Did you ever wonder why the Christian life is so hard sometimes? It’s because we are involved in a spiritual struggle. Naturalists and Materialists say that, “Only matter matters,” and claim that there is nothing beyond the physical realm; but the Bible teaches that the spiritual realm is real. Jesus spoke about it and your own experiences (rightly understood) confirm it.
Before the start of World War II, Winston Churchill tried to alert the British people to the imminent necessity of war, but no one wanted to listen or believe him. Neville Chamberlain, believing Hitler’s propaganda, assured the nation that they were not in danger. Churchill insisted that 1.) You cannot ignore the war, 2.) War is both necessary and lamentable, and 3.) The war must be won at all costs. Churchill told the British people that he could promise them nothing but “blood, toil, tears and sweat,” but they must wage war with all the strength God had given them because without victory, there would be no survival. When the war came to England and Churchill was elected Prime Minister, he promised, “We shall never surrender!”
Paul, like Churchill, writes to awaken us to the reality and urgency of spiritual warfare. When he says “finally,” he is saying, “This is what I have been writing about and preparing you for all along. You need to prepare for war because we are at war. The battle is real and the danger is undeniable!”
When Paul says to “Be strong in the Lord,” it means to be strengthened in the LORD, to avail yourself of His strength. Our strength comes from knowing and trusting God. It means taking God at His word and putting it into practice. We must know our own weakness and be prepared. We can’t stand against Satan, or even our own temptations, on our own. The power we need to prevail in spiritual warfare is outside of us. Just like a vacuum cleaner must be plugged into an electrical outlet and turned on in order to work, so we must plug into God’s power and use it.
In order to be strong in the Lord, we must put on God’s armor. Paul is not merely speaking of armor that God provides for us; he is referring to the very armor worn by the Messiah (Isaiah 59) in which He fought and gained victory over His enemies. This armor will not fail you! In order to protect ourselves (defense) and to attack Satan’s kingdom (offense), we must stand in the full armor of God so that we are prepared to fight at every turn and never surrender.
There are two dangerous errors that people fall into when addressing the subject of spiritual warfare. One is to deny or ignore it completely, and the other is to obsess over it to the point of losing sight of God. The battle is real and the devil is powerful. He rules over fallen humanity and the world in opposition to God. In order to succeed in spiritual warfare, you must 1.) Believe the battle is real, 2.) Choose sides (you can’t be neutral), and 3.) Be sure of your armor.
We lose many young people from the church because they go off to college and adulthood unprepared for battle. They don’t have their armor on because they don’t feel their need for it. They don’t understand or value the work of Christ and have not experienced its power.
Our greatest defense is a simple, two-letter word—“NO.” The devil is full of deceptive strategies to lead us into idolatry. He says, “Yeah, God has some good things, but the devil has some good things, too, and they’re on sale, and we have coupons!” Speaking of temptation, Martin Luther said that we can’t stop birds from flying over our head, but we can stop them from making a nest in our hair. Neal A. Maxwell once said, “If we entertain temptations, soon they will be entertaining us.”
There is a war going on. It is for our hearts and minds and lives and for those of our children, our neighbors and our culture. Paul calls us to do battle by walking and standing in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians in marriage, family, work, church, etc. Like a body builder who starts with small weights in training and works up to heavy ones, draw close to God when you face the little challenges so that you will be in shape and prepared to face the big ones.
Our culture is no longer supportive of the Christian life, so you cannot merely coast in your faith and hope for the best. Remember who you are and what God has done. Study the Christian faith. Put on the full armor of God. Strengthen yourself in the Lord. Prepare yourself to stand against evil and then stand, confident that your armor will hold. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.