By J.R. Miller
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." A great many times in the Bible, we are urged to be strong. It is not mere strength of body that is meant. Of course, we should develop our body, and so obey the laws of nature, as to keep well and be physically as strong as possible. But Goliath was not God's ideal of manly strength--he was nothing but a big body, with neither intellectual nor spiritual development. The strength which the Bible makes so much of, is strength of character--firmness of purpose, staunchness of principle, moral strength. The secret of it, is faith in Christ. If we are in Him, then all His strength is assured to us to fill our weakness.
In one place Paul said he was strongest, when he was weakest--that is, he had most room then for Christ, and the most of Christ's strength rested upon him. We may always be sure of victory--if we keep close to Christ, rallying round His cross.
The way to be strong is to "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." It is the armor of God, because He provides it. Our Captain does not send His soldiers out, without furnishing them all the equipment they need. But the soldier must put on the armor. Armor hanging on the wall, would not protect a man as he went into battle; he must take it down and put it on. There is armor provided for every Christian soldier. The Bible is a great armory, and there are in it all kinds of weapons of offense and defense. But it is not enough to have these pieces of armor provided in the Bible. We must put them on. The breastplate, the shield and the helmet will be no protection, unless we wear them. We must put on the armor ourselves--even Christ will not do it for us. Every soldier must look to his own preparation for warfare.
God's armor is essential because "our struggle is not against flesh and blood--but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Perhaps the air is as full of evil spirits--as the streets are of people. It is well to understand, that we have enemies which we cannot see. There are bad men. Sometimes we see on the street a face which is full of evil, every look revealing wickedness and vileness. There are also invisible beings all around us which, if we could see, would terrify us with their loathsomeness. They are demons of Satan's army. If it were not that Christ had overcome Satan and all his hosts--this would be a fearful world to live in! But they are not all evil spirits, demons, which crowd the air--good angels are there, too, guarding Christ's little ones, and they are stronger than demons. Nevertheless, we must not underrate our enemies.
The first item in the armor of God which we must wear, is the belt of truth. Having first this on, we are to stand in the face of the enemy, ready for the battle. It is not easy to stand in the presence of danger. That we may be able to stand, we should gird up our loins. Again, notice that we must gird our own loins--no one can do it for us. Truth is the belt, and no one can get truth for us. We must read our Bible for ourselves if we would have its truths enter our heart and become wrought into our character. Truth means reality, sincerity, honesty--no one can be sincere, real, or true, for us. It is a great thing to be true through and through, with truth in the inward parts, in the character, in the soul.
Then, we must put on "the breastplate of righteousness." The breastplate covered the heart. It was made of the strongest material, so that no weapon could pierce it. The Christian's breastplate is righteousness. For one thing, this means Christ's righteousness, which makes us safe in the shadow of His cross. To belong to Christ is to be in holiest protection. When an American citizen was about to be shot in a Spanish country, his friends threw over him the American flag. This saved his life. So Christ's righteousness protects Christ's own people. Another meaning is that righteousness wrought into our character, in right principles and conduct, is a breastplate of protection for the Christian.
The Christian must put on his feet the "preparation of the gospel of peace." The soldier needs strong shoes for rough roads; the Christian needs good shoes, too, for much of the way is hard and steep. There is an old Bible word about shoes of iron, which God promises to give to His pilgrims when they have to walk over sharp roads. There is a beautiful legend of Jesus which says that one day, when He was walking beside the sea, being weary. He took off His sandals to bathe His feet in the pure, cool water. Then He said to Himself: "Three years, three years, and then, poor feet, the cruel nails will come and make you bleed! But that blood will lave all weary feet in their painful ways." Christ's feet bled and were hurt on the hard roads and with the nails--that we might have shoes to wear in life's rough paths.
But all this preparation will be useless unless we take up "the shield of faith, with which . . . to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one." The ancient shield was large enough to cover all the person, and it was made so that darts striking it would not go through it. Faith is the Christian's shield. The evil one is always trying to wound us with his darts. These are ofttimes poisoned, or they are fiery--life's temptations are terrible. But if we are truly in Christ, none of these darts can touch us--they will be quenched in the shield we carry.
Then comes the "helmet of salvation." "Salvation will he appoint for walls and bulwarks," said the old prophet. When one is safe in Christ, one is sheltered. No evil can touch us if we are near Christ. "Your life is hid with Christ in God."
"Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." All other parts of the armor are for defense. There is something for every portion of the body--but the back. This suggests that the Christian soldier should never turn his back to the enemy, for his back is unprotected. The only weapon for active, aggressive fighting is the sword. It is called the sword of the Spirit, because the Spirit gives it its sharpness and power to thrust into men's hearts. Jesus Himself gave us an object lesson for the use of the sword when He met the tempter. He pierced him with texts of Scripture! We should learn to use the sword of the Spirit in the same way. The Word of God will drive away the enemies.
Last, prayer is named, not because it is least important--but because it is so important. We are in danger of forgetting that prayer is a mighty force in the world. We live in a working age. We believe in all manner of earnest activities, in full consecration of our gifts and services to God. This is well--but, after all, there is no such power--as the power of prayer. Jesus made a great deal of it in His own life and in His teaching. In the book of Acts we find prayer everywhere, and in the epistles it is continually commanded. Paul many times pleads with his friends to pray for him, and he exhorts that intercessions shall be made for all men. Here he asks for prayers for all the saints, and then for himself, not that he might be set free from his chains--but that he might have greater power in witnessing for Christ.