An old adage says, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Sometimes, while it sounds feasible, I think a lot of us don’t always believe this. Of course, adversity comes in all types of scenarios. It can be terrible, as in the case of a terminal illness or drug addiction, or it can be more benign, like in the case of temporary job setbacks or tight financial times. Either way, it always feels bad, and it always feels permanent. Oftentimes, people in the throes of difficulties feel that there is no end in sight, so how can they ever feel stronger if life has taken a terrible, permanent turn?
Wearing our Armor of God, we can offset much of our strife. This means that we can offset adversity. When life has us down, we can use our armor to offset and even attack the enemy. Even terminal illness comes with good days and a renewed sense of love for those close to us, addiction or depression comes with learning processes that we can take into the future with us, and even financial distress can help us to find our own strengths and strategies to cope and come out of it. Once we get through that—and we will—we are stronger whether we realize it or not. We need to take those moments to relish our victories and store what we have learned. We will take these new attitudes, strategies, and methods into a better, happier, and more successful life.
Simply being a Christian and standing up for our beliefs on a daily basis makes us strong. Knowing we have the Armor of God to help us enforces that. Understanding that we can rise above adversity and become even stronger is the key to our ongoing happiness and success in life and with God.
I talk a lot about the Apostle Paul and how he introduces and guides us through the full Armor of God. I also talk a bit about his philosophies in life, including how he intercepts the attacks on his life and how he offsets what the enemy can send his way or our way. A lot of what will protect us lies in our anticipation of what may come our way in life.
I don’t want people to focus entirely on what might happen to them or to live in fear of the enemy in any respect, but I do think that as Christians we need to be primed and ready for attacks of any kind on our faith and in how we live with God daily. Paul, in his life and his writings, was diligent in teaching us how to protect ourselves from what the enemy may fire our way. In real life, we know that can be anything from hostility in the workplace or school, to problems with family at home, to less specific feelings like self-doubt or depression, and more. The enemy is all around us. While I do not want people to obsess over what may happen in life so much that it throws us off course, I do want everyone to be vigilant and prepared.
Paul reminds us that we have a lot in our daily armor that allows us to protect ourselves. The helmet we wear protects our heads where reason and logic prevail, the breastplate protects our most vulnerable hearts, the shield provides further protection and gives us ample opportunity to protect ourselves, the girded loins protect our mobility so that we can continue to learn and improve, and the shoes keep us nailed in place where our faith is strong and true. Paul also reminds us that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, our strength in offsetting the attacks should actually damage the enemy. Wearing our faith so boldly should scare the devil from approaching and should keep the bad feelings, the bad people, and the bad decisions at bay.
Being a Christian is not only about learning to spiritually respond to life, but also being intentional and aggressive about how you advocate for Jesus Christ and how you offset the evil and the trouble that is in the world. While we all know we should give to the hungry, attend church, and treat others as we would want to be treated, we should also strike back at violence in society by advocating for the underdog in situations involving racism, sexism, or exclusion of any kind, constantly standing up for what we believe is right, and helping others along the way. This is how we use the Armor of God to protect us from and attack the enemy.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist… (NIV)
Truth is often a liquid concept. In recent blog posts, I have touched on truth—truth in prayer or conversation with God, in daily life with others, and with ourselves. I believe that, for many people, personal truths change as people evolve and develop new interests, become more educated, or go through periods of enlightenment and change. For others, however, what I refer to as deep, personal truths never change; for these people, their faith remains unwavering, their personal habits never change, and they become static in ways that can be positive. However, this stagnancy could hurt them as they strive for further enlightenment or positive change in their lives.
Some of these people, so firm in their belief systems and sense of truth and honesty, will always have a solid sense of self and will move forth in life with confidence, thus obtaining success and happiness along the way. For others, the truth they tell themselves is absolute may not lead them on the path they want to be in life. Further, the way they are perceived by others is affected. In order to grow, they may need to take a longer, harder look at themselves, put on the Belt of Truth that God wants them to, and re-evaluate.
The Belt of Truth is meant to make us feel secure. Fastened around us tightly, it literally and figuratively holds everything together, making us feel complete, presentable, organized, and solid. Moving forward, if we use the Belt of Truth the way God wants us to, we should be able to re-evaluate and make new truths part of our positive self-image and successful future. If we tap into our strengths and how the Belt of Truth makes us feel, using the sense of security and confidence that it gives us, then we can take a closer look at ourselves. Using these strengths, we can truly see how we’ve evolved and where we need to place our focus in life, even if it is different than what we initially thought. People and lifestyles change. Priorities from the past may be refocused now.
