Category: FOR HIM

Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” – Ephesians 6:14, 15 

“WHAT IS TRUTH?”

For ages, human philosophers have pursued answers to life’s biggest questions.  Thankfully, a degree in philosophy isn’t required to find explanations for most, as the scriptures provide satisfying answers to all such questions.  Let me give you an example. 

Contained in the inspired words, we find a conversation that Christ was having with Pontius Pilate during his trial, just before his death.  Let’s pick up the conversation at John 18:37 (NIV), where Jesus says to Pilate, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.”  Pilate then responds to Jesus in verse 38 with a question, “What is truth?”

This is a powerful question.  It is a question that affects all humans who have ever lived, are living, or will live in the future.  Using Christ’s statement in verse 37, he tells us that the truth was the reason he came to Earth.  Because of Christ’s statement, the answer to Pilate’s question is central to the Christian faith.  If you were standing in front of Pilate, how would you have answered his question?

Interestingly, Jesus did not answer Pilate’s question after he asked it.  But, prior to his arrest and trial, he did provide the answer in a prayer that he was offering to his Father.  Praying for his disciples, notice what Jesus requested, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NIV).  He gave a plain, uncomplicated answer to a question that many find (or try to make) complicated.  God’s word is the truth, the source of truth.  If any doctrine or theology is not in agreement with God’s word, it simply is not truth.

Christ’s statement should help solidify in our minds the importance of God’s word.  Now that we understand what truth is, why is it a component of our spiritual armor?  How does it protect us?

TRUTH AS A BELT

Just as a literal belt is firm around our waist, encompassing our body, so should be our reliance upon God’s word.  It should shape our thoughts, our beliefs and finally our actions.  Psalms 119:105 (NIV) reminds us of the help God’s word can give us in our daily lives.  The psalmist states, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  The world has become a ‘gray’ place, where good and bad have become subjective.  However, with the truth of God’s word lighting our way, it becomes clear what a Christian’s stance should be on matters debated in the world.

Along these lines, 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 (NLT) gives us this advice as well, “but test everything that is said.  Hold on to what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.”  The Bible tells us we need to sort through all we hear to filter out what is good or evil.  Christians encounter opinions expressed as truth every day.  Do we just accept these or do we test them out?  How can we test them if we are unfamiliar with God’s truth contained in scripture?  If we just accept them and then share them with others, we are simply spreading those untested concepts.

Even when it came to Paul’s teaching, a group of first century believers did not accept them on face value.  Acts tells us that they “examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) If the words of a prominent apostle were put to the test, how fitting an example for us to use today with opinions coming from all directions.  The Bible should be central in our lives, examined by us every day.  It should be our litmus test to prove if what we hear is true.

This leads well into our next component of spiritual armor.  How does truth play a part in having our feet fitted with readiness of the gospel of peace?

A SOLDIER’S BOOTS

Let’s go back to Jesus words from John 18:37 (NIV).  Jesus stated that he came into the world to testify to the truth.  He reinforces this again in Mark 1:38 (NIV), “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”

When we think of what Jesus did while on earth several thoughts may come to mind – he healed the sick, raised the dead and gave his life as a ransom sacrifice.  But, using his own words, these are not the reasons (the primary reason) he came to Earth.  What did Jesus spend most of his time doing?  Preaching.  Teaching.  Testifying to the truth.   He shared it with disregard to his own needs with anyone who would listen to the lifesaving message of The Good News.

As soldiers in God’s army, our testimony to the truth is part of our warfare as well.  Just as a pair of boots helps ready us to run into an battle, our knowledge of truth readies us to proactively preach it or reactively defend it.   Paul reminds us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” (1 Peter 3:15) Notice he stated – ALWAYS BE PREPARED.  Readiness, willingness to stand up and testify–what better way to wage spiritual warfare than to testify to the truth, provide a defense and show others the truths Satan attempts to hide.

The same question from above applies here as well.  How can we give testimony?  How can we provide an answer to anyone who asks us?  If we ourselves are not familiar with God word we hinder our ability to do these things.  The study of God’s word must be a central part of our lives for us to be capable and ready to provide such a defense.

As a test to our readiness to defend our hope, ask yourselves if you could use the Bible to answer these questions:

Who is God?

What are his primary attributes?

What is the Holy Spirit?

Who is Jesus Christ?

Why did Jesus Christ have to die?

