It’s funny how epiphanies happen. Sometimes you read the same book, the same passage a million times and it doesn’t seem to strike a chord and suddenly as though you’ve heard a new song penetrate your ear, you are stunned in silence by its message. That’s exactly what happened to me during a young adult's study.
We were discussing a passage in Ephesians 6:13-17. It’s a famous and very common passage discussing the armor of God. It tells us to wear the skirt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of gospel peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Word of God. Each piece of equipment playing a significant role.
As our youth leader spoke, things about each piece began to make more sense than they did before. It struck a chord within me, much richer and deeper than before. The last point our youth leader made stood out the most.
As I later reflected on each piece of armor, the more I saw the object lessons bleeding through the pages.
The skirt of truth: This has also been translated as the belt of truth. The belt was vital for a Roman soldier because it is what held the weapons that he was going to carry into battle with him. Without the belt he was defenseless. God instructs us to make sure that we carry the Truth with us everywhere we go so we aren’t caught defenseless.
The breastplate of righteousness: The breastplate was often worn to protect the lungs and the heart. These are important organs, which allow us to breathe and our blood to flow throughout our bodies. It is what keeps us alive. Righteousness is how we apply the WORD of God in our life. Are we living up to the standard that He calls us to? Are we being considerate of others? Are we loving?
The sandals of gospel peace: The type of shoes worn by soldiers aren’t anything like the US military grade. They were sandals. They were vulnerable to all sorts of things. It is no different with our own lives when we go out into the world. So many people have been jaded by Christianity due to the behavior of Christians. It is most unfortunate, but we must remind ourselves that like the world, we fail too. Our feet get banged up, by accident, by our own accord or by the acts of others. Yet, we are reminded to share our faith of peace and do our best to live the standard that we say we believe in.
The shield of faith: The shield was used for defense, it could be used for offense, but for the most part we see it as a means to protect one’s self from harm. Faith is what protects us from being harmed by the arrows that assail us. Some people will attack us just because they disagree with our faith. But we are called to be strong enough in our faith, that we wouldn’t be easily persuaded to run. Obviously having tested it of course, we aren’t to be blindly following our faith without question. God encourages questions, but even despite the questions and lack of answers, our faith in His goodness and who He is shouldn't shake it.
The helmet of salvation: The helmet was what protected a soldier’s head. It wasn’t just the top, but also the side of the face, which had a strap that tied under the neck, preventing it from falling. For a soldier, he wouldn’t think of going into battle with out it.
When we think of the head, we associate it with the mind. We see it as the communication epicenter, which enables us to communicate in action, words and deeds. It is a place where knowledge is stored. The fact that God created us to have a brain, speaks of His love for intellectual and logical interaction. Despite what critics may say however, my personal investigation in my faith, attest that He does.
Paul’s reasoning to correlate salvation and a helmet is brilliant since it is something that I think many of us have often struggled with. Are we saved? How do we know? Salvation is a both a gift and a fact. It is a fact, according to the Word of God, we are saved if we believe in Jesus Christ, which He willingly gave of Himself as a gift to this world.
Can we lose our salvation? Yes. There is no evidence to the creed of “once saved always saved”. There have been plenty of Biblical examples of people losing their salvation, such as King Saul, Judas, Simon the sorcerer, Demas, Hymenaeus and Philetos, Ananias and Sapphira etc.
Just like a soldier can lose his helmet, we can lose salvation. But it is by choice. It can be by the gradual influences of others that cause us to remove our helmet, making us vulnerable to attack. It could be a deliberate removal of the helmet. But no one can take our salvation, unless we give it up.
The sword of the Word of God: Can you imagine a Roman soldier without a sword? It’s like a modern-day soldier without an M-16. God has equipped us with the sword to both defend the Truth and to offend someone with it. This is where wisdom comes in. We need to know how to use the sword effectively. Just like a Roman soldier wouldn’t go into battle without proper training, neither are we to use our sword without knowing the Word of God. Let us remember that the sword can be dangerous, we've seen what it can do in the wrong hands. Keep that in mind on how you use your sword. Ask yourself, are you doing more harm in the name of Christ? Or are you elevating Him?
So why did I bother sharing the pieces of armor with you, it is for this point – each one is necessary for defense and offense, but most importantly it protects the wearer from the enemy they are facing, however it doesn’t protect their back. It was this that the youth leader pointed out that made me realize that every trial we have ever faced, we were meant to face by facing it directly. We were never made to turn our back on our fears, insecurities, or our problems. Each piece of armor was protecting something vital. This analogy wasn’t just about the spiritual, but it crosses over various elements in our life literally.
After contemplating the various parts of the armor of God, I realized the wisdom behind each piece and what God had always intended for us; to be strong warriors, who would not let their guard down. He desires us to be vigilant and prepared for the trials we face. We have been fully equipped to combat life head on.
We were never meant to cower and hide.
Just like David stood up to Goliath, we too were equipped to stand up to our foes, whatever they may be. He tells us to stand in truth, stand in righteousness, stand in peace, stand in faith, stand in salvation, and stand in the Word of God.
Whatever you may be battling with, whether spiritual, physical, mental or emotional.
Know that God gave you everything you needed to fight it.
He’s not saying you’ll always be protected because even the greatest of soldiers have fallen or have gotten wounded in the process. It’s painful and never easy. However, what God has enabled us to do is to be emboldened with faith, strength and peace that this world can’t understand. That should give us hope to face anything.