How to Fight Spiritual Warfare

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Preparing the Heart and Harvest:

“Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For 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. 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 breast plate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 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, praying at all times in the Spirit, with al prayer and supplication.”  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish” Ephesians 6:10-15 English Standard Version

 

I’ve got a red juicy confession to make, recently, I’ve had to give up red wine. I can see you teetotalers out there nodding, but to be clear, I don’t believe drinking in and of itself is a sin. It can be when you drink without self-control or in front of someone who has a problem with alcohol. In my case, it became a sin when God told me not to and I did.

I’ve spent the holidays clinging to my rights and arguing with God over the issue. You know when it’s not fair God pries something out of your hands but not others. That my friend is called personal relationship. Then, there’s that smell of Italian food wafting from the kitchen. Have you noticed when God tells you to give something up you want it more than you did before? That’s called temptation. Then, you pour a glass and think after the holidays I’ll give it up, but that’s called disobedience.

Delayed obedience is only disobedience.

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So, I’ve had to confess my disobedience and surrender my wine glass to the Father. Some have asked how long I will abstain, but I don’t know the answer to that question, except to say, as long as He says no.

Throughout my wavering, I tried to hit temptation head on. I purchased Kombucha drinks, trying to put something healthy in the fridge that I could drink with dinner, but it didn’t work. I’d justify using pizza night as my excuse or I’d pour a smaller glass and think to myself I’m not hurting anyone. But that’s a lie too. I hurt my Father and our relationship. It felt as if He was pulling away, but instead, I’d built a crystal wall of rebellion between us.

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My rebellion is the perfect example I could find to illustrate the armors of God, so I’ll throw myself under a bus for the sake of truth. I’ve found if we’re not willing to admit our own failures how can we help anyone else conquer theirs?

This month, I’ve been leading a women’s Bible study on Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God. Right up front, I’m going to tell you this is where much of my information in this article will come from, but you’re only getting a taste, so I recommend you take the study at your church or on your own to get the full buffet. (I will post the link for the study below)

It is believed Paul was imprisoned when he wrote the book of Ephesians. He wrote the book in a dark, moldy, cell while Roman soldiers stood guard. I imagine when he looked up through the manhole in the ceiling of his cell and saw those Roman soldiers fully clad in their physical armor, it clicked. God spoke about putting on the armor in the book of Isaiah (chapter 59) and as Paul wrote that letter to the church in Ephesus he reminded them that they are in a spiritual battle, just as we are today. Every difficulty we face as an abiding follower of Christ has spiritual implications.

So, let’s find out what each piece of armor is supposed to do for us, and how we can apply it to our lives.

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Belt of Truth

 

Paul starts with the Belt of Truth. Being the first piece of armor the soldier put on, the belt held the other pieces in place and gave support to the soldiers core. This belt kept him from falling over under the weight of all the other armor he wore.

Spiritually, the belt of truth keeps a believer from falling for any lies of the enemy that can make a believer stumble. The belt of truth keeps you grounded in recognizing what is true and what is not. It is a tool of discernment that keeps you standing firm in your spiritual battles.

When God started impressing on me to give up dinner wine, immediately and repetitiously, I had the thought, “Did God really say I had to give up red wine completely?” If you begin thinking this thought, “Did God really say to …” Then, the answer more than likely is yes, He did. Truth tells us Satan used those exact words in the Garden of Eden when Eve looked upon the fruit God told her not to eat. Truth also states the enemy deceives and sets out to destroy us with deception. He tries to muddy the waters, so we start to question the voice of the Father. One litmus test I use, I ask myself do I feel peace continuing to do whatever I felt God had asked me not to. If you feel a wrestling in your spirit pouring that glass of wine, spending that money, eating that chocolate cake, or whatever it is God commanded you to give up, then you’ve fallen into enemy territory. You’ve taken a detour from following the path God illuminated for you that leads to the purpose He’s already prepared ahead of time for you in your life

But there is hope in the detour.

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust Him and He will act.” Psalms 37:5 ESV.

If you confess your disobedience and commit your will and way to God, it is up to Him to straighten your path. He will lead you out of darkness and back into the light.

 

Satan knows I hate legalism. I truly think legalism is a death spiral for the freeing gospel. It points out you must do these actions and stay away from these things in order to be saved. This is a lie. For many who subscribed to this false doctrine, they may have checked off you must not drink wine in order to be saved.

