As A Praying Parent Keep Your Guard Up with Spiritual Armor(Ephesians 6:10-20)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes, for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 12, 2018
[note: some of the illustrations make be summarized or not used.]
According to pastor and author John Ortberg, a fictitious manual for Peace Corp volunteers headed for South America offers advice on how to handle a chance encounter with an anaconda (a large type of boa constrictor). This is the list of instructions under the heading “What to Do If Attacked by an Anaconda”:
- If you’re attacked by an anaconda, do not run; the snake is faster than you are.
- Lie flat on the ground.
- Put your arms tight at your sides and your legs tight against one another.
- The snake will begin to climb over your body.
- Do not panic.
- The snake will begin to swallow you from the feet end.
- Step 6 will take a long time.
- After awhile, slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down, take your knife, and very gently slide it into the snake’s mouth. Then suddenly sever the snake’s head.
- Be sure your knife is sharp.
- Be sure you have your knife.
John Ortberg quotes these humorous instructions and then makes a serious point: “You never really know what curves life will throw at you, what’s lurking around the corner … But when you are called, and you will be called, you need to know what to do. If you wait until a crisis hits, because it will hit, you have waited too long. You need to be prepared first.”
In today’s sermon I want to talk about keeping your guard up. The battles we face are spiritual. This is true for all of us, but if we are family people it is especially true. What do I mean by family people? I am glad you asked. I mean some of us are not biological parents, but we are paternal or maternal influences on people all the same. Some of us are grandparents or aunts or uncles. We have an influence.
The devil wants to divide families
Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
My theme today is:
As A Praying Parent Keep Your Guard Up with Spiritual Armor(Ephesians 6:10-20). Pray that you and your family will recognize Ephesians 6:10-12 and put on your spiritual armor.
Read with me: Ephesians 6:10-17:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and havingput on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- The greatest parental concern is NOT physical.
- Sometimes we miss the spiritual like we miss other things.
- We think we are safe when we cannot see certain dangers. One writes:When we lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, we would go to the beach. It was always hard to relax and have a good time with our children, though, because there were too many threats: jellyfish, stingrays, sharks, undertow. One time we had some relatives that came to St. Petersburg and brought their boat with them. We decided to go out to an island a couple of miles offshore called Egmont Key. We had a great time because we didn’t think we had to worry about the normal threats. The water was blue, the sand was white. We swam with our children carefree in the Gulf of Mexico. A few days later we were telling some friends about our wonderful day. Being more familiar with the area, they informed us we had been swimming in one of the most shark-infested areas around! We were in danger, but completely oblivious to it.
- However, there are real spiritual dangers, but let’s be ready. Many times we are fighting the wrong battles. Many times we fight the wrong battles. Many times all we care about is the physical.
- We will come back to that.
- First, often times we imagine the Apostle Paul writing this passage in prison looking at a Roman soldier’s armor and writing this passage. It is true that Paul was in some kind of persecution when he wrote this, but the imagery in this passage is in the whole Bible. Let’s look at some passages:
- Isaiah 11:5: Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
- Isaiah 59:15-17:
And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.
Now the Lord saw,
And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.
16 And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
Then His own arm brought salvation to Him,
And His righteousness upheld Him.
17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing
And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.
- This is about the Lord’s arm bringing salvation.
- The Lord’s righteousness is in this passage.
- He put on righteousness like a breast plate.
- He put on the garments.
- Isaiah 61:10:
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart exults,
And with my song I shall thank Him.
- These passages are not New Testament only passages. They are throughout the Bible.
- We must have God’s armor, and this also means we must recognize the real battle.
- As parents we think what is needed is the best education, sports and athletics, college and teaching our children other responsibilities. These are not bad things. As parents we often think what is needed is that our kids have good days but remember we do not only learn from good days, we need bad days. As parents we think what is needed is that our children have a good-esteem. As parents we want so many good things for our family, but when we miss the spiritual we miss the most important.
- The devil wants to take down our families and he will do it but making us think he does not exist.
- I have read stories about real spiritual warfare in the United States and other countries. These are especially true in other countries. I wonder if the devil has a different strategy in America. In America he wants us to think he does not exist. In America he wants us to focus on the wrong things.
- I remember talking with Meagan’s step dad about dating Meagan. We were all nervous. I love the idea of intimidating men at some point who want to date my daughters, but by that time it is really too late. If my daughters wish to date men that I am concerned about I have waited too long.
- You see, that goes back to making the battle physical when it is spiritual.
