A dragon, fierce and powerful, stands in the near distance, stomping on the ground in its fury, wisps of smoke escaping its large nostrils and from behind its sharp teeth.
I approach it.
It’s my foe, it’s my battle. I have one mission: to slay the evil beast and rejoice in my victory over it. Feeling energized and full of sudden courage, I charge the dragon…in my underwear.
…holding only a broken twig for a weapon.
After the smoke clears and the dust settles, I look up to see the dragon stomping away snorting and laughing. I lay here broken and bruised, utterly defeated.
As funny as it might seem for me to even attempt to fight a dragon in my underwear with only a twig for a weapon, how many times do I do this exact thing when waging war against the devil? How many times do I forget not just one piece of armor, but often quite a few necessary pieces that would have aided me in the battle?
We all remember the armor of God, as laid out in Ephesians. More than likely, you had a toy set as a child with every piece labeled in epic gold lettering. I did. But something happened in between putting on grey plastic armor as a nine year-old and pretending to defeat the forces of evil, and now, an adult, actually needing to fight the forces of evil, and forgetting my armor. See, I never graduated from the plastic. I never grew up. I remained a child warrior, and the plastic soon melted under the heat of the fires of hell. I was left there with a choice, either learn to fight with the King’s armor He had given me, or abandon my plastic mess and try and figure it out a different way. Oh, that I would have had the patience and endurance to have practiced all those years under the Great Warrior, the warring Prince who rides upon the clouds and bades me pick up my sword and follow him. Maybe I would have slayed beasts that otherwise tormented me for years; maybe I would have defeated armies that assaulted me time and time again. But these regrets stay no longer than fleeting wonderings, and in a moment my Maker lifts me up from my broken heap and brushes me off, whispering of his love for me in my ear. Then he leads me to his armory, where he teaches me how to fight the blessed battle, the good fight, the holy war against the powers that threaten his glory and wage war upon his grace.
And this is my armor.
The Belt of Truth: This first piece is the anchor for all the rest. Without it, everything falls. Why is truth a belt? Think about it. Without a belt, your pants fall down; without truth, everything falls loose. It makes you look like a fool, and without it you feel insecure. We need the belt of truth to keep everything else together, and to make us secure in what we believe and the power we walk in.
The Breastplate of Righteousness: The second piece is one of the most important pieces, for it protects the vital organs of a soldier’s body. This is what makes righteousness beautiful. It covers our heart, protects our lungs that give us breath, and our stomach, where we feel. Righteousness: given to us by God, his righteousness, protects our heart from the world and the enemy, when they may try and pierce our flesh, find our weaknesses, holes in our armor; we rest in his righteousness, that covers us and protects us from the violent attacks from the enemy. Righteousness isn’t chain mail. It’s a well-crafted piece of metal, given to us by our Heavenly Captain, bought by his blood split in the greatest battle He ever fought.
The Shoes of the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace: This third piece is incredibly profound in its meaning. See, they aren’t shoes of the gospel. They’re shoes with the readiness that’s given by the gospel of peace. Shoes were incredibly important for a soldier, otherwise he would wear out, be prone to all types of injuries, and be unprepared for certain types of terrain. When we put on these shoes, they make us ready for anything, prepared for whatever comes our way. Just as shoes would go with a soldier wherever he went, so should the gospel go with us wherever we go, and make footprints of peace in the ground we travel over. If we don’t wear the gospel, when we come to a mountain or a rocky path, we won’t last long. We’ll tire out, stumble and fall, and hurt ourselves. We must always we wearing the gospel of peace wherever we go.
The Shield of Faith: The fourth piece of armor is definitely not something we should forget about. Just as a shield is the main source of defense for the soldier, so it is for the believer. With it we protect ourselves from the arrows of the evil one. Without faith, we get pierced by these arrows, crafted by the Prince of Lies, and their poison,their fire⸺is deception and doubt, that slowly seeps into our bloodstream and makes us unstable, unsure, doubtful, and weak. Faith protects us. But faith, being a shield, is one of the more active pieces of our armor. We don’t just strap it on and wait. No, we use it⸺swing it left and right, parry the attacks and intercept the arrows flying towards us. Faith is active, always moving, but it is never offensive. It’s a defensive weapon, it wasn’t built to be on the offensive. When we use faith on the offense, we get too close to the enemy, and often leave open spaces for his arrows to pierce us because we’re too busy going wild with our shield. We look crazy when we use faith on the offensive. God gave us offensive weapons, but faith is not one of them. We rest in faith, and we use it, but not to attack, to defend.
The Helmet of Salvation: Oh how vital this fifth piece is. Without it, we’re basically dead. The helmet on a soldier’s armor protects the his head, which is slightly important to protect. See, salvation is a helmet because it protects our mind, it encases it tightly so that nothing else can get in and hurt it. Salvation protects our soul: mind, will, and emotions. When we put it on, our souls are secure in Christ and his redeeming grace. If we forget about it, the world’s ideas of grace and redemption come in, and pretty soon we’re trying to protect our heads with leaves and sticks: human attempts at salvation⸺good works. Salvation saves our souls and protects our mind from all attacks.
The Sword of the Spirit: Finally, having been dressed in all our protective garb, we get our weapon, the only offensive piece in our armor. Without his sword, the soldier had no reason to fight. What is a warrior without a weapon? Let us not forget the greatest weapon given to us by our Gracious Commander, his Holy Spirit. With it, we change from defending ourselves from the enemy to attacking him furiously. Now understand, I’m not saying his Spirit is a item we can manipulate to do with whatever we want. No, as a soldier learns to handle his sword well and fight well with it, so we must learn how to use this gift our Father has given to us. A sword gives a soldier power, authority. How much more so does the Holy Spirit give us power and authority over the world and the schemes of the devil? If we learn to fight like our Captain desires us to, how much more victory might we see? Let us not be afraid of our weapon, but may we also use it right. Interestingly, the Sword of the Spirit has a sheath, attached to the Belt of Truth. If you’re fighting with your sword but forgot your belt, you look like a crazy person waving a sword around in your underwear. It must reside with truth in order to be effective. But do not be afraid of using it, for it is also the word of God, which separates soul from spirit and gives you power and strength in the dark places of the world. Too many times I’ve forgotten about my sword entirely, and when I get knocked down by the enemy, I suddenly remember that I never removed it from its sheath. Then I pick it up, struggling with the weight of it, swinging it around wildly, unsure of what to do with it, and scared of its power. Our Captain doesn’t desire us to wild brawlers, but well-practiced and refined mercenaries of His Kingdom, destroying strongholds of hell, and piercing through the demonic darkness around us. Pick up your sword.
A dragon approaches. His eyes are fierce and full of death. Fire and smoke escape his mouth in fountains of heat and hate. It spies me in the near distance, and roars ferociously, desiring no less than my destruction.
But this time I’m ready.
This armor is too clean and shiny.
It begs to be used, to taste war.
Suddenly the dragon screams out in pain. I look up to see my Captain with the dragon, expertly driving his sword into the weak places of the dragon’s flesh, and parrying the dragon’s counter attacks. He looks to me, and beckons for me to join him in the fight.
And so I charge forward⸺to join my Captain, to fight the good fight.