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The Source of Our Struggles

 

Ephesians 6:10-18

 

Jim Davis

 

A five-year-old disobeyed her mother and had been sent to her room. After a few minutes, the mother went in to talk with her about what she had done. Teary-eyed, she asked, "Why do we do wrong things, Mommy?"

"Sometimes the devil tells us to do something wrong," the mom replied, "and we listen to him. We need to listen to God instead."

To which the little girl sobbed, "But God doesn't talk loud enough!"

The Devil's most beautiful ruse is to convince us that he does not exist. By doing so he convinces us that our choices aren’t all that important.

 

There is a visible but invisible cosmic battle raging between the forces of Satan and the spiritual forces of God. It is visible because we see the affects of battle between good and evil. It is an invisible battle in that we are often blinded to the origin and nature of the battle in the spiritual world. It is a battle between light and darkness—between good and evil—ultimately it is a battle between God and Satan.

 

Many do not believe in the supernatural. They cannot conceive of life beyond the scope of this world. They see the battles raging as mere battles between conflicting human natures over which they must triumphant through human ingenuity. The difficulty with this view is that it says that we can win the battle with human resources.

The cross of Christ seeks to bring each of us to life’s crossroad so that we can recognize the source of our problem, for it there that a major choice must be made. Daily the cross seeks to bring us to the brink of our existence as it forces us to ask life’s most soul-searching questions. Shall we take up our cross and follow the road Christ has paved for us, or shall we follow the road the world has paved for us? Shall we choose to live under the rule of Christ in his spiritual kingdom, or shall we choose to live under the rule of Satan in the kingdom of darkness? Shall we choose to engage in battle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms solely with fleshly resources, or shall we put on the whole armor of God? (Ephesians 6:10-18.)

The Source of Our Problems

Understanding the source of our problems is essential. Joe Hale removed the sheetrock from the lower south wall in back of the auditorium yesterday. He could have chosen to put new sheet rock back on. Cosmetically it may have looked fine for a short time, but he knows if we don’t discover the source of the moisture causing the damage the problem is not really solved. To cover the wall again without seeking the source from which the moisture is coming does not solve the problem. Leaving the sheet rock off hopefully will let the wall dry out. The next time it rains hopefully we will be able to tell if the water is coming from above or below. Then we can attack the problem at its source. Once we discover the source of the problem we can fix it.

The same is true with our spiritual problems—we must understand their source. Failing to understand the source of our conflicts will leave us powerless in our struggles.

Spiritual battles cannot be confined merely to the human mind. It is a battle that cannot be won with the resources of the human mind. If the cross tells us anything—it tells us that it is a battle that we cannot win with weapons of the flesh—it tells us that the weapons of this world will never defeat Satan. It is a battle that requires spiritual weapons that come from the invisible God.

Satan is a master at diverting our attention away from him. When struggles come we blame God, we blame each other, we blame our circumstances, while we leave Satan completely out of the picture. His scheme of blame alienates us from the source of our needed strength as he deceives us into looking for fleshly causes and answers for our problems.

Paul tells us that it is not a battle of mere flesh and blood that we face. The source of our struggles from within originates in spiritual realms from without. The battle between good and evil is not simply a battle against flesh and blood. We make a grave mistake when we confine the battle to the battlefield of the mind. It is a battle of cosmic proportions. It is a battle that is being waged in the heaven by God as he battles Satan on earth. It is a battle for the hearts and minds of those of us who live on earth. The demons we face within are demons from the spiritual realms of darkness from without.

John tells us “the whole world lies under the sway [control] of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Jesus calls Satan “the ruler of the world” (John 12:31). Satan is described as the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). When Jesus promised to establish his spiritual kingdom, which is the church, he tells us that the gates of hell would seek to destroy it (Matthew 16:18-19), but it would fail.

The forces we face are more powerful and more cunning than we are. The most powerful tactic of Satan is to convince us that we can win the battle against him without God. He uses our strengths against us as he convinces us to rely on our ability and our strengths while blinding us to the source of true strength. The cross of Christ is designed to turn us from the power of Satan to God’s power, for it is the power of the cross that defeats Satan.

Paul says, “be strong in the Lord and the power of his might” (6:10). The reason we so often lose the battle that rages in our minds is because we seek to wage the war with human strength alone. You cannot fight Satan with the wisdom of earthly tactics.

Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes” (Ephesians 6:11 NIV). If this says anything, it says we cannot stand against the Devil’s schemes alone.

 

The Source of Our Strength

The battle for our minds certainly takes place within our minds, but the source of the battle comes from dark spiritual forces at work outside of our minds. This is why we must depend upon God’s power to wage spiritual warfare.

2 Corinthians 10:2-52

I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

The Corinthians expected Paul to exert a strong personality through words of worldly wisdom in his effort to solve the problems at Corinth, but Paul relied upon the meekness and gentleness of Christ. He did not rely on fleshly wisdom, human abilities or physical prowess.

God’s strategies for survival throughout the Bible seem strange. Noah is required to build an ark to enable God to save the world. The children of Israel are commanded to march around the city of Jericho and shout before God causes the walls of the great city to fall.

Gideon sought to go to battle with over 30,000 men.

Judges 7:2-6

The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'" So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

 

But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go."

