Dressed for Faithfulness
Have you ever noticed just how confusing life can get sometimes?
The simplest things can all of a sudden become so complex. Do you remember back to the Bush and Gore election and the hanging chads? It should have been straight forward right? But “No!” It got more and more confusing with dimpled chads and hanging chads and dangling chads. Add to that the media, the political parties, the pundits and the candidates and you had a three ring circus. Looking at our three-ring political circus today not much has changed.
Or think about driving with a car full of kids. My favorite excuse given for speeding that actually worked was from the father of six who was pulled over for speeding. The kids, even though Dad had told them to be quiet, were hollering and screaming and fighting over something. When the patrolman asked him why he was speeding, the father said: “I was trying to get away from all that.” And pointed to the kids. It worked.
Don’t you wish you had a something to take you away from all of the stress and strife that effect your lives? As much as the commercials touted it, Calgon doesn’t work.
Don’t you wish you had a suit of armor or some sort of invisible shield to protect you from all the confusion of the world? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get up every morning and put on this special suit that would protect you and your family from the confusion, harshness, brutality and coldness of the everyday world?
Well, we may not have a physical suit of armor but Paul describes a spiritual armor that is designed just for that purpose. The world tells us to “Dress For Success” but listen to how Paul tells us to “Dress For Faithfulness.”
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NRSV)
 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
 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.
 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
As we approach football season let us look at what it means to “Dress For Faithfulness” in the Armor of God, so let’s look at DEFENSE, OFFENSE AND PRESENCE.
- First, let’s look at Defense. Most of the articles in the Armor of God are for defensive purposes. They are to protect the Soldier. We’re all concerned about that kind of protection even in everyday life. We have Computer Firewalls and Antivirus Software to keep folks from getting their important information stolen and to stop malicious infections from idiots who simply want to cause problems for others.
We have Security Systems in our homes and cars. We have Fire Alarms and Rain gear. We get vaccinations from disease. We protect our eyes with sunglasses. We have metal detectors at schools and airports. Let’s face it, we haven’t felt as safe in the United States since 9/11. If we’re honest with ourselves, there is a part of us that is waiting for the next attack.
All of these things are DEFENSE. They are there to protect us. Paul says we should protect ourselves spiritually, too, by daily putting on the Armor of God.
- The Armor of God:
- The Belt of Truth: In Roman armor, the belt protected the midsection, from the waist to the knees. It was considered fighting dirty to strike in that area. But because fighting was fierce and dirty, some protection had to be developed. Soldiers didn’t go into battle wearing something that looked like skirts because it was fashionable, the leather and metal strips of the belt were for protection.
God has crafted the finest and strongest spiritual armor in the world. And one of the best pieces of this armor may be the smallest and simplest: The Belt of Truth. One of the best defenses we have against evil, which distorts everything, is truth. Consequently, the best witness is to live truthfully and faithfully. We’re called to live a life of integrity. Gird yourself with The Belt of Truth.
- The Breastplate of Righteousness: In Armor, the Breastplate was designed to protect the vital organs, especially the heart and lungs. For us, the spiritual armor protects the vital center of our faith, the heart of our faith which is Righteousness. Or simply Right Living. Being Righteousness is simply be Faithful. Being Faithful always asks: “Will what I do bring pleasure to the Lord?”
Many a Christian has fallen by the wayside because they let corruption enter in. They let Unrighteous thoughts and desires enter into their heart and minds. Or they go back and pick up the garbage left at the foot of the cross and they re-burden their lives. That chink in the armor is enough to bring them down.
Put on The Breastplate of Righteousness, live Faithfully.
- Shoes: I think it’s interesting that Paul says: put on whatever shoes work for you. Put on whatever shoes facilitate your purpose, which is to spread the Good News of the Peace of Christ.
