5th Sunday after Pentecost “Finally, Be Strong in The Lord” Armed Forces Sunday theme
July 2, 2023 Ephesians 6:10,14
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Being prepared is always on the minds of the warriors serving so faithfully in our armed forces. There is not a day that goes by that they are not ready – or training to be more ready. They must be ready at a moment’s notice to answer the call. Once the alarm sounds, they don’t have time to get ready == they need to BE ready. In order to be ready they train, train, …and train some more. They train as they would fight; which is why we hear of injuries & deaths during training. The Navy SEAL motto is: “the only easy day was yesterday.” It is all about preparation, and being ready to win our nation’s battles.
This idea of being prepared is not new. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The groundwork for any mission or task or project is important; but when planning a Defense, it’s vital.
Even when we live in non-wartime, in relative peace & prosperity, and in the more simple life of northern Minnesota, it is important to be reminded that we truly live as part of The Church Militant. This is an old description of the Church-on-earth, and as Christians who must struggle, using faith against temptations from the world, & from our old sinful natures.
Those who have died-in-the-Lord have been translated, we say, to The Church Triumphant; where ‘the strife is o’er & the battle’s done.’ Until we enter that heavenly life, we live in The Church Militant. In this life we are at war, & constantly fighting with the devil, the world, & our sinful nature. Keeping this in mind is important to our daily spiritual survival.
So, this begs a question: Are you ready? Are you ready for the battles; the outward sniping & the inward skirmishes that you face every day? Are you ready for the temptations that the agents of the devil throw your way to interrupt your obedience & godliness? Their goal is to take down your faith; and without faith, you will not have life. What is your plan that will sustain you on the battlefield? What is your hope & confidence in, knowing that each day you wake up to face the same enemies, and there may be suffering to endure?
I know that saying words like that are considered kind-of cliché, & the enemy wants us to think that this comparison to ‘battle’ & ‘war’ is just religious exaggeration.
Yet, that IS how God’s ‘field manual’ =the Bible= speaks of our life. And so, we can’t kid ourselves. We are surrounded by evil in a sin-sick world. In America, Christians are not being dragged out of our churches or homes or businesses by wicked men, who put us on our knees with a gun or sword to our head and say, “Renounce Jesus or die!” Not yet.
That most certainly does happen in other parts of the world; in communist & socialist countries. Believers-in-Christ are being arrested and martyred for their faith. Here in our country, you are being told to renounce your faith & godly actions in favor of immoral social issues and corrupt political forces. For example, +faith-based pregnancy centers & businesses are being targeted by people who hate God’s truths.
+Christian teachers & counselors & doctors are being pressured to accept & teach this new man-made ‘religion’ that says that ‘biological gender means nothing’, and children must be taught all kinds of sexual perversions. +People are losing their jobs, or are rejected from the hiring pool, for speaking their belief on those issues that stand contrary to the Word of God.
+Your freedom of speech IS being taken away on social media platforms if your Bible-based opinion is deemed ‘hateful’ against any group that is included in the ‘alphabet soup’ of LGBTQQIA2S+; which behaves like a modern mofia.
The current public expectation is that you & I are to keep our religion to ourselves; only in the church, & not in the public square. In your head & behind the church doors is as far as your religious freedom goes; keep it out of the workplace and out of the schools == or else.
Maybe we’re we not paying much attention to this because it hasn’t overrun our small town yet. But, it has overrun our state-house & governor; it certainly has overtaken one of the two major political parties in our country. Are we still thinking that living our faith-life, and training up our children into godliness, is not a real battle? It always has been; & it always will be. The Bible confirms that!
We have encountered this fight. Because there are times we have stood silent or given-in when faced with the mocking or ridicule of discussing God’s moral ways compared to some immoral cultural issues. It’s because we don’t like to be called names, like: bigot or ‘phobic—something’; and no one wants to lose friends or family. That’s a suffering we will avoid, even if God’s truth for all humans is ignored. It has never been easy to stand strong in the Lord. The Bible confirms that. But, *IS the goal of the Christian to make it to heaven without scars? Or is the goal to be obedient to our God & Savior, and be a good witness for Him?
There are some who seem to have a pretty good excuse for not engaging the battle. They say, “I’m in the middle of my own war right now – with an illness, a disease, a broken marriage, a financial disaster, depression, addiction. It’s all I can do just to keep up with my own things; I can’t worry about those other things.” That is a pretty good argument.
But even when we have our own personal battles, we still live in a world at war with God’s Church; which means, it’s at war with you & your faith. So, how can we stand firm like we should on all fronts? This is where St.Paul enters in for us as He did for the believers in Ephesus, and he puts in front of us The Armor of God in Chpt.6. That’s where The Holy Spirit points us to where we find our fortress, our help, our strength & comfort. We can’t stand & fight on our own. The Holy Spirit has recruited & enlisted us, gathers & enlightens us, & keeps us in the faith = with Armor. Without the Lord & His Armor, we don’t stand a chance.