 

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink."  Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. NIV

 

God’s whole modus operandi is to minimize human, prideful self-confidence. This is why God chose to reveal his power through a small number of men. Pride and self-confidence blind us to the power of God as it robs us of his power for overcoming.

 

When Paul encourages us to put on the whole armor of God, he tells us why we put it on—so you will be able to stand. Putting on the armor of God is paramount to availing yourself of the power of God. His armor provides protection and equips us with his supernatural weapons.

 

The difficulty with the church today is that it has been reduced to a moral and an ethical code and teaching that seeks to make us better people without God’s help. To become a member I must accept this teaching, and then I must proceed to put it into practice. It leaves the impression if it is to be, it is up to me. We may be fooled into believing that we should take the Bible and study it to find the power from within ourselves to overcome. The difficulty is that it leaves everything up to me as weak and powerless as I am. The simple teaching of the Bible will not save us if we fail to rely upon the power of God’s grace for our salvation.

 

When Paul speaks of the breastplate of righteousness, he means that God’s righteousness is our greatest protection. When God’s righteous becomes a means to self-righteousness it destroys God’s protection for our lives.

 

Stephen said, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). Initially, Moses sought to solve the Hebrews problems by brute strength and human wisdom as he killed an Egyptian. As a result he spent forty years in the land of Midian herding sheep. When God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt he replied, “Who am I that I should go?” Reflection during the 40 years of herding sheep made him understand that it would be a battle that he could not win on his own strength.

 

The day of Pentecost was a great day. It was the day the church was established. Do you know why Pentecost was such a great day? It wasn’t because these present were mighty and influential, not because of the number of people present—there were few believers present. It was a great day because of God’s powerful presence.

 

Great things happen when we depend upon the powerful authority of Christ.

Luke 10:17-20

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

 

He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’" (NIV).

 

As soldiers of Christ we are to put on the whole armor of God, but we must rely upon the sovereign authoritative power of God to overcome.

 

God’s Strength Found Through Prayer

 

Nothing reveals our dependence upon God’s power more than our prayers. Paul doesn’t stop with telling us to put on the whole armor of God.

 

Ephesians 6:18-20

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

 

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (NIV).

 

Do you Paul’s his dependence upon the power of God in these verses? Paul is willing to take a stand for Christ, but he is asking fellow Christians to pray that God would make him bold enough to stand.

 

It is impossible to equip yourself with the armor of God without prayer.

 

Colossians 1:9-14

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (NIV).

 

The prayers of the first century saints centered upon asking God to equip them by filling them with his knowledge and his wisdom so that they might bear fruit. It should be no surprise to us that the apostles saw the crucial need to give themselves to prayer and ministry of the word (Acts 6:4), as they sought to preach and teach. Prayer comes before the ministry of the word. Why? The effectiveness of the word is dependent upon the power of God.

 

Colossians 4:12-13

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis” (NIV).

 

Epaphras was agonizing in prayer over fellow Christians. How much wrestling in prayer do we do that others might take a stand for the Lord? The real work of God’s people is done in prayer. It is prayer that focuses us on God’s resourcefulness for our task. I think much of what we are trying to do in the church is very good, but I am afraid that we are trying to do it without God’s help.

The Old Testament probably gives us the best illustrations of how spiritual battles are fought. It makes it easy for us to see that the earthly battles fought by Israel were merely extensions of the spiritual battles taking place in heavenly places. The Old Testament gives us a glimpse of the powers of darkness working against us. The book of Daniel reveals the power of darkness as it seeks to prevent his prayers from being answered.

Daniel 10:12-14

“Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come’” (NIV).

This brief account gives a glimpse of how the powers of darkness are working to prevent our prayers from receiving an answer. What do we do in such cases? Daniel had to stand firm while he was waiting upon God. He had to do all he could to stand firm while he was seeking the wisdom and understanding of God’s ways.

The Importance of Our Abilities

 

Dependence upon the power of God doesn’t release us from our responsibilities. Satan not only seeks to get us to rely upon our own strengths and abilities, but he may also seek to blind us to our need to use our own abilities to take a stand.

 

It is essential that we use our abilities as we prepare for battle. Preparation for battle will give us something to stand our ground with. The danger is thinking that God will empower us without us having to take a stand.

 

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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, 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. NIV

 

God’s power is conditional—it’s dependent upon a willingness to take a stand. It is our job to take a stand, it God’s job to enable us to stand with his wisdom and power.

 

We must be willing to put on the whole armor of God. The armor of God is for our personal protection. It equips us so that we can stand, but it is God’s enabling power that allows us to stand once we become clothed in his armor.

 

Conclusion:

 

Someone says, “Let go and let God handle it.” This works only when you have done everything can do to take a stand. There are times when we have done everything we could to solve a problem only to find that we have reached the end of our rope. When this is the case, don’t become anxious. Simply turn to God and entrust it to him for the outcome while you stand firm.

 

We must not allow our difficulties to create such anxiety that we begin to think our abilities are too inadequate for us to take a stand.

 

Luke 21:34-36

"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man" (NIV).

 

Often, I am like the little girl I spoke of at the beginning of the lesson. The anxieties and cares of this world deafen me. I begin thinking that God should speak louder.

 

 

 

 

 

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