The Devil Doesn’t Stand a Chance!
New Revised Standard Version
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
They waited anxiously watching as the table started to shake. They watched and waited as the indicator kept increasing – 7, 8, 9, 10. Would their building survive? Then 11, the top number, and it still stood! Their Lego building was still in one piece, it hadn’t fallen apart into a million little pieces.
I don’t know if you’ve ever built with Lego, but it’s amazing what can be built with one little block. The event I just described was from an episode of Lego Masters in which the contestants had to build a structure at least 4 feet high that would withstand a high level of shaking. A few of them built buildings that were strong enough to make it to the top number of 11.
The secret to building large structures out of Lego is their inner core. The foundation and interior are carefully constructed, one brick or piece at a time, to support the weight of the finished product.
Did you know there is a new Legoland in New York? I was able to visit there this past week. It is an amazing place. One of the things that stood out for me was Yankee Stadium built entirely of Lego. This Yankee Stadium was made of 168,000 Lego bricks and weighed 795 lbs. It wasn’t going anywhere! It was also strong enough to withstand whatever may come against it. You can build something that strong with Lego.
You can have that kind of strength in life. Consider the values that are prevalent in society. One I think is held highly is flexibility. Go with the flow. Don’t be a stick in the mud. Fit in with the crowd. Don’t rock the boat. Be part of what everyone else is doing. Conform. Don’t stand out.
Society also values strength. Often it is physical strength – work out regularly at the gym to build large muscles or healthy bodies.
We also value internal strength – integrity and the inner qualities that make us who we are. This value is what Paul addresses here in Ephesians. He says to hold on to your convictions. Stand firm. Don’t be drawn away by the things of this world. Even in the difficult times when your popularity fades or people are throwing criticisms at you left and right. Stand firm.
Stand firm, but not as a lone individual holding on for dear life which is often how we feel like we should stand firm. To try to figure out how to fix the problem on our own. We aren’t meant to stand on our own. Paul says that standing firm is all about who you are, who you are in Christ. Standing firm in this context is rooted in our common faith – what we believe and how we hold on to our beliefs. He says that we are all in this together. We can stand in unity against the evils of this world. We stand together rooted in the love, the reconciliation, the peace, and the righteousness that comes from the Lord, our God.
Be strong, Paul says. A better translation: be strengthened in the Lord. Know that our strength comes from God. It isn’t something we draw from ourselves alone.
The cool thing is that God prepares us. God gives us tactical gear so that when we are attacked by the devil and the evil in the world, we have all we need to stand up against it. We are given a belt to help us speak the truth in love as part of our own growth in Christ as well as to use to tell others who Christ is and how he can give them strength. A breastplate that reminds us that we have a new self that was created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
God gives us a shield and a helmet to remind us that we have been saved by grace through faith. And that it is through God’s action and gift that we have received that grace – not something we have earned on our own. Shoes that represent the peace that resides within us. A peace that God has given us. A peace that drives us to be people of reconciliation, seeking to build relationships with others rather than separate one from another.
We have a sword. A sword to remind us that God’s word dwells within us – the word that is to be the basis for all our choices and actions. God’s word stands strong even when we can’t.
The gear reminds us that strength we have is God-given. This inner strength holds us up in all times and in all places and through all situations. This strength supports the tactical gear that God gives us to wear. Even if we didn’t have the gear, the strength of the Lord remains. Even when we feel that we are out there all alone without the gear to protect us, the strength of the Lord remains.
This is the key, the key to living the Christian life. To be strengthened in the Lord. To develop a life-long habit of trust. A trust that is nurtured together within the community of faith. The place where we learn what it means to have real life and to be loved. A place to develop the strength God provides so we can stand firm in the face of attacks by the enemy – the devil and his evil forces. The foundation inside of us is like the Lego Yankee Stadium in Legoland that, built from a core of blocks inside that supports the entire structure against wind or rain or snow.
The purpose of the gear that Paul tells us we should put on with God’s help is to help us stand firm against the external attacks that seek to destroy us. We don’t go to the shelves holding the various types of tactical gear to choose what we want to wear on a particular day – pull of the shelf the belt, a pair of boots, night goggles or whatever we think we will need. No, the gear we wear is chosen by God, put on us by God.
What is important for us to remember is that we aren’t given the gear to attack the enemy but to stand firm against the evil attacks. We are meant to be on the defensive in a positive way. Not running away but being prepared. Like taking a defensive driving class so you learn to watch what is going on around you and anticipate the dangers that could arise to that you know how to react.
Being on the defense doesn’t mean standing still with your arms at your side asking someone to throw rocks at you to see if you survive. Rather being on the defense means using your gear, your armor, to block what is thrown at you and to take action to protect yourself and those you love. To push away evil, the devil, that seeks to pull us away from God, the one who loves us and cares about us.
The reality that we don’t often want to admit is that evil is real. Demonic forces are at work in our world. We would rather write off the perceived evil by labeling problems and people. In self-righteousness we dehumanize those we find on opposite ends of the political, social, and religious spectrum. We may think that those who don’t agree with what we think is right are evil people.
The common characterization of the devil – the guy in the red suit with a forked tail holding a pitchfork – is meant to distract us from the reality of the presence of evil, the presence of the devil in our world. The evil that seeks to draw us away from who we are in Christ. That devil uses subversive tactics making things look good and attractive when they aren’t. We don’t find that out until we get in the middle of what we think is a good thing, which is why we need God to help us stand firm. We need God to give us God’s eyes to see that evil at work in the people and in the world around us so that we can turn away from the deceptively positive things we might like to get involved in.
Often evil looks good. Cultural common sense is one that often fits the bill – we ought to get involved in an activity, an issue, or with a person because everyone else is and we don’t want to seem judgmental or won’t fit in with the crowd.
Compromising in the name of being reasonable is another example. Take a few steps in the direction another wants to go so we can get along even if the other’s choice goes against what we believe. In the name of building bridges, we move forward towards the other.
An unacknowledged personal benefit from an unjust system is another example. I knew a man once who I’ll call John who was in senior management in a large corporation. One day he was called into the CEO’s office. The CEO asked him to do one small thing to change the reported production numbers to reduce the taxable income that is reported to the IRS. Just a little thing. Maybe a delay in reporting product sales to the next quarter or next year or underreporting just a tad to help our bottom line.
John thought about it, but not for very long. Instead of doing what the CEO asked, a small thing that would allow him to maintain his high-level position and large salary, he resigned and walked out of the room.
Doing what John did or something along those lines is very difficult. The evil in our world came make such a choice look so good, so attractive. The devil tells us it is a small thing that won’t hurt anybody. In such a big corporation, who would know the difference. The IRS is a big government agency that won’t pay attention to a small detail like that. Doing this one little thing might give you a promotion or a big raise.
Choose the way of the evil one and you might become a member of the in group and have all the best friends in your circle. This could be a better option for you. Wear those rose-colored glasses and the world will look like a better place.
We have been enlisted to do God’s work. And the church is already a sign and promise of what God is doing and will do for the world and for us through Jesus Christ. We can respond boldly only because God has already won the war against evil and set us free. We are not fighting a battle that that can be lost. It has already been won through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We have already been given all we need to stand strong against the losing efforts of anything that is evil. Against anything that opposes God’s peace. We don’t have to figure out how to stand against evil. We don’t have to go out and strike down enemies to create peace. God has already done the work for us.
God has already given us the inner strength and the tools to stand firm against the devil and his subversive tactics. To stand firm and recognize that it is God’s strength that holds everything together to be God’s strong people in the world.