Sometimes life takes a totally different direction than we expected it to. Sometimes it feels like I'm being dragged down a path I really don't want to be on; like I cannot keep my head above water, or I just can't seem to break free of the grip pulling on my collar. My mind wanders, fears increase, the anxiety is palpable. Nothing I say makes sense and I can't seem to be calm and collected no matter how hard I try.
I think that's a bit like what we're experiencing in the world right now. Not just the coronavirus pandemic, but stress of politics, education, work, relationships, parenting, and even faith. We live in a culture that is so embedded in the "go, go, go" and "me, me, me" mentalities that it is too easy to get tunnel vision and lose sight of what really matters. With that tunnel vision, we also lose our sense of God and all the amazing blessings He is literally dangling right over us waiting for us to notice, reach out, and snag.
When this whole pandemic started, my anxieties went pretty high. I have been losing sleep, getting angry and irrational about things and toward people who don't deserve it, and feel like I am in a constant state of panic mode. It all makes it feel like the world is collapsing. It doesn't make sense why some people don't give this virus a thought or care in the world, while others are literally out in stores fighting over packs of toilet paper.
I have 3 words for you that are exactly what we need right now to get through the panic, whether it be the coronavirus, or any other stresser in your life.
Armor of God.
I have done so many studies on the Armor of God and every time, I go through an intense phase of attacks and then an incredible awakening. The Armor of God is certainly something I believe most Christian's have probably heard of, and heck even non-believers have as well! I want to talk about the Armor of God from a bit of a different light than what you have likely heard before.
In Ephesians, we learn so much about the armor; each piece we need to put on, what it's for, and how it helps. One thing we need to put some real emphasis on is why we need the armor in the first place.
Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Ephesians 6:11-12 CEB
Why do we need the Armor of God? Because we are fighting against things we cannot see. We are fighting against completely different enemies and problems than we often blame for our stress and anxiety. We are absolutely fighting a battle every day against a real enemy, but we cannot see that enemy. God gives us His own armor to put on, His armor from Heavenly realms, to shield us against these unseen evil powers that are also from the heavens. We cannot fight cosmic darkness without the appropriate cosmic protection.
We have always been fighting an invisible enemy. Every day, every battle, every struggle is against an unseen force. Right now it feels to me like our knowledge of that and our trust in God’s truthfulness, is being put to the test while we are caught panicking over this virus; Covid-19. We can’t see this virus. It is something we must trust science to tell us is there, and we have to choose whether to believe that it is a real problem or not. We have all kinds of sources telling us it isn’t a big deal, it’s just a political agenda or a scare tactic, while the other side of the coin is putting temporary laws in place to keep us isolated at home and reminding us to take proper care of ourselves. Regardless of what we may believe about it, science shows us that we are in fact fighting. Belief or non-belief does not change that this invisible enemy is on the move, and no one in this world is immune.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9
This is a prime example of Satan on the move around the world as well. Just like the virus in so many ways, Satan is an invisible enemy, prowling the earth, inflicting fear, panic, pain, suffering, rebellion and disobedience wherever he goes whether we believe he is there or not. Seeing is not always believing. Believing what God tells us, even when we cannot see it with our own eyes, is a necessary aspect of faith.
Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. Ephesians 6:13
God wants us to be protected against this invisible enemy. He wants to equip us with the right tools, the right armor, to be able to stand firm when we come under attack. He doesn't want us to just put on His armor, though. Armor requires some action on the wearer's part to reap the full protective benefits. We are meant to use His armor through all the muck and grind of daily battles, and at the end of the day still be able to stand firm and keep going. If we don't use the armor, we'd be knocked down, drug down and beat down all day and the armor would be no help at all. So how do we use invisible armor on an invisible enemy?