There are obviously other questions important to our faith, but a comprehending these fundamentals gauges our readiness to do what He has called us to do.

CONCLUSION

For those who have been following the Call to Arms series, we can see that there is a continuing thread in these articles:

●In January, we learned how God’s word serves as our sword.

●Last month, we discerned that the study of His word strengthens our faith to use it as a shield.

●This month we see that inspired word is the source of truth to test out thoughts, ideas and objections to our faith.  Further, a working knowledge of this truth equips us with “boots,” to share the Gospel and defend those truths with a response. 

●In April, we will conclude how the truth of God’s word helps forge us a helmet of salvation and a breastplate of righteousness to protect our minds and hearts.

God’s word – The Bible – is ‘the metal’ from which all the components of our armor get their strength.  Without this ingredient in our daily lives our armor will not be able to stand up as well to the battles we face.  When we think about its critical role, I wonder, are we giving the study of God’s word the real attention it deserves? 

I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. man2man@omegaleague.com 

@omegaleagueman


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:16

A BATTLE WITH FAITH

By the time I was twenty-one, I strayed to a path that led me far from God. I couldn’t tell you how long it had been since I had been to a church, read the bible or said a prayer. I was addicted to multiple drugs and had a heavy smoking habit. I had no job, no way to feed myself, and no way to pay for next month’s rent. To make matters worse, at the end of the previous month, my roommate told me he was moving in with his girlfriend. I would have to figure out how to pay for the apartment on my own. As it got closer to the end of the month, I knew I was going to be evicted. Negativity and darkness grew in my mind. The depression, intensified by withdrawals, was so severe that I would run a razor blade across my body believing it kept my mind focused. I carry those scars on my arm to this day.

This path wasn’t what I wanted. It never was. I kept asking myself how I had become so bad and so lost. But there was nothing in my power I felt I could do about it. It became frightening, as I did not know how to fight what was happening in my mind. I felt alone and helpless.  

One afternoon that mental battle reached an apex. I told myself I strayed too far and there was no way back. There would be no forgiveness, because I knew better, yet chose to do bad things. I began to tell myself there was no help, that I had been forgotten. I started to give in to the idea that there was no reason to fight as I would not be able to change. But amid the mental chaos and darkness, there was another thought that echoed in my mind.

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him.” 

I couldn’t remember exactly why I knew that. But it had that ring of truth and provided a calming effect on my mind. It made me ask myself – if He wouldn’t forget the works I had once done, then how could He forget me? Even though I had turned from Him, I wanted to believe that He was still there. After all those years and a mountain of sin on my shoulders, I had retained a grain of faith. Though small, it was powerful enough to defend me against the attack my mind was under.  

With my feeble faith, I fell to my knees in the middle of an empty apartment. Through tears I said my first prayer in years. I apologized for what I had done and admitted that I needed help. If it was true that I was not forgotten, I begged Him to please send someone to help me.  No sooner than the word ‘amen’ left my lips, there was a knock on my front door…

FAITH DEFINED

I would rank faith as the most important piece of our armor next to our swords. Understanding what faith is and its importance in our relationship with God will help us understand how it can be used as a shield.

Let’s start with the question – what is faith?  Faith has been defined by many as belief, or confidence.  It is the conviction that what we say we believe in is true and real. To illustrate, you turn on your TV and see a weatherman reporting on a hurricane approaching. He is describing the incoming storm as a category 4 and that you should expect heavy rains and strong winds. He is warning everyone to get out of the path of this storm while time remains. You step outside and look to the horizon, but you cannot see any storm. Does this mean that the hurricane is not really coming? On the contrary, you have confidence the hurricane is approaching because of what the weather report said.  Similarly, Paul said this when speaking about faith, “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1). It is through our faith that we believe in God. As our faith grows, we then come to believe truths about God. We can have confidence in such truths as: 

  • He loves us – 1 John 4:16
  • We are individually important to Him – Matt. 10:29-31
  • He will never leave us or forsake us – Duet. 31:6
  • That He wants us to succeed – Jer. 29:11

Armed with confidence, we can use those truths to defend against lies, fear or worry that my come into our lives – the “flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Another common arrow is doubt, the opposite of faith. The writer James warns us that “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). Without faith we run the risk of being tossed about by believing anything or being paralyzed by fear. This will cause us to doubt ourselves and even God himself.

