There are a certain phrases that have become the new normal in our daily lives. Just a few weeks ago we’d never heard of ’social distancing’ and who even knew what it meant to be furloughed?! We’ve also heard a lot in the media about PPE, which is short for Personal Protective Equipment. There’s been much talk about what’s needed to protect ourselves from catching Covid-19. Should I wear a face mask? Are they effective? Should I wear gloves? Do I use hand sanitizer or is hot water and soap better? I am finding myself asking questions I’ve never given much thought to before! It’s all well and good protecting our physical bodies, but God is interested in us spirit, soul and body.
The apostle Paul wrote about such things in his letter to the Ephesians. Yes, it’s important for us to be aware of the physical PPE in these times but it’s just as important to put on our spiritual PPE! He explains why in these verses:
“Put on God’s complete set of armour provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armour that God provides so you’re protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious.”
Ephesians 6:11-13 (The Passion Translation)
Way before any virus came along, Paul showed us that we need to be ready ’to fight against the evil strategies of the accuser’. One of the things that has struck me about this current situation is the fear it has generated in people. Fear is a strategy of the enemy. We might not get Covid-19, but the fear of getting it can paralyze us and stop us being effective in the spiritual battle for the lives of those that don’t know Jesus as their Saviour. Fear is a natural emotion. It’s good to be aware of danger but when fear grips us to an extent that we can’t function properly then we are in trouble. We are reminded in Scripture that the battle is the Lord’s, but we have a part to play in His army by applying that truth to our thought life. Paul continues his letter by telling us how to spiritually guard against negative emotions so we can be effective in combatting the enemy.
1. Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph.
As we know a belt surrounds us. It keeps everything in place. The truth is the Word and when we know the truth we have a standard to live by. In our everyday life we are constantly bombarded by facts which may look like the truth but we need to ask ourselves if they line up with God’s Word. We could liken facts to what is currently referred to as fake news! The enemy wants us to listen to, or focus, on the facts but God wants us to listen to and focus on the truth. The problem with facts are they present as reality but our reality needs to come in line with and submit to God’s kingdom principles.
2. Put on holiness as the protective armour that covers your heart.
We often have a distorted understanding of holiness. We can think it means that we should be pious and perfect and when we can’t achieve this standard we think we have failed. But that’s not what holiness is really about. We are made holy because He is Holy (Hebrew 10:10).To be holy is to be pure and we are made pure by the
sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. It’s this act of love that enables us to be set apart for Him. So we have to protect our hearts from impure thoughts and emotions by the covering of His holiness and righteousness.
3. Stand on your feet alert, then you’ll always be ready to share the blessings of peace.
When we get gripped by fear and anxiety it robs us of our peace and joy. It prevents us from moving forward. In the Amplified version this verse reads "and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]." Without our feet we can’t walk - move forward - and here it tells us to strap on, wear, put on, shoes of peace. We have to put on peace. We have to make a choice to stay in a place of peace to be able to stand firm in rooted stability so we can stand up to the enemy.
I remember when I was growing up in the Anglican tradition the vicar would say at the end of the service ’Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’. Wherever we go as believers we take the presence - peace - of Jesus. This means wherever we are we can change the spiritual atmosphere. We can share the Gospel - good news - and make a difference.
4. In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One!
I love this! Faith protects us from blazing arrows of doubt and unbelief! Faith in who God is! Faith that He is the same yesterday, today and forever! It’s not about how much faith we have but it’s about who we have faith in. This unwavering faith creates a spiritual force field of protection around us. It extinguishes the doubts and unbelief and renders the fear ineffective!
5. Embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies.
The revelation knowledge of our salvation sets us free from old mind-sets and thought patterns and protects our minds. Being sure of our salvation pulls down strongholds that have been created through habitual negativity.
“The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:4 - 5 (Amplified Version)
6. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God.
“For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, like a two-mouthed sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.”
Hebrews 4:12 (The Passion Translation)
At the time Paul wrote this letter the Roman army were in charge so he was used to seeing soldiers in their battle armour. He knew what each piece was used for and so he was able draw analogies with these items in a way that is less familiar to us in our times. When we think of a sword we think of a big, long, heavy piece of metal that hangs down the length of a soldier’s leg. However, the type of sword that Paul’s refers to is a shorter one and it had another use other than killing the enemy. Occasionally an arrow would find a gap in the soldier’s armour and penetrate into his body. To save his own life he would use his sword to extract the arrow. Wow! In the same way we use the (s)Word to extract the fiery darts the enemy shoots at us that sometimes get through our armour! Jesus demonstrated how to use the Word against the enemy when he went into the desert for 40 days after he was baptised. He constantly spoke the Word to refute the enemy’s taunts. If Jesus did this then how much more should we! When we speak out the truth it reminds us of who God is and puts the enemy in his place.
7. Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers.
Recently there have been times when I admit to being overwhelmed by the current circumstances. In these moments I have used my spiritual language to pray. Sometimes i just don’t know what to say but the Holy Spirit does and as we pray in tongues he gives us the words to pray. I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you and, as it says in this verse, to pray His blessings. As a church we have been listening to a beautiful song which is taken from Numbers.
“The Lord bless you, and keep you [protect you, sustain you, and guard you]; The Lord make His face shine upon you [with favour], and be gracious to you [surrounding you with lovingkindness]; The Lord lift up His countenance (face) upon you [with divine approval], and give you peace [a tranquil heart and life].”
Numbers 6:24 - 26 (Amplified Version)
I want to finish by thanking all of those who have put their own lives on the line to care for those we love that have this horrid virus. Physical PPE is so very important to them so it’s very important that we play our part and stay home, stay safe and be strong in wearing our spiritual PPE.
“Jehovah himself will watch over you; he’s always at your side to shelter you safely in His presence. He’s protecting you from all danger both day and night. He will keep you from every form of evil or calamity as he continually watches over you. You will be guarded by God himself. You will be safe when you leave your home and safely you will return. He will protect you now, and he’ll protect you forevermore!”
Psalms 121:5 - 8 (The Passion Translation)