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HOW TO OVERCOME EVERY ATTACK

Ephesians 6:10-20
23rd November 2003

Guy Sebastian, the 'bro with the fro' who won the title of Australian Idol on Wednesday, was quick to thank God for his victory. His prayers before taking the stage at the Sydney Opera House were in contrast to an industry often linked with the dark, steamy side of life. Even outside the rock world, being a Christian teenager is not the easiest. The 22-year-old is open about the role God plays in his life. A music teacher, Guy Sebastian is a member of Adelaide's popular Paradise Community Church.

Guy has spoken about his decisions not to drink alcohol, take drugs or have sex before marriage. There are a lot of positive peer pressure messages in what he is saying. Those positive messages are one of the great things to come out of his faith. Young people know there's more to life than the acquisition of material things. They are spiritual. They want something to which they can connect. It's not just about the music and the lights and the worship, but feeling something deep in your heart. Guy Sebastian has vowed to be a good role model for young Australians. The 22-year-old said he would stick with his no booze, no drugs, no sex-before-marriage stand despite his new-found stardom. "It just seems like you have to do that to be cool now, and I want to be different. I choose the way I am, and it's very difficult and you get slagged off a lot. I love women like every other bloke does, and rumours start because I haven't lapped it up like some other people. But I know there's probably more people that are glad that I'm not doing that stuff, than there are if I was doing those things." Guy knows that in standing up for Christian values, he faces a spiritual battle. Can Guy overcome every attack and live as a committed Christian? We pray that he does in all his success.

Every soldier depends upon winning territory then holding it against the enemy's onslaught. The spiritual battle likewise has its moments of victory, but it also has ongoing battles when it is necessary to hold ground. Several times Paul was imprisoned, and on at least one occasion he was imprisoned in Rome and guarded by a professional soldier of the Emperor's own Praetorian regiment. He was chained by the wrist as a special prisoner of Caesar to whom he had appealed for justice against the death threats of the Judaisers who had followed his missionary journeys. Under a decree of Augustus, "Lex Julia de vi publica" it was illegal to scourge or imprison a Roman citizen who had the right to appeal to Caesar. "So we came to Rome," he said. For the next two years he would be chained by the wrist to a guard day and night, a new guard every eight hours in his rented apartment.

He was under the personal care of a "stratopedarchos" or camp commandant, but always chained by the wrist to a member of the Palace guard. During this time many Jews visited him to ask about the Messiah. Priscilla, Aquilla, Phoebe, Mark, Silas, Justus, Aristarchus, Ephaphroditus, Demas, Timothy and Titus and many other heard him preach, lecture and explain. They became the backbone of the young Church. Every time he spoke he had a captive unbeliever chained to his wrist. Some of those soldiers believed. Paul wrote of believers "in the Emperor's household." Paul gave these soldiers an object lesson on how to win and hold their ground. They were in the army, living away from home, to fight at the Emperor's command, without control over their lives and often facing death. The soldiers understood as Paul pointed out each piece of their armour, and then applied a spiritual lesson to help them win.

Paul saw in the pieces of armour that protected them and enabled them to win their victories and hold their ground spiritual insights. Paul uses the Greek word panoplea as found in Charles Wesley's hymn: "Stand then in His great might with all His strength endued; And take to arm you for the fight the panoply of God." The word "panoply" is the Greek word for "all over armour". Note his directions for achieving spiritual victory:

1. BUILD UP YOUR STRENGTH. v10

Every spiritual victory and capacity to hold your ground depends upon spiritual strength. God's work is not the place for spiritual weaklings. In a large, sinful and sophisticated city like ours, the spiritual battle is always tough. You have to be spiritually fit and strong. Some of you have lasted in this spiritual battled for decades because of your spiritual strength. Younger converts should learn to "build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power."

2. PUT ON THE ARMOUR OF GOD. v11-17

Paul repeats: "Put on all the armour that God gives you, ..

So put on God's armour now!" It was not Caesar's armour that would protect them and enable them to stand their ground. It must be God's armour. "Put on all the armour that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks." The purpose of God's armour was to ensure victory and the ability to hold their ground in the future: "So put on God's armour now! Then you will be able to resist the enemy's attacks, and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground!" That every Praetorian understood. They were the elite, the toughest, the bravest; they had defeated Caesar's enemies and held their ground.

Now Paul called them into God's army and named off each piece in an object lesson they would never forget.

Note the pieces of the panoply of God for today:

THE BELT OF TRUTH: INTEGRITY. v14 The Roman tunic was held by a wide, metal studded leather belt that protected the hips and loins. From it hung his sword. Paul described it as the "belt of truth". This means character or inner integrity matters. Security starts with inner integrity: none are safe without it. You will be effective both in being a Christian and in abiding within God's protective care, provided the belt of truth surrounds you. Nothing ultimately damages a person of God who has integrity.

THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: CHARACTER. v14 Character counts. Nothing is needed more in your marriage, personal relationships, business dealings, financial affairs, and family conduct than righteousness of character. There can be no failure of ethics or morality. The moulded leather and metal chest protector covered the soldier's vital organs. As the Queen, the Pope and the President wear protective vests, the Christian must be covered by God's righteousness: strong character.

THE BOOTS OF THE GOSPEL: PURPOSE. v15 I have completed studies as a social worker, counsellor, psychologist, teacher, chaplain, administrator, businessman, media presenter, author, politician. But God called me to do none of these fulltime. He called me to one purpose: to march in the boots of the Gospel! Rome dominated the world because her soldiers were the first armies to march quickly across the Empire by the great roads. The soldiers wore "caligals", knee high boots with hobnails underneath, protecting feet, shins and ankles. Christians need a good hold on earth so that "after fighting to the end you will still hold your ground." That must be our strong purpose enabling us to withstand all.

THE SHIELD OF FAITH: TOUGHNESS. v16 Too many Christians today give up too easily. It is difficult to be a Christian in a multicultural world with humanist values. The battle is hard. The pay is low. The enemy is determined. Your allies often frustrate your tactics, hurt your family, and forget your calling. But you have been trained, equipped, prepared do not run from the battle! The Roman shield was 4' high, one inch thick, made of wood covered with leather and metal so that burning arrows tipped in tar could not set them alight. In battle the shields were locked together forming an overlapping impenetrable barrier like scales on a tortoise. Christians need to stand together, with faith protecting them from "all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One."

THE HELMET OF SALVATION: ASSURANCE. v17 Nothing has held me so much over the past forty-five years of ministry than the rock solid assurance of my salvation. I trust the certainty of God. The Roman soldier in Paul's cell wore a brass helmet to protect him. So the Christian is protected by the fact of his salvation. As Martin Luther sang: "And though this world with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still, His Kingdom is forever!"

THE SWORD OF THE LORD: COMMITMENT. v17 Jesus wanted commitment: "No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." Luke 9:62 The Roman sword was short and sharp, used in both offence and defence. So God has given us the Word of God, "sharper than any double edged sword. It cuts all the way through to where soul and spirit meet, where joints and marrow come together. It judges the thoughts and desires of a man's heart." Hebrews 4:12

Every moral, spiritual, personal, and community fight for God and goodness is a tough fight, and you should never give up. "When the evil day comes you will be able to resist the Enemy's attacks, and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground.": truthful integrity, righteous character, purposeful proclamation, tough faith, assured salvation, and commitment to the Word of God. The soldiers of Christ thought of that every time they dressed in the panoply of God!

3. PRAY ON EVERY OCCASION. v18

Prayer was to surround the Christian, and the soldier remembered "put on the Christian armour, each piece put on with prayer" long before we learned to sing it. Prayer was to be the basis of all Christian action. "Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help. Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads. Pray always for all of God's people. And pray also for me. Pray that I may be bold in speaking about the Gospel as I should."

4. KEEP ALERT. v18

Jesus warned the believers to "watch and pray", and Paul stressed the necessity of keeping alert both for attack and defence. "For this reason keep alert." The Christian must be alert for opportunities to work for God.

5. NEVER GIVE UP. v18

"and never give up." Every moral, spiritual, personal, community fight for God and goodness is a tough fight, and you should never give up. "When the evil day comes you will be able to resist the Enemy's attacks, and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground." Persistence counts. Don't quit. Don't ever turn back!

6. SPEAK BOLDLY. v19-20

The reason Paul asked for prayer was that He might continue to speak boldly. Note his emphasis, "pray also for me that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly...pray that I may be bold in speaking about the Gospel as I should." Even in prison, he would speak about Jesus Christ, an ambassador in chains. "For the sake of this Gospel I am an ambassador, though now I am in prison." Today many people feel trapped in poverty and unemployment, facing defeat and despair. The Christian Gospel tells you how to win the greatest battles and how having won you may hold your ground to the end. Your life must demonstrate integrity, righteous character, stable proclamation, protective faith, secure salvation, and the Word of God. That kind of character wins and holds ground. Don't despair. Win and hold your ground! Be unafraid! Speak boldly!

Guy Sebastian, the 'bro with the fro' received the votes of millions of Australians who paid to vote for him as the Australian Idol. He thanked God for his victory. Now he must face the spiritual fight, and hold his ground. We must pray for this young Christian in the eyes of millions of fans. His spiritual battle could inspire a nation if he remains protected by God's armour and holds his spiritual ground. That is the same for each one of us. Every one of us, when we make a stand for Jesus Christ, find ourselves challenged by the forces of evil. We must protect ourselves in God's armour, take the sword of the Lord in hand, win and hold our ground for God and never quit! That is a tough order. We do not wimp out. We have the resources. We must pray for the will to stand as soldiers of Christ.

REFERENCES.

  • Has Guy made God cool again? Vivienne Oakley Daily Telegraph. November 21, 2003
Wesley Mission, Sydney.