Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God Eph. 6:13-17
When I was a student at Christ Church Episcopal School (Greenville, SC), I was extremely involved in the ministry of Young Life. Charley Patten was my Young Life leader and taught me a great deal about what it means to live life in relationship with Jesus. Most of Charley’s teaching was done by the way he lived his life and through the incredible amount of time he spent with me (and the rest of the group). Charley was (and is) an avid outdoorsman. He’s a real life, without the cameras, Survivorman. I still remember the first time he invited me and a few other guys to go camping in the Smokey Mountains. What a treat. My mom went the grocery store to make sure that I had the “essentials” necessary for a successful camping trip.
When Charley rolled up to the house, I was ready to go. I had all the necessities and more. Charley laughed at me as I was loading my “gear” in the back of his car. He was making some noise about how much “gear” I’d packed. I didn’t pay him too much attention because he was always cracking on people as a display of his affection. Once we reached our destination I was excited and ready to set up our campsite. I’d assumed that we’d just back the car up and set camp up right behind it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Charley said, “alright men–we’ve got a short 2 -2.5 mile hike into our camp site. Uh oh. I’d never been on a “real” camping trip before. My version of a camp out was more akin to what most Greystone girls would call a “sleepover”. I had the puffy, overstuffed, comfy, cotton sleeping bag that my grandparents gave me early on in middle school. It was very portable (wink, wink). It would compress to the size of a giant beach ball. I also had the 6 plastic Bilo grocery bags my mom had packed along with the small cooler to carry the perishable food. All of this and my nice duffel bag full of clothes. I wasn’t laughing but Charley and the rest of the guys definitely were. It was great fun (NOT) to carry all that gear through the woods on a 2.5 mile hike over a rushing river to our campsite. As you would have expected, the Bilo bags did not cooperate and neither did my sleeping bag. That night it poured rain and I don’t have to tell you how comfy, cotton sleeping bags perform in wet weather. That’s right! They make for a great sponge in a rain shower. I was anything but outfitted for the camping trip.
I’d like to suggest that most of us approach the rigors of life the same way I approached my camping trip. We think we are dressed for success but it’s more like “what not to wear”. In Ephesians 6, Paul says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We are at war and our lives are on the line. It’s not a war fought with flesh, blood and bullets but a spiritual war for the territory of our hearts. Paul instructs us to dress for battle. Paul calls us to, “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Our only hope of standing firm in the midst of this spiritual war is to be clothed in the armor of God (as Paul says above).
Though this battle is real and scary we can take comfort both in the armor of God and in the one who leads us in battle. The words of Jimdaddy’s favorite hymn, A Mighty Fortress, provide great hope and assurance: And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.