Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)
I can’t read those words from Ephesians 6 without recalling these words that I read for the first time more than a decade ago. In Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper wrote on the reality of spiritual warfare (I know it’s long, but it’s also really good):
“Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of frontline forces and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus, prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.”John Piper
There is a battle going on in the life of the church, but as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6, it isn’t a battle where we are fighting against one another. It’s a battle where we are fighting for one another. It isn’t even a battle that pits us against those around us in our lives who seem most hostile to the church and the gospel. The battle Paul writes about is one against spiritual forces of darkness, and the nature of the enemy determines the armor required. This battle requires the armor of God–truth, righteousness, readiness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God. That armor–Paul tells us–is wielded when we are “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” So how do we stand firm against the schemes of the devil? First, we accept that there is an enemy seeking to kill, steal, and destroy. Second, we pray to the God who is eager to provide us with every piece of protection, every power, every grace that we need to stand. Third, by God’s grace, we stand.