Ephesians 6:13-18 (the message)
     Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Have you ever felt like giving up?  Dropping out?  Have you ever been so tired and weary that you find yourself falling behind?  If so, you are not alone!  There may not be many people around you willing to admit they are struggling, but rest assured we have all been there.  These verses, written by Paul, are an encouragement because he clearly acknowledges that “you’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.”  Following Christ and overcoming the devil is indeed a battle…but not one you are meant to fight alone or in your own strength.

Paul wrote the verses above as part of a letter to the church in Ephesus.  The Ephesians were gentiles (non-jews) so they were not well-schooled in the old testament and the ways of the Hebrew God.  Yet, hearing the message of Jesus their hearts were convicted and truth entered in.  As these new believers found themselves at times floundering in how to know God’s ways…how to follow after Christ…Paul sends this letter and addresses issues of forgiveness, growing in knowledge and understanding of God, leaving “old ways” behind, husbands loving wives and wives respecting husbands, children honoring parents, employer/employee relations and lastly this staunch declaration that all of this is more than we can handle on our own!  See, we are not meant to overcome our past, tackle our current challenges, resist temptation or support others in our own strength!  Paul gives us some points, weapons if you will, to apply in our lives as Christ-followers and devil-defeaters…

Truth.  Righteousness.  Peace.  Faith.  Salvation.  “More than words” Paul says.  Once again, I am no Bible Scholar!  Here are my ordinary girl thoughts:  Once you believe the truth of Jesus as Savior and a need for  Him takes root in your heart, you enter into His righteousness.  That means, to me, that once I invite Jesus into my life God no longer judges my life based on my sin but I am “hidden in Christ.”  Meaning that the righteousness, or right-standing, of Jesus before God is transferred to me!  I can know God, approach Him for all I need, hear His voice and be with Him…I can actually live with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me because of Christ’s righteousness…His perfection, not mine.  It’s like Jesus has me “covered.”  Once I accept and understand the miracle of the right-standing of Jesus given to me, just because I believe the truth, then peace enters into my heart and life.  I can live in peace with God and live in the peace of God.  I no longer have to fight condemnation and fear because I know my relationship with God rests in the righteousness of Jesus, not my efforts.  I have peace with God and then the supernatural peace of God, a fruit that blooms as I know Him, can exude from my life no matter the circumstances.  As I experience this undeserved and unearned peace with God through the truth of Jesus, because of His perfection, my faith in this loving God grows.  Perhaps it starts as that “mustard-seed” sized faith…but that’s all it takes.  God takes my bit of faith in Who He is, the measure of faith that has brought me this far, and begins to work in my character and life in ways that grow my faith.  The more I know Him and see Him at work in my life, the stronger my faith becomes!  Instead of cowering at the challenges of life, instead of living in fear of the war the devil may wage on my life, I begin to look around, sensing the presence of this Great God in my life and decide to pick up my weapons…I read His Word and find out what my God says about life.  I begin to talk to God through prayer about my concerns and struggles.  I talk to Him about what I read in His word and the faith that has been growing in my life takes hold once again and leads me into battle.  I am living life in the knowledge of my own salvation.  I know how God has saved me…I know that God is perfect and Holy and the only reason I am able to come into His presence is because He paved my way through His son Jesus.  And now, in ways I can hardly explain or understand, I want to help the people around me see the truth of Jesus. 

So now, even when I grow weary in the battle and want to quit, I hear the sweet voice of God in my heart saying “Don’t give up.  I’m fighting for you.”  Now, when I am discouraged and can’t see how to overcome the enemy, I hear Holy Spirit whisper “Open your eyes and see the angels I send to surround you, My presence within you, and hold tight to my hand.”  Now, as I feel beaten down and a bloody mess by the pain of life and the fatigue of battle, I hear Jesus say “Come to me if you are tired and carry a heavy burden.  I will fight for you, protect you and give you rest.”

Don’t drop out!  Pick your weapons back up.  Find your Bible and get on your knees.  This is not about being a “good” Christian and doing your duty.  This is about the finished work of Salvation in your own life being walked out here on earth and reproduced in the lives of others.  This isn’t just about your marriage or your job and finances or your children…this is about marriages around you, the need in the lives of others and their children.  This is far more than just your eternal home in Heaven and once you see the truth of that it will turn your life upside down…in a most passionate and exciting way!  See, if you think Jesus did all He was willing to do at Calvary so long ago, you may live a life of passive religiosity.  But once you glimpse the power and blazing love our God has not just for us but for those around us that need Him now, your heart may begin to burn for them to know that God is a marriage-healer, a job-provider, a need-meeter, a child-healer and transformer. 

Heaven is our reward only because that is where Jesus is…see, our reward is Jesus.  Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith and Salvation are “more than words.”  They aren’t meant just for the scripture reading on Sundays as we wait out earth for our “eternal home.”  I am not going to live out my years on earth with a measure of gratitude that I won’t go to Hell.  No.  Jesus is where I am headed, He is my reward, and I intend to know Him now.  I want to experience the power and glory of my Savior now.  And so through Jesus I fight the battle for my own marriage, future, provision and children so that the victory God wins for me can be seen and reproduced in the lives of others.

Let’s pick up the weapons God has given us.  Let’s refuse to quit and reach out a hand to those falling behind.

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