There is an event in the Bible that helps us see firsthand what doubt and fear can do to the strongest of Christ’s followers. In Matthew 14, we read the familiar scriptures of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk across the water to Jesus. Peter became afraid, taking his eyes off of Jesus, and began to sink. Jesus asked him one simple question, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Peter’s lack of faith allowed fear to come in. Fear lead to doubt which led to trouble.

Because of the danger doubt can pose to a Christian, Paul admonishes us to “throw off…the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1). The sin he speaks of is a lack of faith which leads to the introduction of doubt. It can be one of the most fatal conditions for a Christian to experience. Our faith is what reassures us and convinces us to keep moving and to keep fighting, regardless of what our enemy may say about us. It shields us against doubt, fear and worry.

FAITH – ITS IMPORTANCE

This leads well into our next question – how important is faith? Faith acts as a great motivator in our lives.  Once we come to believe something, that belief should result in an action. Let’s use the example of the hurricane from earlier. Our confidence that the hurricane is coming causes us to act – to pack up our family and to get out of the way of the storm. If we don’t believe the hurricane is coming, why act? Applying this to our lives, God is a God of action. He expects his people to be people of action (Matt. 25:14-30). It will be impossible for us to be active in God if we do not first have faith in God and who He is. This would include the spiritual defense of our families and ourselves. How important and powerful this makes even the smallest of faiths (Luke 17:6).  

Paul helps us understand the connection between faith and action in Hebrews 11. He mentions many examples:

  • Abel sacrificed
  • Noah preached
  • Abraham went
  • Sarah gave birth

Abel’s faith made his sacrifice acceptable to God. Noah spent many years building the ark. Do you think doubt ever entered his mind? Perhaps, but his faith overcame his doubt. Sarah thought she was too old to give birth to a son, but her faith gave her confidence until she realized the promise. It convinced her that what God promised was true. It was their faith that led to their actions.

Accordingly, Paul states in the same chapter, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). We must have faith in order to stand firm and to do in God. Our faith is what keeps us strong, secure and ready for action.

FAITH – A FAMILY AFFAIR

Our individual faith as men, as husbands and as fathers is essential. Seeing how effective the faith of a single individual can be, imagine the defense we can muster if our entire family was a faith filled army.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he likely had in mind the armor that a Roman foot soldier would employ. A shield was a mainstay of that armor. Roman soldiers were proficient in the use of their shields, both individually and as a group. When their enemy would start firing arrows at them, the soldiers would close ranks and join their shields together. The soldiers on the outside of the formation would form walls with their shields. The soldiers in the middle of the formation would raise their shields above their heads to protect the rest against airborne attacks. This formation (called the testudo formation) was formidable and difficult to defeat.

Similarly, the combined faith of all members of our family can be difficult to penetrate. As family heads, part of our responsibility is to help our families grow in their faith of God.  How can we help our families grow in their faith? Some common ways would be:

Pray together as a family. As you pray as a family, you will experience God answering your prayers together and your family’s trust and confidence in God will grow. Trust replaces doubt.

Have a family study schedule together. It doesn’t have to be a formal reading of bible verses. Make it fun. Play a Bible-based game that teaches them events in the Bible or tell them stories.  Let them see how other people’s faith kept them strong. Tailor your study habits to your children’s age and interests.

Do not give up the habit of meeting together with our extended family. Regular attendance at worship is important to keep our faith strong. Remember, others faith can act as a protection for us as well.

Conclusion

…when I opened the door, a man was standing there. He was involved in a door to door ministry in the apartment complex, bringing the good news to people in the community. Interestingly, the man that was standing there knew me. We had not seen each other or spoken for several years. But he knew who I was. He knew where I came from. He knew the works that I had once done in God.

I believe that seeing a familiar face, having a friend stand beside me, was part of God’s plan to help me. It strengthened me for the battles that had not yet begun – to overcome addiction and rebuild my life. This person’s knowledge of my past allowed him to help me break free from my present and step into my future.

All of this began with a small amount of faith. That faith helped battle thoughts. That battle resulted in a prayer. That prayer, offered through faith, changed the direction of my life.  

Take up your shields men! Do not doubt or fear. Strike with your swords and defend with your faith.

What battles has your shield of faith or your swords of the spirit helped you fight? I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories.

man2man@omegaleague.com

@omegaleagueman


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!