The following is a guest column by David J. Seel, physician, Houston, Texas.

Paul the apostle was able to grasp, as few men have since, the scope of the spiritual struggle that constitutes the fabric of history. “For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against superhuman forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12, NEB). For such a conflict the Christian must be armed with weapons divinely potent for the demolishing of strongholds in contemporary society, for the destruction of every humanistic speculation that rears its proud head against the knowledge of God.

Our culture is under the sway of determinism, which views man as a machine and excludes the possibility of a personal God. Modern thinking is also under the influence of existentialism, which denies the value of reason in finding ultimate truth and purpose. And finally, contemporary philosophy removes all moral categories; we are left in a sea of relativism, without a concept of moral responsibility.

Paul makes it very clear, in the first chapter of Romans, that the fundamental error is an intellectual decision with moral consequences. Man rejects God’s revelation and “suppresses the truth”; man retains his self-centered thinking even at the cost of his rationality, and thus becomes “futile in his thinking”; he is left with no absolute values and thus becomes “void of judgment.”

The first of the weapons of God is, appropriately, truth. The Christian begins with the evidence of God’s existence both in the creation and in his intervention in human history. This personal God communicates with men, reveals his truth to his creatures. It is this content-ful message that we buckle on as we go into battle: we do not launch out in blind faith but are undergirded by the knowledge that God’s truth stands, whether we do or not.

The second part of the Christians’ armor is the “breastplate of righteousness.” The New English Bible calls it the coat of mail of integrity. Perhaps this is what Jesus called being “pure in heart”—being of unmixed motives, transparent but also possessed by a righteousness not our own, the goodness of the indwelling Christ. How important for the soldier of Christ to be judged pure in motive, guileless in behavior, free of hypocrisy and inconsistency!

The third feature of God’s armor is the footwear of the Gospel of peace. The metaphor implies that an agile soldier needs shoes that speed him on as he carries the message of peace with God. He is a courier of victory, a herald of good tidings, urgent in his desire to publish the message, enthusiastically announcing it as he encounters an expectant world. How different from most of us foot-sloggers, who drag ourselves forward into each day witnessing out a sense of duty rather than praising God out of a sense of joy!

The fourth weapon is faith, our shield against Satan’s missiles. We may expect the Adversary to hurl every kind of difficulty in our path. The subtle temptations of security, the pressures of conformity, the dismay of misfortune, the pain of criticism, the burden of grief, the pride of our professional dignity—all these flaming arrows and more will be fired at us. How many great warriors have gone down because their faith faltered under the assault of Satan. It is not blind faith we require but the affirmation of God’s promises and the assurance that nothing can separate us from his love—whether death, life, or the powers of hell.

The fifth of God’s weapons is the helmet of salvation: the saving life of Christ within the Christian. The resurrected Christ who indwells him through the agency of the Holy Spirit—this is the guarantee of salvation, the foretaste of victory. This is what makes the disciple invincible in trouble: Christ in control; we, yielded to his use. It is this adventure of surrender to Christ’s Lordship that provides the ultimate assurance of his Saviourhood.

The Word of God is the sixth of our weapons: it is alive and active; “it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the place where life and spirit, joints and marrow divide. It sifts the purposes and thoughts of the heart.…” The greatest tragedy of the Church today is its neglect of this instrument. The authority of the Bible is undermined, its authenticity is questioned, its relevance is denied. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is, like Excalibur, lodged in stone, the stone of our unbelief.

The last part of God’s armor is prayer. When all other weapons seem inadequate to cope with the viciousness of our foe, when truth is twisted and integrity ridiculed, when our urgent proclamation of the news of peace with God falls on deaf ears, when our faith in God’s promises falters, when some gnawing sin has alienated us from our Saviour and his indwelling presence is dimmed, when our involvement in the world has interfered with our study of God’s message, when, in short, we are backed to the wall, there is yet prayer.

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Prayer is more than a means of crying for rescue and escape from our adversary. It is a channel of spiritual power; it is participation in the spiritual activity of the Godhead; it is involvement in the intercessions of Christ, who ever lives to intercede for us. So we struggle on empowered, in partnership with our Creator and Redeemer God, and if we listen we can almost hear the cheers of that great cloud of witnesses in the eternal grandstands who eagerly watch our moment of history.

So must we “wield the weapons of righteousness in right hand and left. Honour and dishonour, praise and blame, are alike our lot: we are the impostors who speak the truth, the unknown men whom all men know; dying we still live on; disciplined by suffering, we are not done to death; in our sorrows we have always cause for joy; poor ourselves, we bring wealth to many; penniless, we own the world” (2 Cor. 6:7–10, NEB).

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