Ready to Win

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  August 22, 2021

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Ephesians 6:10 – 20
As I began reflecting over our New Testament lesson for today, I was going to use the title, “Ready for Battle.”  However, the more I thought about it, I realized we have been battling so much for so long, that I think we have reached the point where our focus ought to be READY TO WIN!
And so, this morning, as we take a closer look at this text from the end of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, let us keep that thought in mind, because if you’re like me, you are READY TO WIN.
This particular passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians starts with words of encouragement to find strength in God.  However, it also comes with an acknowledgement of just what the Ephesians, and might I add what we, are up against. 
Looking at our opening verses again as they appear in the Message Paraphrase, we read:

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Paul wanted the Ephesians, and all those who would read this letter after them, to know that this is not just some simple game, like tug-of-war, that they and we are facing.  No… when it comes right down to it, we are in a battle for our very lives, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We are living in a day and time when communities and countries are being decimated by natural, and unnatural, disasters with everything from earthquakes and hurricanes to raging wildfires and wars. 
We are seeing the continuing devastation that has been caused by a pandemic that we had all hoped was well on its way to becoming a thing of the past but which has sadly come roaring back to life.
And we are constantly being confronted with the division that continues to spread among families and friends as political and philosophical differences are no longer matters for civil discussions but have become the groundwork for civil unrest which has led to violence, the likes of which we have not seen in recent history.
Yes, we are in a battle for our lives… but the good news is that God has already prepared us for battle and that means we are READY TO WIN
Looking back to the text, Paul has provided us with a detailed description of God’s armor which assures us of victory because it provides us with the protection we need from anything and everything the devil might try to use against us. 
And just what does this armor consist of? 
First, we have the belt of truth to fasten around our waist. 
Typically, we use a belt to hold up a pair of pants or a skirt or cinch the waistline of a dress or a blouse.  In general, a belt is used to hold something up or to keep it in place.
But there are other kinds of belts that we may use as well.  Some people use a weight belt to provide added support when they are lifting heavy objects.  Our cars use fan belts, alternator belts, serpentine belts, timing belts and even seat belts, to name just a few.  Each of these belts are specifically designed to hold things up and keep them in place so they function properly.
The belt of truth does the same for us.  It holds us up spiritually and keeps things in place fur us as we strive to function properly in a truly dysfunctional world, as we seek to follow the path Jesus has laid for us.
In John 4 (23), Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.  In John 8 (32), Jesus told the Pharisees and the people gathered that they would know the truth, and that the truth would set them free.  And in John 14:6, Jesus explained to His disciples that He “is the way, the truth and the life.” 
One of the enemy’s weapons of choice is to lie and try to make it sound like the truth.  But popular theories to the contrary, the truth is the truth, and God’s truth will defeat the enemy’s lies every time.  And when we have Jesus as our belt of truth to hold us up and keep us in place, we will be able to stand and withstand whatever the devil throws our way.
Now, after we put on the belt of truth, Paul instructs us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. 
The breastplate covers the vital region where our hearts are.  It is like the protective Kevlar vests that police officers wear when they are in the line of fire.  The physical heart is what keeps the body alive.  It pumps blood to the other parts of the body and keeps the oxygen flowing. 
Living without any one of our other vital organs functioning might be more difficult, but it would not be impossible.  However, once the heart stops, life ceases.  It is why in Proverbs 4:23, we read, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  
But Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our spiritual hearts… the source of our emotions… the place where love dwells.  The enemy knows if he can attack our hearts, everything else will fall apart.  But when we have God’s righteousness protecting our hearts, like a breastplate, the fiery darts of the enemy don’t stand a chance.
So, we put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.  Then Paul says we need to put shoes on our feet that make us ready to stand firm as we proclaim the gospel of peace.
Now, every well-dressed man or woman knows that you are not truly dressed for success until you have on just the right pair of shoes.  But unfortunately, over the years, I have reached the point that I cannot wear those really cute shoes for more than an hour or two without my feet rebelling in protest. 
And yet there are some people who have taken fashionable footwear to a whole new level.  I am amazed not only by their ability to wear such fabulous shoes, but by their ability to actually walk in them… and to remain upright while doing so.
But God is not calling us to put on fancy footwear, rather we need to put on our most comfortable shoes so that as we fight this battle to win souls for Christ, we can stand firm in our faith, first and foremost. 
Now, some people might be reluctant to share the gospel, the Good News about Jesus, out of fear of rejection or ridicule.  Others might see it as a hopeless cause because so much of the world is just not receptive to hearing about their need for a Savior.
But Paul encourages us to “step out on faith” and stand firm, with feet that are equipped with the gospel of peace… which is a peace that truly surpasses all understanding. 
In the Gospel of John (14:27), we find Jesus’ promise to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
What passes for peace in this world is nothing compared to the peace that comes from knowing and trusting Christ.  Some people will tell you that having money is the key to having peace… but money can be lost in the blink of an eye or the crash of a stock market.
Others will suggest that peace is found in having fancy cars, big homes and designer clothes… but things can easily be taken away or destroyed… just ask those who have lost everything in the wake of the recent wildfires, floods and earthquakes and those who have been forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan.