On our own, the devil will find a chink in our armor, wound us, and make us doubt & despair. A nation aims to give their troops the best equipment possible to protect them; & still those soldiers can be killed in combat. Shrapnel, a bullet, or a bad decision can be deadly because the enemy is looking for weaknesses in the armor. The followers of the devil are crafty; they will lie, cheat or steal to know your weaknesses, & will attack there again & again.
The enemy -who is headed for hell- has nothing to lose, & wants us to go with.
The devil wants you to doubt the Word of God; either to say there is no truth, or to agree that everyone can define their own. He wants you to doubt the promises of God’s mercy, & to lose hope in the Savior Jesus. The Bible says that -since Satan failed with Jesus- now he’s in a fury against Jesus’ disciples.
So, for this war, Jesus has given to His disciples the Armor of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit. When the devil tries to tell you that you have not done enough good things to be a child of God, or that your past is too dirty with sin & guilt, then you will be able to stand strong in the Lord and in might of His promises. The first piece of Armor is the belt of truth around you. The world says that ‘you have your truth, I have my truth; everyone gets their own’, & they expect you to agree to that. But, we don’t have to agree because God doesn’t agree with that. God has His Truth for us all, and it holds our armor together.
The belt of truth keeps us centered. God cannot lie, so when He speaks of free forgiveness & eternal life in Christ alone, it must be true. The world denies that, but we hold on to that truth. God, who cannot lie, has promised that He sent Jesus to live, to suffer, to die & to rise again, for you! God, who cannot lie, promised that whoever is baptized & believes in Christ Jesus will be saved. We know the truth. Jesus is ‘truth, life and salvation.’
It is true that we, who were dead in our sins, have been made alive by His grace, by His Spirit. God has given us the breastplate of His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness. In our Baptism, God made a way to wash clean our soul from sin to make us His children.
In that promise, the Holy Spirit created faith in our heart = our inner being. That faith is our connection to the righteousness of Jesus, the Son.
No matter what false accusations the devil throws our way about how bad we are =
he’s wrong; OR if the devil tempts us to think how good we are = he’s wrong. Because true holiness was out of our reach, so Jesus came along side of us, living a perfect life in our place. He took the punishment for sin -of the whole world- upon himself; & because of His ‘militant battle’ & sacrifice, His righteousness covers us, and all who trust Him. The Lord’s breastplate of righteousness given to us deflects all the devil’s darts of false accusation.
The Holy Spirit enables us to trust God’s promise & Jesus’ work. The shield of faith clings with hope to His Word of forgiveness. The helmet of salvation covers & protects our thoughts and decisions based on God’s commands for us. God is merciful, and Jesus has done the work. This faith shield puts out the flaming arrows that the devil -or his agents- shoot at us. By grace we have been saved, thru faith; & this is the gift of God to you.
Our Lord has also given us that Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. God has delivered His Sword to us, His Spirit & written Word is exactly how He wanted. Had He failed to do that, He would not be a Mighty God. God’s Word cuts both ways: it identifies lies AND declares the truth; it’s a two-edged sword that cuts down the devil & his lies. God’s Word has promised to carry the Spirit’s power. Jesus used the Word of God like a sword to cut down Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. WE have that same Word to identify & cut away our temptations. Those who doubt God’s Word of Truth, or grind it down to only their favorite parts, will lose their battles, because they will not have the Spirit’s weapon.
It is not that way among us. We will not surrender the good weapon we’ve been given. We have God’s whole truth; so we will use the whole truth, because we trust the Mighty One who has given it to us, written down & confirmed by the Son Himself. A final piece of Armor is the footwear; the boots or shoes that keep us moving forward. Any foot soldier can tell you, it does matter what you have on your feet. Without the proper protection, it is easy to slow down and lose your ground and not stand firm. Jesus was quick to give this piece of Armor to the Twelve immediately upon seeing them on Easter Sunday, when He said, ‘peace to you.’ We can always move forward when our feet are covered with the Gospel of peace.
This is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It is the peace given knowing that what God has promised and worked out in Jesus can never be taken away from us. Forgiveness & life in the Savior, the Son of God == that is our strength that the Church Militant uses to march thru this ‘valley of the shadow of death’ without fear. God has called us His children, washed us into a life with a new heart & mind to listen to Him & follow Him.
God will never leave us nor forsake us. With His truth, and in His peace, we are certain that all things will work together for the good of those that belong to Him. He is mindful of our struggles & sadnesses; but with His Armor, we press on to win the prize that is waiting for us when the battle’s over. What our Lord has given is more than sufficient to help us endure until our end comes or until the Lord returns == to finalize His victory over all.
So, are you ready for the battles in this war, and to suffer wounds & scars as those who stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might? The enemy wants to take from you life and salvation. But we will not give in or give up. Not when The Spirit has fastened firmly around our waist the belt of truth. We will train & prepare, & train some more with the Word of Truth. That truth begin with the fact that God cannot lie; and Jesus has delivered to us the Lord’s salvation. Trusting in His promise & His mercy, we now have all His truth to march thru this life, and to follow Him into life eternal.