Those familiar with the teaching of Jesus will remember how he said wise people listen to and use his words as a strong foundation that can withstand the storms of life. We have been living through a time when spiritually the rain fell in torrents, the streams rose and the winds of COVID blew upon our lives. Truth is not like a leaf blow by the wind, lacking substance. Neither is faith fluffy cotton wool, that is easily blown away. Jesus has given us truth and faith as firm foundations our lives can be built on. These are trustworthy and strong with the ability to repel spiritual attacks upon our lives.
Here at Greyfriars we are aiming over the next year to spiritually build up our church family. Clearly, one of the most tried and true methods of maintaining our spiritual health and building people up spiritually is to help equip each of you with the armour of God. We take up , the belt of truth. the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:13–17) Armour doesn’t stop the attacks or mean there is no spiritual struggle, but it does mean we are better equipped to face it. On 24 February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainians put up a defiant resistance. Nevertheless, they were ill prepared, lacked weapons and were initially losing ground. This changed when Western nations began to supply them with weapons. Today, on a number of fronts we see the Ukrainian army repelling their enemy, reclaiming territory that had been lost and liberating people who were under enemy occupation. Weapons allowed them to make a difference. We may feel we have lost ground in our spiritual lives, that the church has lost ground or that we have been beaten and suffered defeat. That can be turned around if we have and use the armour of God. If we lower the shield of faith, if we lay down the word of God, or if we remove the breastplate of righteousness then we make ourselves vulnerable to spiritual attack. If we have allowed the helmet of salvation to go rusty or neglected the shoes of the gospel of peace we become increasingly susceptible to the wiles of the enemy. Let’s not fool ourselves, if you don’t read the bible, if you don’t come to church regularly, if you don’t apply the teaching of Jesus to your life, you will become spiritually weak. I encourage you to put on the armour of God and give attention to it. Is there a chink in your armour, an area of your life our spiritual enemy might exploit, attend to it now. How can we be used by God to stand firm, at times to advance his kingdom or to liberate those held in bondage to sin if we don’t use the armour of God?
We may look at the armour but fail to note what follows in verses 18-20. The emphasis here is prayer. We are to pray on all kinds of occasions with many kinds of prayer. It is prayer that holds our armour together. It is prayer that unites us to the prayerful power of the Spirit. We may feel our prayer is only a babbling stream, but when, as a tributary, it flows into the great river of prayers of the Spirit, then it has a power and flow far beyond our own ability in prayer. In the bible we are reminded to be devoted, faithful and persistent in prayer.
I sometimes wonder if prayer is the missing ingredient in church life. Most weeks I make a loaf of bread. If I leave out the yeast the bread doesn’t rise. Perhaps a church without prayer is like making a loaf of bread without yeast, things fall flat. Imagine a prayerful people, clothed in the Armour of God, standing firm with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the word of God clearly on them. Surely then we would each grow spiritually, our church would be fruitful and God’s blessing would be among us.
- Have you been surprised by the commentary on the faith and service of Queen Elizabeth II that has taken place since her death? Have you watched the pageantry, if so, what do you think of it?
- Do you find Paul linking the imagery of the armour of God to that of a Roman soldier helpful? Do you think Paul carefully considered how he linked each attribute to a specific part of the armour? Could he have just as easily spoken of the shield of truth or the belt of faith?
- How do the spiritual elements in this armour help provide a strong foundation for our lives?
- What is the importance of prayer in relation to the spiritual armour?
- How might prayer be the missing ingredient in our own lives or in the life of the church? What happens if we fail to pray?
- Why is prayer something people struggle with? How does the Holy Spirit help us in prayer? (Rom 8.26-27)
Rev John Malcolm