Written By: R.A. Goodnight
Can you imagine what an actual war in the celestial realms would be like? The Bible tells us that such an event occurred.
“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7, 8)
What that must have been like – angelic soldiers wielding supernatural weapons. An epic war, as the army of light engaged in actual battle against the forces of darkness. As we meditate upon these words, they arouse a sense of awe inside of us. Hopefully, reading John’s account reminds us of a more sobering truth. A real war – not a metaphorical one – is being fought. You, and more importantly, your family are a part of it. It is our place as men in God’s arrangement to take the lead in the defense of our families.
If this war was fought in heaven, why would I say that it affects us? This statement is true in more than one way, but let’s focus in on a singular aspect for the moment. Notice what John goes on to recount. Verse 9, “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” He takes it a step further in verse 12, “But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” My fellow men, he and his angry army of demons were thrown to The Earth. They are now among us. And, as if more emphasis was needed, he wraps up the chapter with these words, “The dragon was enraged…and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” (Rev. 12:18) Yes, he is here. He is angry, full of fury and intent on warring against YOU. This is a real war and it has real casualties. You and your family are right in the middle of it. If Satan was willing to do battle with Michael (the commander of the most powerful army that ever has or will exist), what is he willing to do to our families here on Earth? Soldiers, the important question becomes – will you fight? Will you protect your family against the attacks of the enemy?
Our enemy is powerful. However, it is possible to stand our ground. Revelation should give us confidence in this fact, as we see he has already lost one decisive battle. Let’s make him lose more. Because of the record in Revelation, it gives us the advantage of battlefield intelligence. This is not a surprise attack. We know he is here and we know his plan; He comes to kill, steal and destroy. We need to put this intelligence to use and prepare our defenses.
Along with intelligence, we have the capabilities to be well equipped for the battle. An effective soldier will have weapons and armor to use during a fight. As soldiers of God, we have been given a full suit of armor as well as a weapon. We have a belt, a breastplate, boots for our feet, a shield, a helmet and a sword (Eph. 6:11-17). Are we not grateful for the provisions our commander has given us to so that we can be victorious in this war? The ASV version helps us understand that all these components are necessary to be fully protected. In Ephesians 6:13 (ASV) it tells us to take up the “whole armor of God,” not just certain pieces. This is an important point, soldiers. Our ability to skillfully use each piece of our armor determine how effective we are in a fight. In this series of articles, we break down this suit of armor and discuss its components: What does each piece mean? What is each piece of armor’s purpose? How do we use these pieces effectively?
Let’s start with learning to wield our sword. Why start with it? One main reason–as we learn to use our sword, it strengthens other pieces of our armor, like our shields and our helmets. We will discuss that claim further in a moment. So a fair question to now ask ourselves – is our skill as a swordsman equal with the battle that is before us? Before we can identify how effective we are with our sword, we must first identify what our sword is. Diving into Ephesians, verse 17 tells us, “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Yes, the word of God is our spiritual sword. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul describes the word of God as being sharper than a double edged sword, an effective weapon in capable hands. (Heb. 4:12). Interestingly, the sword is the only part of our spiritual armor that serves as both an offensive weapon as well as a defensive tool. Knowing HOW to use it, as well as WHEN to use it for either purpose will take training and practice.
Now that we understand what our sword is, the next logical question is how do we use it? To help us answer this let’s look at the master swordsman, Jesus Christ. Christ would not use his own words as the basis for his teaching or his defense. Doing a quick check through the Gospels, Christ quoted from at least 24 different old testament writers. He would say “For it is written” or “Have you not heard?”or “Did you not read?” and other forms of these scripture-referencing questions (Matt. 4:4; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20). What was Christ doing when we would respond in this manner? He was using his sword! He let God’s word be his defensive (and his offensive) tool. His method was the same regardless of whether he was responding to doubters, to Pharisees or to his family. Notably, in his confrontation with Satan, every rebuttal Jesus gives Satan is a direct quote from an inspired writer (Matt. 4:1-11). As fellow swordsman, we should be copying his example.
When confronted by the enemy, a successful offense or defense depends on our ability to recall God’s word–and the truths and principles it contains. The same is true of a literal sword; the ability to wield it properly only comes from practice. How did Christ become so familiar with his sword of truth? There is an account regarding Jesus, while he was still a boy, that lends us a clue. Luke tells us that during a family trip Jesus went missing. Luke 2:26 tells us that they eventually found him “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” From an early age until his death, Christ had a fondness for studying God’s word. How could he quote scripture if he did not know what it contained? Studying the word and engaging with his teachers– Christ set the example for us to follow. It is the only way we will become adept at using God’s word with authority.
Now, back to our question from above – how is your swordsmanship, soldier? Are you practicing with it regularly? Each one of us should have a routine for personal Bible study–a successful defense of your family depends on it. Become familiar with principles and verses, both Old and New Testaments. Understand God’s way of thinking. Remember, “All Scripture is…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Dedicate time for yourself to read God’s word daily. Attending church is only the beginning of our training. Personally, I find it helpful to block time off each day on my work lunch calendar. Not only does this set aside specific times but my phone also reminds me to stop, to read, and to practice my swordsmanship. In addition, joining a men’s group or some family Bible study for discipleship also helps round out the training.
Now that we have identified what our sword is and how to become skillful fighters – when can we use it? Perhaps your child is facing challenges at school due to their stand in the faith. Get up soldier. Draw your sword! Go on the offense and share verses with your child to strengthen their confidence. Perhaps show them Proverbs 27:11 and help them understand that their personal stand for the faith brings joy to God’s own heart! Has your wife become overcome with sadness due to the death of a loved one? Your sword is full of encouragement for those who mourn, such as Thessalonians 4:13-14. Maybe it’s you, fellow warrior, who has come under attack and fallen on some hard times. Dive into God’s word – defend yourself. Remind yourself of verses such as Deuteronomy 31:6 where the Lord tells you He will not leave you or forsake you.
What about times when we have drawn our swords, but we are not sure how to strike? This is one of my personal favorites. God himself gives us this encouragement, “You will hear a voice from behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). Even as well-equipped as we are, we are not alone in this fight. God is at our six (military code for “God’s got your back.”). There will be moments when we may not know what our next move should be. Directed by God’s spirit, He will provide our tactics for us. It might come through our personal study, a fellow soldier or from a lesson at church. Believe, listen and the attack plan will become evident.
Learning to use our swords first helps strengthen other pieces of our armor. Understanding what our swords are, as we study God’s word, we will we learn swordsmanship, but it will also start to build faith (our shield). We will learn more about salvation (our helmet), as we pursue righteousness (our breastplates) and so much more. Starting with our swords will lead us to eventually equipping the entire suit. Now you are ready for battle!
Do not forget who we are. We are soldiers of God. Do not underestimate the weapons and armor we have been given. “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.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Yes, we are powerful. We were made in God’s image. We were made to be men! Draw your swords, soldiers, and get in the fight!