For me, I wanted to cling to my hatred of legalism as a reason to not give up wine. But, I’m free in Christ. I thought. You see the pendulum can swing too far the other way. Our freedom should never bring disobedience to what God is telling us individually to do. When I tuck my arguments into my belt of truth, this is what I find. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46 (ESV)

Gulp!

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 The Breast Plate of Righteousness

 

            The Breast Plate of Righteousness hooks into the belt of truth. The soldier’s arms would give out if he had to hold the full weight of this breast plate. It is a plate meant to protect the soldier’s most vulnerable spot—his heart.

When we are in disobedience to something God is telling us to do, we have relinquished wearing our breast plate of righteousness, and through that one disobedience have opened ourselves up to a full-on attack from Satan. He will aim straight at the heart, which pumps into every other part of you. In my experience, I felt guilt, sudden insecurities, and defeat. There is no peace in disobedience because you’ve willingly entered into a war with the enemy allowing him to have the upper hand.

If you try to hold the weight of your righteousness without hooking it into the belt of truth you will surrender under the weight of trying to be good. God’s truth states, “None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10a. (ESV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

When your breast plate of righteousness remains hooked into the belt of truth, you will have freedom of movement. Let’s apply this to my story. When I tried to give up wine in my own way…I couldn’t. In fact, it backfired. I wanted it more. It wasn’t until I prayed and asked God to take the desire away from me, that I could walk into the kitchen, smell that good Italian food cooking and not want a glass of red wine. It’s as simple as releasing your grip and allowing the Father to take it.

Hooking your breast plate of righteousness into your belt of truth, means you are relying on God’s power through the Holy Spirit in your life to help you overcome sin and live out God’s will. It is His righteousness that will work through you, not your own.

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The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace:

A Roman soldier’s sandals contained cleats across the soles. The cleats helped them stand their ground when an enemy attacked in battle, because the cleats dug into the soil. It also prevented them from slipping on wet terrain which gave them stability.

Spiritually speaking, the shoes of the gospel of peace keep a Christian from slipping when life becomes stormy. It helps us remain calm in the midst of difficulties, because we have God’s peace firmly locking us in place, so we will not waiver. Within the will of the Father we will find peace through Jesus Christ. When you wander outside of God’s will through disobedience, we lose our peace and slip on the enemy’s slope.

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Shoes are an important piece of armor because they are what move you forward. They put distance between you and that “thing,” but also move you towards living out your faith. Having faith cannot be just a head knowledge. True faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord is a faith in action which grows fruit as a result. What fruit has you life produced? Strap on those sandals and move soldier!

In part two we will look at the three remaining pieces of armor and what makes them all work properly.  The Shield of Faith, The Sword of the Spirit, The Helmet of Salvation, and Prayer.

See you then…

To purchase The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer go to http://www.lifeway.com or your nearest mom and pop Bible bookstore.

 

 

Taking the Muddy Route

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I’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the farm, and a storm was coming. My best friend KK (Kimberly Williams Standridge) and I were talking, and that overpass came up out of nowhere, I swerved my Discovery into the lane without reading the entire sign that stated this one was leading me in the opposite direction I needed to go. Further down, my gut was telling me I was heading in the wrong direction, but I didn’t listen to it until we were way off track.

I was born with a natural inclination to get lost. Take some advice…If I tell you to go right– just go left. Our trip was delayed, and the dirt roads leading to the farm become very precarious to maneuver after a hard summer rain.

“Sorry, KK.” I said.

“It’s okay Tam-Tam, we’ll get there eventually.”

“Don’t you dare tell Jay (my husband) about this. Oh Lord don’t let him call. He’ll never let me live this one down.”

She laughed. “Oh, I’ll never tell him about this one.”

Sure enough, the sky dropped out. It was a hard rain making it difficult to see. On top of it, MAPS sent us to a long dirt road that looked like it rarely been traveled called JimBob’s Cut Through. This is rural country folks. The mud was about 2 feet thick with deep ditches on both sides. We swerved and slid from one side of the road to the other, barely avoiding the ditch.

“Uh… I’m not liking this,” KK said.

“Trust me. I’m used to it.” I patted the dash of my SUV. “Thank you God for my truck! I’ve traveled these roads by myself in this type of weather to get home, and with cell service that goes in and out, imagine getting stuck out here. Everytime I thank God for this truck.”

