Most often, when life feels hard and my circumstances seem out of control, my prayers center on one thing: me! I want God to intervene as quickly as possible, to restore my kingdom of comfort, of pleasure, of happiness. To fight against all the darkness in this world, because I stand against evil, absolutely. But mostly because I stand against evil when it comes against me. I want immediate relief!
God’s aim reaches much, much farther than mine to all the broken men and women around me, those who desperately need Christ but are oblivious to their need.
Sometimes I feel like I’m continually being tossed about from one battle to the next. And in many ways, I am. We all are. This is why we need to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power,” as Ephesians 6:10 puts it. Why? Because we’re in the middle of a war we cannot fight on our own—a war that both involves us and extends far beyond us.
Scripture makes it clear, you and I have a very real, relentless spiritual enemy bent on our destruction. He’s trying to discourage and defeat us. Why? Because he knows the impact we’ll have, if we truly live for Christ: connected to Him, empowered by Him, and surrendered to Him.
About twenty years ago, books and sermons on spiritual warfare seemed to dominate the Christian community. Everyone seemed obsessed with Satan, the forces of darkness, and their own call to fight. But sometimes, amidst what felt like growing hype, it seemed many forgot what we’re truly fighting for, which is to live as the light of Christ. That is how we win every battle, or rather, how our victorious Savior wins through us. Through love, humility, gentleness, and the unity of God’s children.
When we read Ephesians 6:10-18, we tend to pluck them out of context, reading them as if they’re a self-contained thought, but they aren’t. They’re more of a summation of all Paul told the Ephesians in the previous chapters, when he urged them to give up sinful living and to “put on” Christ: to imitate Christ in how we love.
Jerome, a 4th century Christian, said to have translated the Latin Vulgate, when speaking of this battle we all must fight, wrote: “We are being incited to become entrapped in the works of the flesh”–all those sins Paul listed in Ephesians 2 and 4: lying, stealing, slander, foolish talk and coarse jokes, greed, bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and all other ungodly behavior we've read about. But we were called to live differently, and when we do, we reveal Christ. Our transformed living reveals the power of the gospel.
We can’t live for Christ, as examples of His love and grace, in our own strength. The moment we try, we set ourselves up for defeat. But remember what we read in Ephesians 1 and 3? We have resurrection power within. We have all we need in Christ to fight every battle victoriously, and Paul showed us precisely how.
When an angry mob came against him, he responded in love, graciously, respectfully, inviting them to experience freedom. When shackled in a dark, dank dungeon, he and his ministry partner Silas sang praise songs. When others slandered him and tried to hurt him, he prayed for them and thanked God that, even then, Christ was proclaimed.
Christendom is full of examples of men and women warriors who fought valiantly–through humility, gentleness, and love. But our best example was Jesus, our Savior and ultimate model for all that’s right and true. How did He respond to evil? Through love. Sacrificial, humble, strong yet gentle love.
When life hits hard and we feel we're under attack, we can react in pride, self-protection, and even irritation, or, we can lean hard into Jesus, stand in His strength, and let Him shine His love and life through us. When we choose the latter, our lives act like radiant beacons that push back the darkness with light. Our lives act like divine invitations, beckoning everyone we encounter to come and grab hold of God’s gift of freedom- as together we learn to live wholly, deeply, and eternally loved.
This plan was created by Jennifer Slattery and edited by LaShawn Montoya and Rachel Vaughn. Plan logo design by Yuki Johnson.
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