One of the important aspects of military security is conducting regular threat analysis. In order to protect their nation, military professionals must review the capabilities and intentions of those who would aim to do them harm. If military intelligence is going to be successful in their mission then they must accurately assess the capabilities and conduct of their enemies. If intelligence officials miss or ignore key bits of information, then it could have disastrous—even deadly consequences.
The Christian life has been rightly reckoned as a war. The enemy is clearly defined as a spiritual war headed by Satan (Eph. 6:12). Some of his goals include and unceasing attempt to devour (1 Pet. 5:8), destroy (Job 2:3); kill (Jn. 8:44); blind people from the truth (2 Cor. 4:4); and keep them from coming to God (Gal. 4:8). In other words, the identity, intentions, and capabilities of our enemy are clearly known. We have solid, credible intel on him.
Based upon this assessment, God tells his church what to do. Ephesians 6 is one place where God reminds his people about the threat and the need to be vigilant. It is not a briefing about a potential conflict, but rather, it’s about our current conflict. In other words, it is not a matter of what if but of therefore.
When we read the mission briefing in light of the threat and the goal, we find some instructive and, frankly, convicting items. I want to highlight a few areas here.
(1) The battle is to be fought with the correct source of power. We notice in verse 10 that we are to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. This raging battle is not to be won by the deployment of carnal, fleshly weaponry. It is a spiritual battle (12) that demands spiritual warfare. To trust in the arm of flesh is a dangerous folly.
(2) The battle is so dangerous that we must wear appropriate battle dress. We see we are to wear the belt of truth (14), the breastplate of righteousness (14), shield of faith (16), helmet of salvation (17), and sword of the Spirit (17). To be unarmed in battle is a dangerous folly.
(3) The battle is so urged that we must have the proper priority. At the end of this list in verse 18 we read, “to that end.” This is all tied together by and through prayer. Prayer is how we commune with God and engage in battle. Like Piper’s wartime walkie-talkie analogy for prayer, we call upon the General for close-air support and search and rescue. To leave off prayer amid a battle is like going dark in the middle of a war; this is utter folly.
So, here is my question. In light of the clear intelligence briefing that we have received from God about the identity, intentions, and capabilities of our enemy, as well as how God wants us to fight this war, why are we as Christians so often negligent in our duties?
Two reasons strike me immediately.
We often act like we are not in a battle at all. But friends, the dulling of spiritual senses and the slackness in our disciplines actually indicates the presence of a battle. After all, if you are going to attack someone militarily, what must you do? You have to weaken their defenses. It is spiritual warfare executed with Satanic precision when Christians are lulled to sleep by their false security and then undress themselves from any defense in the battle. Our lack of prayer and discipline is an indicator of a breach in the defenses.
We often trust in the arm of flesh. We trust in our personal intelligence, track record of morality, previous spiritual mountaintops, and other things that we like to take credit for. When called out to battle against Goliath are you going to boast in yourself? Too many of us are bringing the spiritual equivalent of a plastic spoon to a knife fight. Leaving off prayer in favor of the flesh is dangerous and foolish.
Instead we must remember that Ephesians 6 is a command amid a real spiritual battle. We are to put on and keep putting on the full armor of God. We are to be strong in the Lord and keep being strong in the Lord. The General is speaking to his troops. Because of the nature of the battle there is no time to doze off or slouch into the leather chairs of apathy. We must be just as vigilant as a soldier in battle. We put on the armor daily. Prayerlessness is not an option. Fasting from the Bible is a fool’s errand. Self-reliance is a ticket for self-destruction.
We’re in a battle after all. Haven’t you heard?