This Means War
It was really late, or early depending on how you look at it, maybe 3 or 4am. Standing in the dim light, I caught myself in the mirror. I took a moment to survey the sight before me, what I had become. The light had gone from my eyes, all I could see was darkness, emptiness, and loneliness. I remember feeling… nothingness. How did I get here? How did I let myself fall so far? I was looming just above rock bottom; lost and alone in the darkness of my addiction, or so I thought.
I didn’t know then that my downward spiral of torment and self-destruction could actually be a gift. I couldn’t imagine that twelve years later I would have a beautiful family, my days of drug addiction a distant memory, and I would be living in freedom with a strong relationship with God. My twenty-year-old self had no idea of the strength and blessings she would gain as a result of overcoming this addiction.
Truly overcoming addiction alone is impossible. Thankfully God gives us tools, His armor: The Armor of God. God gives us Himself and because of that, we can overcome anything; and the degree of the darkness does not come close to the magnitude of the light on the other side. Most people would agree that addiction is a battle. The truth is, addiction is a symptom of the larger battle, Spiritual Warfare. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) As Christians, we are born (again) into this war. This is clear in our daily struggles and especially in those seasons when it seems that all hell has broken loose. It is extremely important that we learn the tactics of our enemy (the devil) and the weapons God gives us, so we can be victorious.
“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. 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 which you will be able to quench 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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:13-18)
Paul used the illustration of a Roman soldier; his description of the armor was also an Old Testament reference to Isaiah 59; both of these were very familiar for his readers at that time. Each piece of armor was purposefully chosen to help describe its nature and application. He tells us to put on the full armor of God, all must be applied.
The initial weapon Paul introduces to us is the Belt of Truth, to which we are to “gird our waist.” The truth is the Word of God and all things that are in accordance with it. The truth holds everything together; without it everything falls apart. The enemy tries to deceive us and blind us from the truth. Truth brings clarity, reality, knowledge, understanding and freedom. “Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) Joyce Meyer explains that we cannot be free if we do not know the truth. The truth is the unchanging foundation, the standard. We can anchor ourselves to that.
Paul illustrates our need for truth with the image of the Roman soldier’s belt. These soldiers wore long tunics that would need to be tucked up into their belt so they could move freely in battle, without fabric getting in their way. This belt held their whole armor and clothing together. MacArthur speaks to this piece as instructions for us to “tie up loose ends” in other words, pull yourself together, begin living according to the truth. For the addict, or anyone stuck in bondage, pulling yourself together is a daily losing battle. This cannot be accomplished without knowledge and acknowledgment of the Truth.
If the truth sets us free, then lies do the exact opposite. Logically one can reason that if we are in any sort of bondage, we are somewhere believing and living lies instead of God’s truth. A dark cloud of denial forms and when the enemy really gets hold, the victim no longer believes or can see the truth, or that it applies to them. This is where people become completely lost; until a sobering, rock-bottom, moment of truth type of event occurs that makes it clear; there are two choices: life or death.
I had a “moment of truth” that changed the trajectory of my life. I was trapped in torment, slave to my addictions, powerless and witnessing myself slipping away. I was completely out of control and could barely recognize myself anymore. Out of nowhere, God spoke to me, but at that time I couldn’t even recognize His voice – I just knew that what was said was the truth. He told me that if I did not get out of this life, I would wake up one day, ten years will have gone by, and I would still be stuck here; if I was alive at all. That was the sobering truth, and for me, the thought of being stuck in that life ten years later was worse than death. I knew and acknowledged that this was reality, this was the truth. I had to choose my fate. I chose life.
To fully live as God intends us to, we need to live righteously. The next piece of armor to discuss is the Breastplate of Righteousness. There are numerous Biblical references and definitions of “righteousness.” Simply put, righteousness is behavior that is pleasing to God. (biblestudytools.com) The breastplate was a piece of armor that protected the chest, the heart. In putting on this protection, it also speaks to shielding, covering, possibly even bandaging the heart. In the Spiritual Battle, we certainly get wounded in the deepest places of our hearts. These places need to be protected while they heal. Behaving in a way that is pleasing to God will protect the heart from attacks inside and out. This allows the broken heart to heal while we are still engaged in the battle. For the recovering addict, the heart will scream through the flesh to give it the addictive substance it craves. This needs protection; the person also needs protection from the deception of their own heart. Choosing to behave in a Godly manor silences this deceptive voice and allows us to live in peace.
