The apostle Paul, one of the great pioneers and leaders of the early church, likened the life of a Christian to that of a soldier: “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,”1 he wrote to one young man.
When anyone joins a wartime army, they expect to go to war. If they want to survive, they take their training seriously and learn all they can about their weapons and how to use them skillfully.
In Paul’s day, the Roman Empire ruled the known world, and the armor and weapons of the Roman legions were state of the art. For our war of the spirit, God has equipped us with something vastly better than even the most hi-tech modern weaponry—spiritual weapons. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal”—not of this world—”but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds,”2 or as it is translated in the New International Version, “they have divine power to demolish strongholds”—the spiritual strongholds that the Devil tries to establish in people’s hearts and minds.
That’s why Paul admonished the early Christians to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”3
Let’s take a closer look at what these verses are saying:
When you received Jesus, you put on the helmet of salvation. This is the one piece of armor that you can never take off or lose. Once you’ve asked Him into your heart, you are His forever. No matter how much the Devil attacks you, he can never win or take you back. Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them [those who believe on Him] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”4
The breastplate of righteousness. Whose righteousness? “The righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”5 Even though you have received Jesus, you’re still not perfect or righteous, and you still have faults and commit sins. But the difference is that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the shedding of His blood for you brings you forgiveness and cleanses you from all sin.6 By confessing your faults and shortcomings to Him, accepting His forgiveness and receiving it by faith, you’re putting on His righteousness. So when the Devil attacks you by pointing out your faults and failures, you can fight back with the attitude of “yes, I’m a sinner, but Jesus forgives me and gives me His righteousness!”
When you tell others about Jesus and share His love with them, you’re preaching the gospel of peace. Surprising as this may seem, this is one of your best protections: God blesses those who spread the good news. As you share God’s loving words with others, the Word becomes more firmly planted in your own heart and life. As you strengthen others, your own spirit becomes stronger. What shields you from the Devil’s deadly lies?—Your faith! As you study God’s Word and apply it to your daily life, your “shield of faith” will grow into a strong force field all around you that the enemy of your soul cannot penetrate. That’s not to say that you’ll never have battles, but when you do, you won’t completely succumb to them because you’ll have faith in God’s promises in the Bible—that He is with you and will pull you through no matter what.
Last, but by no means least, is your offensive weapon: God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit, which is “quick and powerful.”7 It’s unstoppable! When Satan engages in battle with your heart and mind, seeking to strike your spirit a mortal blow with discouragement, negativity, confusion, despair under pressure, stressful worry, or any of his other wiles, your only hope is to wage a counterattack. Pull out the sword of the Spirit! Pull out a verse or a promise, and stand on it. That’s what Jesus did when the Devil tempted Him at the beginning of His ministry on earth. He just quoted Scripture: “It is written … “8 The Devil is unable to stand against the power of God’s Word. He will turn tail and run every time!