So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Ephesians 6:14-17
Belt of Truth
When we gird ourselves with the belt of truth, we basically use the Word of God as a fact-checker. Before we make choices or react to a situation, we check-in with the Word to see what God says we should be doing. Then we act on that truth, trusting it to be our guide. When we lack trust in the truth, we trip up on lies and deceit, and we let panic and anxiety hinder us. God’s truth is our unmovable standard to help us see the right path more clearly.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Breastplate of Righteousness
Wearing the breastplate of righteousness is how we put the Belt of Truth into practice. Trusting Jesus is how we obtain righteousness, and then we need to use that righteousness to protect our hearts, emotions, and conscience. When we put on righteousness we welcome the Holy Spirit to fill us up. The Holy Spirit brings us peace and focus. It is our mental and emotional guide to help us navigate deep waters and battles. In order to remain focused on God’s truth we must protect our hearts with the breastplate of righteousness, allowing the Holy Spirit to fill and guide us.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverb 4:23
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalms 51:10
Shoes of Peace
One thing that is important to recognize is that Satan is certainly there, he is wreaking havoc, but he is not always the cause of the chaos. He does, however, quite enjoy sucking our peace away and leaving us to wallow in our very human anxieties, jeopardizing our stability, and causing us to stumble. This is where the Shoes of Peace come in. When we are locked into God’s peace which surpasses understanding, that peace stabilizes us through the mess. This peace is a guard for our stability. When we don’t stand firm in this peace, that is when we panic, worry, and get caught up in the crazy storms of this unseen battle raging around us. Peace is an anchor for your soul. It is activated when we put our trust in God’s truth, and it is fueled by our thankfulness to Him for all that He provides. And trust me, there is always something to thank God for. Always. Even in the darkest of valleys.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Shield of Faith
The thing about faith is that so often we think of it as a noun. A thing. Something we just have or don’t have. Faith is much more than just something we possess. It is something we use. In the NIV translation Eph. 6:16 says “take up the shield of faith”, meaning pick it up and put it to use. If you don’t have active faith you have dead faith. It needs to be exercised in order to be strengthened, tested to be made pure. When we use the shield of faith we are relying on God to shield and lead us in all things.
Something I find incredible about the Roman shield is that when enemies would launch flaming arrows at the soldiers, distracting them from the true fight just like our daily complaints are distractions from the real battle happening, the soldiers would pick up the shield and use it to cover their whole body from the attacks of their enemy. Then when the enemy would come at the soldiers even harder, the soldiers would lock their shields together to create a shield barrier all around them.
While they stood firm and their shields did not waver, it was impenetrable. This is what it is to have active faith. Use your faith to guard you against distractions, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, and lock your faith in Christ with others to strengthen your faith and add further protection. Satan sure would like you to be so distracted by all your daily complaints that you don’t notice the actual battle, you don’t see him coming, and you never step out into the waters of faith, pick up your shield, and use it to protect yourself. Have faith that God will protect and guide you, and activate your faith by blocking out those things that distract you from Him.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17
Helmet of Salvation
The Helmet of Salvation is a guard for your mind. This is how we block out negative thoughts, keep Satan out of our heads, and focus on the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Just like faith, Salvation is meant to be applied. You have to put on the helmet to protect your head otherwise you leave it open to any number of injuries and attacks. The Salvation we have through Jesus Christ has the power to change, redeem and restore us. It is not just a protection, it is transformative. When we trust in Christ and accept the Salvation He died to give us, we put on the Helmet of Salvation and allow it to change the way we think and act. It sanctifies us, renewing our minds, and aligns us with the God-centered mentality we need.
While Satan works to build walls in your mind, making it a very dark place to be, the Helmet of Salvation tears down those walls filling your mind with God’s light, truth, peace and redemption.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalms 51:12
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2
Sword of the Spirit
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are then filled with the Holy Spirit. This is our sword, our weapon against the enemy. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence within us. We face problems every day and we struggle to know how to defend ourselves. I have some good news for you! The war has already been won. God has already solved every problem ahead of us. We just need to take us His sword, put on His armor, and follow Him to the solutions and the victories already laid out before us. The Holy Spirit is our guide along this path, pointing us in the right direction, giving us the right words, and leading the way to His victory.
and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:1
'For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. ' Hebrews 4:12-13
Each piece of armor is essential, but it is vital that we don’t stop there. There is one more piece that we must always include in our tactics to fight these invisible enemies. Prayer is what holds it all together. It is how we communicate with God. God may know our thoughts, our heart and everything we do but He still wants us to be in an active relationship with Him. Every relationship requires communication and a relationship with God is no exception.
In one of my Bible study groups, we grow stronger in our prayers by following a prayer strategy.
P: Praise God, what are you grateful for?
R: Repentance, what do you need to ask forgiveness for? Who do you need to forgive?
A: Ask, what requests do you have? What do you need help with?
Y: Yes, remember that God fulfills His promises and that He does hear you. Go to scripture and use God’s own words in your prayer request that relate to your needs.
So often in our culture we find ourselves or others saying “all I can do is pray” like it is a disappointment. I assure you, prayer is the best thing we can do. It is the first thing we should do. God wants to hear from us, and this particular strategy is a great way to talk to God while also getting your heart and your focus realigned to Him. Prayer is so incredibly powerful. Never take it for granted.
Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. Ephesians 6:18
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7
Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17