Be Equipped for Every Challenge & Opportunity

Every day in this world, we face a variety of challenges and opportunities.  God wants us to be equipped for whatever challenges and opportunities come our way.

I remember a challenge for which I was not at all equipped.  While in college, I worked a couple of summers at a Christian camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  One warm summer day, the fire alarm blared, which meant that all the staff had to hurry to the location of the fire and put all of our effort into squelching the fire before it became dangerous.  I raced down the hill, joined the effort to subdue the fire, and quickly discovered how ill prepared I was for fighting a brush fire.  I was wearing loose fitting sandals and short pants.  I was completely unequipped for the challenge at hand.

Since God wants his children to be prepared for the challenges and opportunities that come our way, Ephesians 6:13 tells us, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” 

In verse 14, Paul tells us to “fasten the belt of truth.”  The belt enabled a soldier to tuck in his tunic and have freedom of movement, thus providing the soldier with confidence and strength.  When we are held together by a belt of truth—when the core of our being is held together by truth, honesty, and integrity—we find inner confidence and strength for the challenges and opportunities that come our way. 

Verse 14 also tells us to “put on the breastplate of righteousness.”  The breastplate covered the soldier from his neck to his thighs, protecting his most vital organs.  Usually it was made of bronze.  Paul stresses that the protective covering we need is not bronze but righteousness.  In the Bible, righteousness is not as much about achieving legalistic perfection as it is about a right relationship with God.  It is a growing closeness with God that offers the best protection to our most vital organ, our soul. 

The New Revised Standard Version translates verse 15, “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”  The shoes Paul had in mind were the caliga of the Roman foot soldier.  They were made of leather with heavy studded soles.  Historians believe that the military successes of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great were due in large part to the fact that their armies were well shod.  Because of good footwear, their armies were able to undertake long marches over rough terrain.  Paul suggests that the footwear we need has to do with the gospel of peace.  It has been said that peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of God.  The assurance of God’s presence with us in all things is what we need so that we can trudge through every challenge and opportunity that comes our way.

Verse 16 tells us to “take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”  When a soldiers went into battle, he took a shield.  The Roman shield was a long oval shield, measuring about 4 feet by 2½ feet, consisting of two layers of wood glued together, covered with linen then with hide, and bound with iron.  It was specifically designed to put out the fiery arrows then in use.  In the thick of battle, when things are not going well, many a soldier has been tempted to drop his shield and run.  In the midst of trouble, many a Christian has been tempted to drop their faith, to give in to doubt and discouragement.  What we desperately need to hold onto is our faith.  Our faith in Christ is our shield and protection.

Verse 17 presents another piece of armor: “the helmet of salvation.”  The Roman helmet was made of bronze with leather attachments.  The helmet was usually handed to a soldier by his armor-bearer.  It was up to the soldier to take what the armor-bearer was holding out to him, which is why Paul writes, “Take the helmet….”  Salvation is similar: God offers it to us, and it is up to us to take what God offers.  Thus Ephesians 6:17 encourages, “Take the helmet of salvation.”

Paul then tells us to take up a sword.  The sword mentioned here is the machaira, a short, two-edged, cut-and-thrust kind of sword (unlike the sword included in the above picture).  It was used by a soldier when in close personal conflict with an enemy.  We, too, will be involved in many close, personal struggles.  The sword we need is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The Bible is, indeed, a sword—a very sharp and dangerous sword.  But what I have discovered over and over again in my life is that when I pay attention to the Bible seriously, honestly and humbly, it does not cut down others so much as it slices into my own soul like a surgeon, convicting me, guiding me, humbling me, and strengthening me.  Martin Luther put it this way: “The Bible is alive; it speaks to me.  It has feet; it runs after me.  It has hands; it lays hold of me.”  D.L. Moody stresses, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” 

“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand….”

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