This page was probably a month in preparation and finally took form on Sept 23rd. It first began to take form in my mind as I thought about a story in a book I came across. It was a story titled "Master Potter" by Jill Austin. I'll admit I haven't finished reading the book, so don't really know much about it, but the beginning chapters brought to life the idea that when we feel discouraged, depressed, fearful, etc. it is not really coming from within us. We are under spiritual attack! What a concept! This idea REALLY resonated with me. After all, we've been told that our struggles are not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). It also helps me understand Paul better when he speaks of it not being himself, but sin within himself that is doing that which he doesn't want to do (Romans 7:15-25).
I found myself pondering the idea for several days. As I did so, the idea of the armor of God as presented in Ephesians chapter 6 began to really come into focus for me in a way I had never understood it before. As I pondered the idea that any negative thought might be a "fiery arrow" from the enemy that needed to be extinguished by the shield of faith, I began to see many things in a different light. No wonder we're to guard our thoughts! How many times have I taken negative thoughts into my being, dwelt on them, and allowed them to wreck havoc in my life? How much better to allow God's shield to protect me!
I spent some time pondering what those "flaming arrows" might be in my life. As you can see in the picture above, some that God spoke to me about include:
- Condemnation - We are told that there is NO CONDEMNATION (Rom 8:1), but yet, I am so quick to condemn myself! That is one of those flaming arrows that I need to be protected against.
- Discouragement - This is a big one for me. I too often hear a voice in my head saying words like, "It's too much! You can't do it!" This is NOT the truth. With God, all things are possible! (Matt 19:26). Discouragement is another of those flaming arrows which must be extinguished.
- Selfishness - Oh, how easy it is to focus on myself and my needs to the exclusion of those around me! This is another of those fiery arrows!
- Pride - We think of the phrase, "Pride goeth before a fall", but the Bible puts it even stronger than that - "Pride goes before destruction . . . " (Proverbs 16:18). And yet, it's quite easy for me to see that when I am concerned about what others think of me, I'm much more likely to move out of alignment with God's will and into situations that will bring pain.
- Discontent - The old testament has a lot to say about the Israelites and how discontented they were in the wilderness and how they murmured against God. And yet how different am I? How quick to complain when things don't go the way I think they should? We're told to "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4). We can't rejoice and be complaining at the same time!
- Fear - This is another biggie for me. Too often when I'm asked to do something that takes me the least bit out of my comfort zone, I move into fear. God reminds me, "I have not given you a spirit of fear . . . " (2 Tim 1:7) When I feel fear, it is not GOD'S spirit at play in my life!
- Depression - I praise God that he extinguished this flaming arrow for me years ago when I was feeling suicidal. That's not to say that this arrow isn't still flung my way from time to time, but I'm more likely to recognize it as the enemy that it is. I can't be depressed and "Rejoice in the Lord always" as I've been instructed!
- Appetite - This is an arrow that got through my defenses at a time when I didn't realize what it was and that God's armor could protect me from it. Now, God needs to surgically remove it from my being so my appetite no longer controls me and no longer encourages me to eat those things which will destroy me! Thank you, Father, that you are healing me!!!!
- Judgement - This arrow is not the gift of discernment God promises, but is instead that insidious voice that finds fault with everything and everyone - especially myself! Related to the arrow of condemnation, I am again reminded tha there is NO CONDEMNATION (Rom 8:1) I want no part of these arrows from the "accuser" and look forward to the time when he is cast down (Rev 12:10).
- Distrust - This can take the form of not trusting God to handle things in my life, or of not trusting myself to hear His voice clearly. Either way, if that flaming arrow hits it's mark, my life is much more painful!
Those are undoubtedly just a few of the many flaming arrows the accuser throws at us, but it's enough for me to much better understand the importance of clothing myself in the FULL ARMOR OF GOD so I am protected!
