How Good Soldiers Go Down
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They had the mightiest armies ever seen up until that time. And yet the seemingly invincible legions of the Roman Empire eventually fell to ransacking hordes who were once confined to Rome's far borders. What happened? Actually, many things happened that led to their defeat, but one of them was clearly spelled out by one fourth-century Roman General. Here's what he said: "When, because of negligence and laziness, parade ground drills were abandoned, the customary armor began to feel heavy since the soldiers rarely, if ever, wore it. Therefore, they asked the emperor to set aside the breastplates and mail and then the helmets. So our soldiers fought the Goths without any protection for the heart and head, and they were often beaten by archers. Although there were many disasters, which led to the loss of great cities, no one tried to restore the armor to the infantry. They took the armor off, and when the armor came off - so, too, came their integrity."
In Rome many years ago, and among God's spiritual soldiers today, when you neglect your armor you will go down to your enemy. If you belong to Jesus Christ, and especially if you are or hope to be making any difference for Him, you can be sure you have shown up on hell's radar. And a lot of the battles you're encountering right now are, at their core, spiritual attacks conceived in hell.
We know that from our word for today from the Word of God in Ephesians 6, beginning with verse 11. "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood" - you can insert there many of the earth-folks and earth-issues that seem to be what you're battling. "Your 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." Paul goes on to repeat the order to put on your full spiritual armor so that "when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground."
The word used four times here for "stand" means to "hold a critical position while you're under attack." The implication is that the Satanic strategy you're supposed to stand against is the devil's effort to take back ground that God has gained in your life. Your enemy is trying to pressure and attack and tempt you to retreat to the old you, to old ways of thinking and coping and responding and treating people...to get you to doubt during this dark time what God told you in the light. And again and again, God says, "Do not give ground. Do not retreat. Defy this attack!"
And the key is the armor, spelled out in the verses that follow. The belt of truth - which means each new day you declare, "Only the truth, no deceit." Since lies are the devil's main weapon, when you compromise the truth, you defect to his side. The armor includes the breastplate of righteousness - which means "only what's pure, nothing corrupt allowed in my heart." The shoes that anchor you to the ground are, as Ephesians 6 says, "the gospel of peace." Each new day you declare "only God's peace today, not my worry." Taking up the shield of faith means you declare, "Only faith today, not fear!" The helmet of salvation, well that's what guards the way you think - salvation is the cross, and you put on that helmet when you declare, "Only the cross and no other power to trust in." And then there's that sword of the Spirit - the Word of God. Picking up that sword each day means you declare, "Only what God says, not my feelings."
Those six declarations defy the very things Satan always uses to get you to retreat - your deceit, unclean input, worry, fear, trusting in something other than the cross, and believing your feelings. Putting on your armor means consciously choosing the spiritual resources of Jesus as the ways you will respond to every attack. Don't concentrate on the attack that's coming your way. Concentrate instead on the things that make you strong - the full armor of God that makes Satan retreat!