Isn’t it kind of odd and ironic that Paul talks about the Peace of Christ in the midst of this militaristic analogy? Paul knew that the Peace of Christ is different than the peace of the world. The Peace of Christ is an inner peace, and a spiritual peace. When we have that, then we can proclaim Christ. The Good News lives in us and through us. Choose whatever is comfortable and enabling but put on Shoes that help you Spread the Good News of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if it’s running shoes, football spikes, work boots, ropers, flip flops, sandals or ballet slippers. Every person, in every profession can witness to the Peace of Christ through being Faithful.
- The Shield of Faith: The Shield protected the soldier from arrows, rocks and darts. The Shield of Faith protects us from the flaming arrows of doubt caused by misfortune or calamity or the sin of another. The Shield of Faith reminds us that God promised to be with us, “even to the end of the age,” and God has never reneged on a promise.
- The Helmet of Salvation: We all know what Helmets were for, the helped protect the head. Likewise, The Helmet of Salvation is there to protect our mind. Our minds are both the strongest and most vulnerable part of our faith because we can talk ourselves into anything. We can justify nearly anything or any action if we try hard enough. We fool ourselves all the time. That’s why we need The Helmet of Salvation to protect our minds from distraction and discouragement. Put on The Helmet of Salvation.
Those five pieces of the Armor of God are for DEFENSE.
The only weapon, so to speak, which we have available to us in the Spiritual Armor of God, is The Sword of the Spirit or Scripture, the Word of God.
I know some folks who think that Scripture IS a weapon tend to brow beat people with it left and right. You know the kind, judgmental and self-righteous individuals, who may be well meaning but end up being spiritually destructive.
That’s not what the Scripture is for. Through the Word of God, the Spirit convicts. Through the Word of God, God can and does change hearts.
Look at Jesus’ example. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, each time Satan tempted him, he responded with the exact same answer; “It is written” and then He quoted Scripture. You see evil can’t stand up to the Word of God. And when you have God’s word hidden in your heart and in your head through study it bubbles up when you need it most.
Plan a good OFFENSE: Study the Word of God. Read and study the Bible.
The Purpose of the Armor of God is to keep you ready. Ready to do the work of a Child of the Kingdom, a Soldier of Christ. And that work is very simple. It’s front line battlefield work. It’s hard work. It takes stamina and will power. It takes focus and a warriors heart. What am I talking about? Prayer. You and I are called to kneel in the very presence of God and lift one another in prayer, making supplication for each other.
One of my favorite stories, that God uses whenever my head start to swell because everybody keeps telling me I’m such a good preacher is about the preacher who died and went to heaven. This preacher was known as one of the best preachers around. Thousands of people had come to Christ because of his sermons. And he knew it.
St. Peter was showing him around and they passed through this huge section of humongous homes. These things were so big, they were nearly Castles, not mansions. Either outside or looking out the window of each of them was a little widow lady or widower or a teenager or a child. And they all looked somewhat overwhelmed by the size of their mansion.
The preacher was getting excited, if these people, just you’re ordinary every day kind of Christians got those kind of mansions. Imagine what he was going to get. As they ended their trek through the neighborhood, they came upon a large Texas style ranch house. It was gorgeous but wasn’t huge. It had everything you could imagine but it was nowhere near what he was expecting. So he asked why?
St. Peter sort of grinned and said: “Oh, we appreciate everything you did. You’re a great preacher and thousands upon thousands came to Christ because of you. But truthfully, you were just the distraction. The real work, the tough work was done on the knees of every one of those people we passed. They were our prayer warriors. And that’s where the real battle was fought.”
Prayer brings us into the very presence of God. Through prayer we are brought to the throne of grace and we are enabled to stand before God. Not presumptuously but in all humility and because we’ve been invited there.
And once there, God wants to know everything on our hearts and minds about everyone we know and love. And even those we don’t love.
You and I have been called to Dress For Faithfulness, not Success. We’re called to live a life that is pleasing to God in all that we do. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could be successful by worldly standards. Jesus died on the cross because of our sin, because we couldn’t be faithful. God doesn’t want us to pursue worldly success.
God wants us to pursue faithfulness, even in the midst of the confusion of life.