It is most important that we remain strong in our sense of truth when we communicate with God and when we approach challenges and triumphs in our daily lives. There is no sense in lying to ourselves, and there is no logic in miscommunicating with God. If used properly, the Belt of Truth will help lead us all to our salvation.
Living strong is not always easy; in fact, it is really hard at times. Because I just posted on prayer, I want to also touch on how concerned I get when people only focus prayers to God on their fears or even mention the enemy or the devil. As I said in my previous post, God is good, and any conversation with Him will be fulfilling. Knowing our own strengths and having those regular prayerful conversations with God should offset any fears of the enemy or the devil.
Life can truly throw us some challenges, and, for many of us, having gone through difficult times can scare us enough to create a lifetime fear of the enemy in any form—addiction, illness, financial trouble, depression… the list goes on. If we dress ourselves in the Armor of God, giving attention to where our weaknesses might be present and taking note, too, of our many strengths or honing and working on the strength we know we do have, we can ignore the enemy, knowing that when he comes for us, we are always ready. The enemy, the devil, or whatever challenges and fears we have, do not have any power over us. We should not be intimidated, especially when we have given attention to working on our faith, our prayer life, and our own strengths (and I can’t emphasize the latter enough).
In my book, I strongly suggest NOT talking to the devil at all—NOT giving in to those fears or becoming intimidated by the enemy in any form. When we give any credence to the devil and his antics or to the enemy in our own minds and the fears that ensue, we are acknowledging that we are concerned about the presence of the enemy. On the other hand, when we pray and tap into our own faith and our strengths, we do not fear the devil, and we do not acknowledge the enemy in any aspect of our lives.
Certainly, when the enemy is around—when we feel tempted or intimidated—or when we watch others fall victim to the devil, we need to stay focused and realize that, when the enemy is busy and visible, we have to redirect and look to the positive things in our lives and continue our deep prayerful conversations with God. Staying disciplined in all aspects of our lives is imperative to maintaining the Armor of God, and realizing that we are not always infallible and need God’s input are components to offsetting the enemy in our lives. Always remember to focus on living stronger in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV 2011)
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the Lord’s people. Do all of this in prayer asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.
I feel that it is always important to mention the role of prayer in our lives. I’m not sure, however, that we always know what is appropriate to pray for and what is on the edge of self-serving or improper in that there is no praise for God, at times, only requests for help or pleas for mercy. In my book, Dressed for Victory: Putting on the Full Armor of God, I explore the concept of prayer at length, and so, here, I’d like to zero in on our reasons for prayer—particularly at a time of year when we are headed back to school, ending summer vacations, and hunkering down for whatever the winter season has in store for us.
In times of introspection, we find our minds wandering to many things—what we want, what we need, what we SHOULD focus on, what scares us, and more. As we move into fall and the season of retrospect analysis and personal introspection—the season that makes us think of things coming to an end or changing—we may allow ourselves to explore prayer a little more too.
When we do ask for God’s help, either for ourselves or others, we are engaging in a relationship with Him that shows trust and a need for guidance. This is a healthy practice. Normally, we don’t just pray for ourselves, and most of us realize that it is not really praying or conversing with God when we ask to win the lottery or when we wish ill will on another out of frustration. While most of our praise conversations or prayers are sincere—even when we are momentarily thankful for getting us out of a sticky situation, for example—God knows that not all of our lapses in judgment are sincere. We are all allowed to get frustrated and retreat or lash out. He is forgiving.
Wearing the Armor of God, however, we can always remember to stay focused on a fulfilling prayer life with God, knowing that we are protected, in our armor, by salvation, truth, fortitude, and more. As I said earlier, most of us do not just pray for ourselves. Instead, when we have a need or something that concerns us, we focus on our responsibilities to others, asking to get that raise to provide for the family or hoping to win the bid on a house to shelter our loved ones. Many times we ask for more respect in life or people to surround us with love. These, too, are wholesome, well-directed, and good-intentioned requests. When we feel that we are asking for ourselves, many times we are truly thinking of others or allowing God to get to know us and offering our wants and needs to Him. When we work hard and, with His good grace, obtain what we need or want, as long as we remember to praise Him and tell Him, in our prayerful conversation or introspection, that we are grateful, we are treating prayer as the essential element to fulfilled life with Him.