The fact of the matter is that it is only in Christ, not in material things, that we can find true and lasting peace … which is why we are called to put on our footwear as we go out to spread the gospel of peace.
And when our feet are properly fitted with the gospel of peace, we have the assurance found in Romans 16:20 that, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under [our] feet” … assurance that means we really are READY TO WIN.
Now, there is one thing that anyone who knows about fashion will tell you, which is that no outfit, not even one made of armor, is truly complete without the proper accessories.
So, in addition to the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and shoes that will make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace, we also need to take up the shield of faith.
When I was growing up, I was not a big sci-fi fanatic but I did watch an occasional episode of Star Trek on TV or in the theater.  I saw most of the original Star Wars movies and I really liked the film, Independence Day. 
And one of the things that all of these sci-fi adventures had in common was space ships that were equipped with impenetrable force fields that were designed to offer protection from the enemy.
Well in the battles that we face each day, we too have an impenetrable force field to protect us.  It is the shield of faith.  And when we have the shield of faith that helps us to know who we are and Whose we are, we have the assurance that the victory is already ours and that we are READY TO WIN
Satan will do his best to attack us with fiery darts and flaming arrows that are designed to trap us and make us feel defeated and worthless.  Darts and arrows that come in the form of temptation to do things that are contrary to God’s Word… as well as in the form of insults and harsh criticisms that deflate our self-esteem. 
But when we take up the shield of faith, it allows us to deflect the darts and arrows the enemy sends our way so that we emerge victorious and READY TO WIN.
But hold on, we are not done just yet… because Paul says that in addition to the shield of faith, we must put on the helmet of salvation.  This will protect our minds and keep us from doubting that God is working in our lives. 
One of the tricks of the enemy is to try to make us doubt our salvation and doubt that God could ever really love someone like us. 
However, in Romans 8:38-39 Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That means that there is NOTHING, NO THING – past, present or future – that will ever stop God from loving His children.  So, when we put on the helmet of salvation, it is a reminder of God’s unconditional, eternal love for us.
So, we can put on the helmet of salvation securely… knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter how much the enemy tries to convince us otherwise… God can and will still love us in spite of everything we have done.  This means we cannot lose the promised gift of eternal life and that means we are READY TO WIN.
Now, last but certainly not least, there is one more accessory that we need to ensure that we are READY TO WIN...  We need the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. 
As we put on the full armor of God, each piece provides us with protection and defends us against the various weapons the enemy tries to use against us. 
But there is a not-so-secret weapon that each of us has, as Christians, that enables us to go on the offensive against the enemy and that weapon is the Word of God.  And let me just say that there is no greater weapon that we can use in battle.
In fact, it is the Word of God that provides us with all of the other armor we need.  It is where we find Jesus, who is our belt of truth.  It is where we find God’s righteousness which is the breastplate that guards our hearts.  It is where we find the gospel of peace that we fit our feet with so that we can stand firm.  And it is where we find the shield of faith which protects us from the enemy’s fiery darts and arrows.
Some people would have us believe that guns and weapons of mass destruction are the answer… but those weapons are ineffective when we are fighting against the enemies of God.  And that is because Satan uses schemes and tactics that can only be thwarted by trusting in God and believing the Word of God.
The Word of God gives us the assurance that God’s love is more than enough to combat feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and restore our self-esteem. 
The Word of God tells us about God’s peace which can defeat feelings of anxiety, panic and fear and bring us calm in the midst of chaos. 
And the Word of God contains the promise of God’s grace and mercy which can dispel our feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. 
So, when the enemy tries to tell us that we have done too many wrong things for too long and are therefore unlovable, the Word of God reminds us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Now, when we look at what is going on around us in the world and the ways in which the enemy is poised and ready to attack, the Word of God offers us the assurance that we do not need to be afraid and that we can be at peace because, “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). 
And it was Jesus, Himself, who said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
And having that assurance in hand, that Jesus has already overcome the world, there should really be no doubt that we are READY TO WIN.
But on the off chance someone is not 100% fully convinced that we have everything we need in order to be READY TO WIN, Paul suggests there is one more thing we can add to our arsenal so we can be assured of victory in the battle and that is prayer.
Looking once again at the Message Paraphrase, we read, “In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
James 5 (16) says that, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
So, let me ask, is there anyone here who doubts the effectiveness and power of prayer?  I certainly hope not!
I think we have been witnesses to enough prayers being answered over the past days, weeks and months so we can declare that prayer works.  Prayer changes things and more importantly prayer changes people. 
I read a quote once that said, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons -- but they are helpless against our prayers.” (Sidlow Baxter)
And the beautiful thing about prayer is that it does not cost us anything except the time we take to pray. 
Eyes open, eyes shut, head bowed, head up, on our knees or prostrate on the floor, sitting in the pews or standing tall – the posture and position of our body is not what is important – it is the posture and position of our heart that makes all the difference. 
It is our openness to hearing from God and our willingness to follow His lead that matters most.
So, as we continue in the ongoing battle to tell a dying world about a living Savior who is Christ the Lord… let us follow God’s lead and put on the full armor of God as we lift our prayers and open our hearts to the Lord… and then let’s get READY TO WIN!