After the Breastplate of Righteousness, comes the shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace. In Paul’s time, the “Roman soldiers wore heavy military sandals called caliga, half boot and half sandal….The soles were made of several layers of leather and were “clenched with hobnails, frequently arranged in patterns” These hollow metal studs provided a firm grip on the soil.” (Shirer 95) These were no ordinary sandals. These caliga were fashioned with spikes on the bottom. These spikes were necessary to stand firm and endure the rough terrain ahead. (Shirer 101-103)
The enemy wants us to live in chaos, confusion and fear, the opposite of peace. The Bible tells us over three hundred times to not worry, do not be afraid, do not fear, etc. The gospel, the good news of peace is that God has already won this battle for us. We do not need to fear. We can walk in peace now because of what Jesus has already done for us.
“Spiritual warfare is all about standing in faith on the finished works of Jesus Christ. So for me to be defeated, somehow I stand off of the finished works of Jesus Christ, and do the opposite… I don’t believe it…he (the devil) defeats me every time by just simply convincing me that it might be not finished…” (Dollar)
Peace is necessary to stand firm and not be knocked off balance. In the process of recovering from an addiction, at some point it is necessary to be at peace with letting it go; to no longer wrestle or fight with it. This fight is a tactic of the enemy to keep us distracted and incapable of accomplishing our calling. When peace is declared within, the enemy is defeated.
Though peace is declared, the enemy will still continue to look for ways to knock us back down. This is why we need the Shield of Faith to “quench the fiery darts of the wicked one” These “fiery darts” are whatever distraction, temptation, illusion, illness, harmful thoughts or actions he can throw at us. Our faith not only protects us, but puts out these “flames.”
Paul uses the vivid imagery of the flaming arrows used in his day to describe this. In battle, the tips of these arrows would be soaked in a flammable substance and then lit on fire. When they were launched, they could not only hit their enemies, but also set fire to their clothes or any number of items within their area. One little arrow could destroy a whole army if it hit in just the right spot.
In defense to these fiery arrows, the Romans used large shields that covered their bodies These shields were covered in water-soaked leather, so when the flaming arrows came, the fire was put out. The soldiers could also be completely covered from every angle when they assembled in a specific formation. This indicates our need for each other. We are stronger together.
This is what faith in action does. It does not stop the attacks of the enemy, but when the assault has been launched, it will prove ineffective against the power of faith. In recovery these attacks will come; re-stimulation of traumatic events, anger, physical symptoms, arguments, guilt, temptations, intense cravings, etc. Holding ground with complete faith in God’s healing power will leave the enemy powerless and his attacks failures. Faith protects our heart, and salvation protects our head.
The Helmet of Salvation outlines the importance to protect the head, the mind and our thoughts. T.D. Jakes gave a sermon on this subject entitled, “This is no time to lose your head!” Jakes message was clear about the vital nature of not only our minds, but also leadership. The head refers to the leader, the governor. The enemy knows if he can destroy the head, the rest will come crashing down. This brings to light another scheme of the enemy: attacking full force on our leaders and fathers. With this knowledge we can also understand that when we are under attack, it is because we have God-given authority and power in a particular place or position. The role of the helmet is to protect and to cover. This also exposes the enemy’s tactics to convince us that we are “not covered.” Because of salvation, the finished works of Jesus Christ, we are always covered.
All of these pieces of armor so far have been defensive. There is only one offensive weapon needed: The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. This was modeled for us very clearly when Jesus was tempted in the desert. The devil tempted and taunted Him, Jesus responded with appropriate scripture and the devil left him. Plain and simple, yet extremely powerful.
To effectively use the Word of God, we must know it. As Christians, we study the bible and the more scripture we know, the better we are able to disarm our enemy. For all of us, addicts and sinners alike, a simple way to have your sword ready is this: first, identify where the enemy attacks you the most. What are your weaknesses? Then find scripture that applies to that particular situation. For example, if fears and feelings of loneliness and abandonment attack frequently – Matthew 28:20 says, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” These are the words of Jesus. This is the truth. You are not alone, He is with you.
Finally, we are told to pray. Pricilla Shirer says, “Prayer activates the armor.” This is the connection. This is how we are able to plug in to the supernatural powers of God that enable us to take up His whole armor. The battle is in the heavenly places, not the physical world. Our enemy is unseen and our weapons of the physical world will not work. Clearly, what happens in the heavens directly affects us here on earth.
Putting on the Whole Armor of God is a process of strengthening our spirit and relationship with God. When our spirit and relationship are strong, we can defeat the enemy and be victorious in all areas of our lives. Fully outfitted in the Armor of God, our perspective changes. We become fearless. We see attacks for what they actually are and not what they seem. The enemy is not your spouse, your neighbor, a nation, a corporation, etc. “The enemy is not your enemy, your enemy is the victim of your enemy.” (Smith) And because God is who He is, all the damage from our real enemy is turned to strength, courage, confidence, abundance, humility and love. Even addiction can turn out to be a blessing. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
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