in many things. But the Scriptures tell us repeatedly who is our shield – God. “[God] is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30: 5).
Friend, we are those who have fled to Jesus for refuge. Let’s keep going there when everything around us feels unstable. Only through Christ, we are 100% safe.
5. Sword of the Spirit
Finally, the last weapon in this armor is what Paul calls the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. And if you are like me, you immediately think of Christ wielding the sword when he was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). One by one, he answered to the devil with Scriptures. It was the only weapon he needed.
With the life of Christ in us, we too wield the sword in the face of temptation, knowing it is the Spirit who defeats the devil and makes him flee. We take God at his Word and He fights for us. What a humbling gift!
Friends, I know these are hard months. All over the world cases are rising, we are more tired than at the beginning, more people we know are sick, there are new lockdowns and quarantines… Let’s take heart! We have an armor to help us face the suffering and temptation that comes when all around our souls gives way.