- We think the answer with teenagers and dating is birth control, safe sex, intimidating the boys, setting up standards. Certainly, setting up standards is a good thing, but isn’t it better to raise your daughters with a Biblical worldview so they agree with the standards we set?
- Jen Wilkin shares:
I have two teen-aged daughters, so it was with some interest that I read a recent post entitled “Application to Date My Daughter.” It was pretty funny, playing on the idea of the stereotypical shotgun-toting father and the mortified daughter as they negotiate the tricky terrain of a first date. Then Christian bloggers grabbed the concept, and for the most part, these versions were funny, too. There were some common themes: slouchy-panted unemployed suitors, dads breathing out Chuck Norris-inspired threats. I didn’t lose my well-developed sense of humor until I made the tactical error of glancing at some of the comments. And then I was just flat-out sad.
Here is the comment that made me the saddest, posted by a well-meaning young Christian father:
“Bro, this is awesome. My daughter’s only 2, but I am printing this for my fridge. Thanks for your godly example.”
Okay, joke’s over. Bro. Let’s talk strategy for a second. Is that all you’ve got? You need a better plan than these low-level intimidation techniques. After all, she’s your DAUGHTER, for Pete’s sake. So let’s talk frankly about what you need to do to guard her interests when it comes to dating. Instead of brandishing a shotgun or breaking out an application, you need to build a wall.
That’s right, you heard me – build a wall. Go all “Rapunzel.” Build it so high that only the strongest of suitors can scale it. But don’t wait until your baby girl is a teenager, Bro – start now. Start yesterday. There’s no time to waste.
Build a wall
In Song of Solomon 8:8-9 we hear a family’s hope that their young sister will grow into a woman of strength and dignity. Can you guess what metaphor they use to describe that kind of woman? A wall. Their sister assures them in verse 10 that she is indeed a wall, complete with towers. Her statement indicates an assurance that she is not only strong, but able to defend herself against any unworthy suitors. That’s what you want, Bro – you want a wall.
Here’s the problem with shotgun jokes and applications posted on the fridge: to anyone paying attention, they announce that you fully expect your daughter to have poor judgment. Be assured that your daughter is paying attention. And don’t be shocked if she meets your expectation. You might want to worry less about terrorizing or retro-fitting prospective suitors and worry more about preparing your daughter to choose wisely. And that means building a wall.
Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because, you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of old Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.
- I love that illustration and it is so true.
- We want our children to have good judgment. Listen, if we focus on the world, so will they. If our focus is on money and affluence and education and sports and career and all these things so will they. If these things trump the spiritual they will for them too. The battle is spiritual.
- Allow me to take a few minutes and give some background to this spiritual battle.
- In Revelation 12:3 the writer gives indication that at some point there was a cosmic struggle and satan, who was then an angel, rebelled and fell from Heaven with 1/3rd of the angels. Revelation is written looking backward in this case. We don’t know exactly when satan led this revolt, but Scripture makes it clear that he did lead the revolt. We know that satan rebelled sometime between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3. The 1/3rdof the demons could have followed him all at once or over time that by the end of time 1/3rdof the angels had rebelled and become demons. Isaiah chapter 14 and Ezek chapter 28 both give more indication about satan’s fall from Heaven. He was an anointed angel, but he had some pride and tried to take what was God’s.
- So, satan fell from Heaven.
- But just because satan fell from heaven and took 1/3rdof the angels don’t get the idea that satan is simply an opposing force to God. Satan is no equal. In Luke 10:18 the disciples had been sent out to heal people, cast out demons, etc and when they came back they said, “Lord, the demons obey you!” To this Jesus responded, “I saw satan fall from Heaven like lightning.” God sent the devil down to earth as fast as lightning hits the ground. So, the Lord Jesus is clearly ruler and satan is no equal, yet there is a battle.
- In 1 Chronicles chapter 21 the text says that satan rose up and incited David to do something that was sinful. Satan incited David to take a census. This census was sinful because it made David have faith in his army instead of faith in God. Satan wants us to do things that make us doubt the power of the Lord.
One writes about his son:
One summer Aaron went to a youth camp. He was just a little guy, and I was kind of glad because it was a church camp. I figured he wasn’t going to hear all those ghost stories, because ghost stories can really cause a kid to have nightmares. But unfortunately, since it was a Christian camp and they didn’t tell ghost stories, because we don’t believe in ghosts, they told demon and Satan stories instead. And so when Aaron got home, he was terrified.
“Dad, don’t turn off the light!” he said before going to bed. “No, Daddy, could you stay here with me? Daddy, I’m afraid. They told all these stories about demons.”
And I wanted to say, “They’re not real.”