So what is that full armor, and how do I clothe myself in it???? Here's the passage about God's armor as translated in the New International Version:
"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." - Eph 6:10-17 (NIV)
I want to be sure I have taken up EACH piece of the armor! There are 6 specific things that are mentioned:
- Belt of Truth - surrounding the very core of our being needs to be the truth. I see this belt of truth applying in a couple of different ways. First, I have to tell the truth - especially to myself! Father, what truths about me do I need to face and be honest about? What do I need to confess to you and allow you to cleanse? We are promised that the truth will set us free (John 8:32). A second application of this belt of truth that I see is that when the truth of God is held in the very core of our being, we can not be moved. "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." (Psalms 16:8) What truths of God are we talking about? I'm sure there are many, but for me one of these core truths is "God IS love". (1 John 4:8) When I really understand God's love for me in the core of my being it changes me and enables me to stand and face things I never thought I could!
- Breastplace of Righteousness - We are told that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), so clearly we need God's garment here! I tend to have difficulty with the word "righteousness". It is one of those words that is not a part of secular vocabulary and which tends to be relegated to "church speak". What does it really mean? Once again, I'm sure there are many things it covers, but as I sat asking God this question and thinking about the breast plate as guarding our hearts, what came to me was that this is about doing what we know to be right: walking the talk and living ethically. If I know "in my heart" that I have behaved in ways that are not in alignment with God's will, I am vulnerable and those flaming arrows can find their mark much more easily.
- Shoes of Peace - I think of Romans 12:18 - resolving to "live peaceably with all men" as much as it is within our power. If we go about with a "chip on our shoulder" (or perhaps it is more like a heel spur???) we are predisposed to take what others say in a negative way. When we actively put on shoes of peace, setting our intention to walk in peace with all, this too gives us protection from those fiery arrows.
- Shield of Faith - This is what quenches the fiery arrows, so is a very important part of our armor!!! I am so grateful for passages that remind me that even if my faith seems very small, it is big enough to move mountains (Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6). More than that, it is not something I must manufacture on my own - it is a gift from God! (Ephesians 2:8). Can you picture this magnificent shield? A beautiful shield of protection given to us by our Father. Thank you, God!
- Helmet of Salvation - What does this symbolize? As I pondered this question, the first thing that came to me is that this is the piece of armor that protects my MIND. As I continued my musings, I realized that YES! When I know I am saved, my mind is protect from doubts and fears that otherwise could quite literally kill me! When I truly trust in God's promised gift of salvation, I am not vulnerable to attacks based on the weaknesses of my flesh - because I know that by faith I am saved - not by works! (Ephesians 2:8).
- Sword of Spirit, the Word of God - While certainly the "word of God" can refer to scripture, to me, this is even more than that. It is that still small voice behind me saying "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:21). When I have taken the time to check in with God for guidance and direction in my life, I am much better able to meet the enemy with strength and power. God reminds me, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. (2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Version)
One more thing stood out to me as I pondered this passage from Ephesians 6. Yes, we're told to take up the full armor of God - and that's important. But there's something that is emphasized repeatedly and I've come to recognize repetition as one of the ways I'm told to PAY ATTENTION - THIS IS IMPORTANT!. I'm quoting here from Ephesians 6 in the American Standard Version - bold emphasis mine:
Verse11 - "that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."
Verse 13 - "and having done everything, to stand firm".
Verse 14 - "stand firm therefore"
When I completed this page, I knew those words - "STAND FIRM" were important, but I also knew I was missing something. What did they mean??? In what way was I supposed to STAND FIRM?
This morning, I finally got "the rest of the story". It came from a story in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 as God's spirit came upon Jahaziel to prepare the Israelites for battle.
"You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17 ESVThere are those words again - STAND FIRM. I'm being told: "Cheryl, the battle is not yours, but mine! There is nothing for you to do but to wear the armor you've been given and stand where I tell you to stand. Then you can watch me vanquish the enemy on your behalf!"
Thank you, Father!!! You are so good to me! I am so grateful for your guidance and protection! Thank you for extinguishing those fiery arrows that I saw so clearly the other day! You know how vulnerable I felt and how close they came! "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness . . . " (Isaiah 61:10) Thank you, Father!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------To see how I made this Bible Journaling page, please see my paper crafting blog - here.