“Maybe you should slow down,” KK said. “So you’re not swerving so much.”

“We’ll never get there.” I said. “Just stop talking, so I can concentrate.”

“There’s a car ahead.” KK pointed. I could hear the alarm in her voice.

I slowed down to not swerve into its path. As it passed, it slopped thick mud onto my windshield.

By dusk, we made it to the farmhouse and the rain stopped. By not heeding the signs and listening to my inner voice we’d lost precious time.

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As he entered the room, my oncologist glanced down at me, “Why do you look so scared?” he said.

I raised my chin a notch, faking courage. “I’m not scared.”

“You certainly look like you are.” He sat across from me and looked at the papers in his hands. “But I have to say looking over your results, somebody must really be looking out for you up there. You had an aggressive tumor.”

“Wait, but I was told it was slow-growing.” I leaned forward.

“We get such a small sample in the biopsy and in your case the biopsy was not correct. Looking at the whole tumor we could see it was an aggressive, fast-growing cancer, and you see here…,” he pointed to the paper he was holding. “Your tumor’s invasiveness was right at the cut off. If it would have been any larger you would be facing chemo today. Your surgery happened at the nick of time considering how fast it was growing. So, like I said, whoever’s on your team up there, I want him on mine. Now, let’s discuss how we are going to keep this cancer from coming back.”

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After my mastectomy, I’d been praying that I would not have to go on tamoxifen. It is a carcinogen that suppresses the hormones and basically would have thrown me into an overnight menopause. I had read about all the side effects, bone aches, depression, hair loss, premature aging, and it can cause uterine cancer- with which, it was suggested I would remove my uterus next year as a preventative measure. I found all this incredulous, and I didn’t want any of it. When the doctor entered the room, I was mentally going over how I was going to argue my points with him.

But, I didn’t have to.

As soon as the word tamoxifen came out of his mouth, I shook my head. “Nope, I don’t want to go on that. Can I be frank with you?”

He nodded.

“Look, I’m going to get spiritual with you.  God has been telling me to eat less meat, stop drinking wine with my evening meal, cut back on dairy, and exercise. Several times, I’d written this down, but I ignored His voice. I wanted what I wanted, so I got what I got. But, as soon as I heard my cancer diagnosis, I did cut those things out, and my breast deflated. The night before my surgery I could feel that huge tumor that I couldn’t feel beforehand because I was putting food in me that increased my estrogen levels and made my breast tissue dense. I had no idea those things increased the very thing that was feeding my cancer, and God tried to warn me.  So, moving forward, I’m going to exercise, cut way back the things that increase estrogen, and listen and that’s how I’m not going to have cancer again.”

He nodded. “Well, in your case, I think what you are proposing is viable.”

My mouth fell open. I was revved up for a battle. I had spit shined my sword, and he just laid over and played dead.

“Often,” he said. “we have to put patients on medication because they don’t want to do the work. You need to sweat. Get rid of your fat stores.”

Gulp. I hated to sweat.

“Look at wine like a Southern Baptist.”

Gulp. But I am a Southern Baptist.

“Your protein pyramid should be fish first, chicken second, meat last.”

Gulp. We need a fish farm.

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I’ve heard people say how unfair it is that I have breast cancer considering my past as if God is unfair and not good, so I want to set the record straight. If I’ve learned anything from breast cancer it’s this…how good God is. God’s a good Papa. He can be trusted with your life. He can be trusted with my future health.

With all of that said, God knows me. He knows I don’t listen and I’m stubborn. That I try to go my own way at times. He knew when He impressed upon me that these things were affecting my health, I’d think, but I’m drinking with self-control clearly within my freedom in Christ, I’m eating organic beef, I tore my rotator cuff when I was exercising. He knew I’d ignore the sign and take my own route. He also knew it would become a small part of my story, and my story would speak truth into someone else.

Is it?

Are you feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit? Does He want you to trust Him with your life? Does He want you to accept Him as your Heavenly Papa? Is He trying to pry something out of your hands? Food? Shopping? Gossiping? Fear? Guilt? Anger? Are you falling into disobedience by not listening? Are you heading into your own storm and long muddy roads by not heeding the signs?

Learn from my mistake…don’t lose precious time.

Good Good Father by Sarah Reeves. Enjoy!