He goes, “Daddy, Daddy, would you pray for me that I would be safe?” I could feel it. I could feel warm-blanket Christianity beginning to wrap around him, a life of safety, safety, safety.
I said, “Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room.”
And he goes, “All right. But pray I would be really, really dangerous, Daddy.”
Have you come to that place in your own life where you stop asking God to give you a safe life, and make you a dangerous follower of Jesus Christ?
- Put on the spiritual armor.
- So, we must pray that we and our descendants take seriously the spiritual war. We can summarize Ephesians 6:10-12 in our prayer life, then we must put on the spiritual armor.
- The belt of truth: truth is Scripture
- The breastplate of righteousness
- So, we must pray that we and our descendants take seriously the spiritual war. We can summarize Ephesians 6:10-12 in our prayer life, then we must put on the spiritual armor.
- Shield of faith
- Helmet of salvation
- And the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God: this is the only offensive weapon.
- The Battle of Antietam in 1862 lasted for 12 hours and ranks as the bloodiest day of the Civil War, with 10,000 Confederate casualties and even more on the Union side. “At last the sun went down and the battle ended,” wrote one historian, “smoke heavy in the air, the twilight quivering with the anguished cries of thousands of wounded men.” Though militarily a draw, the mediocre Union General George McClellan was able to end the brilliant Robert E. Lee’s thrust into Maryland, forcing him to retire across the Potomoc. How was this possible? Two Union soldiers had found a copy of Lee’s battle plans and had delivered them to McClellan before the engagement. In some respects, we are no match for our adversary, Satan, whose wiles we are told to be wary of. But as with General McClellan, our enemy’s plans have fallen into our hands. We know his usual strategies—to entice us with lies, lust, greed, and the like. With such knowledge, given us by God’s Word, and God’s Spirit within, we too can resist the enemy’s advances.
- On December 8th, 2004, a single question from a young soldier touched off a media firestorm. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had come to deliver a pep talk to the troops at Camp Buehring in Kuwait. But the usually unflappable Secretary found himself blindsided by a bold query. As news cameras rolled, Army Specialist Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team asked Rumsfeld, “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?” Specialist Wilson clearly felt vulnerable, as if he were being sent into battle without proper protection. As Christians, however, we shouldn’t have that fear. Our Supreme Commander generously equips with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. But it’s up to us to put them on and put them to use.
The Hibernia oil platform in the North Atlantic is 189 miles (315 kilometers) east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. As a fixed structure, it sits in 88 yards (80 meters) of water fastened to the ocean floor. The total structure is 246 yards (224 meters) high from ocean floor to the top of the derricks.
Unlike the fated Ocean Ranger, a platform that sank in 1982 with all aboard (84 men) lost at sea, the Hibernia’s design incorporates a GBS (gravity based structure) which anchors it to the seabed. The structure does not move. It is an artificial island.
The Hibernia was built as a stationary platform because it sits right in the middle of what scientists call “iceberg alley”the icebergs that ply these waters can be as large as ocean liners.
Sixteen concrete teeth surround the Hibernia. These teeth can distribute the force of an iceberg over the entire structure and into the seabed. The Hibernia is built to withstand a 1,000,000 ton iceberg (expected every 500 years), and designers claim it can actually withstand a 6,000,000 ton iceberg (expected once in 10,000 years) with repairable damage.
Even with all these protection measures, Hibernia’s designers take no chances. Radio operators plot and monitor all icebergs within 27 miles (45 kilometers). Any that come close are “lassoed” and towed away from the platform by powerful supply ships. Smaller ones are simply diverted using the ship’s high-pressure water cannons or with propeller wash. As rugged and as strong as this platform is, and as prepared as it is for icebergs to strike it, Hibernia will never allow an iceberg even to come close. Procedures are in place to ensure that all the safety devices never get used.
One thing seems obvious: The engineers of this oil platform are not guilty of the kind of false security that may have contributed to the sinking of the Titanic.
Christians need to take spiritual threats just as seriously.
We must put up our guard.
Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23
God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
John Ortberg, “The Daniel Project—Part 3,’ (November 15, 2009); submitted by Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois
Barry Merritt, Toledo, Ohio
Erwin McManus, “Seizing Your Divine Moment,” Preaching Today, Issue 252
Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today; source: Thomas Bailey and David Kennedy, The American Pageant, ninth ed
“Troops Put Thorny Questions to Rumsfeld,” CNN.com (12-9-04); submitted by Jim Bennett, Little York, Illinois
Todd Dugard, St. Thomas, Ontario; references Robert Kiener, “Marvel of the North Atlantic,” Reader’s Digest (December 1998)