“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:10-13).
For a Christian life is a battle. No one who is desirous of doing the Lord’s will, can go through life without meeting opposition. The powers which still rule in and about the earth are enemies of God’s people. The Bible admonishes us to fight the good fight so that we may stand after having emerged victorious over all opposition. “He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Rev. 3:5).
It is possible that at times the Christian life has been pictured as being nothing else than toil and tears. But we should also remember those other times when all strife has been forgotten and there has been only joy, rest, and thanksgiving. It is so easy to go from one extreme to another; it is much more difficult to be normal and keep to the way that is true and sound.
If we would read the Bible and Church history with an honest mind we would see that it is impossible for a Christian to get through this world without conflict; least of all would it be possible for those who are the best Christians.
No one will reach that sweet haven of rest Who earnestly presses not in. He who will fight for the faith that at last Will bring him to heaven shall win.
It is perhaps altogether too true that not all Christians are equally victorious in their battles. Many suffer crushing defeats; others “withstand on the evil day” and go forward in the power of God. He who suffers defeat is not privileged to taste the joys of victory. He walks about as David did when he fled from his own son. It is quite different with him who wins in the battle. He discovers some of the greatest treasures a Christian can find here below. When a soldier returns home with victory he is happy even if he still has many painful wounds from the battle. It is the same with the victorious Christian.
In I Samuel 14 we have the story of Jonathan who, together with his armor bearer, went against the enemy. By the help of God they defeated the enemy, but the battle was both long and hard. In the course of the battle they passed through a forest where there was honey both upon the ground and in the honeycomb. Jonathan put forth his rod into the honeycomb and tasted of the honey, and it is written that “his eyes were enlightened.”
Many a Christian warrior has found life’s sweetest honey in the midst of battle; he has been given a clearer vision, a new fire in the heart and a new power in his life. I dare say that if you want a Christian full of fresh vigor and with an unimpaired spiritual vision, search among those who have been in battle and have returned with victory. They have tasted the honey of life and their eyes have been enlightened.
The greatest joy and purest gratitude is found in the heart of a Christian who has been in battle and has won the victory. It is not in times of peace that a Christian comes closest to his God, but in the victorious battle. If this were clear to all of us, many problems would be solved, many tears wiped away, and many a discouraged soldier of the Cross would wield his sword with greater vigor.
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The battle is not against flesh and blood. It is not a war among people as we usually think of war, such as Frenchman against German, Bulgarian against Serbian, or Chinese against Japanese. It is a spiritual warfare. No cannon is seen or heard; no sabre glitters in the sunshine, and no bayonet is used against the enemy. But it is war nevertheless; anyone who is anxious to save his soul will soon discover that.
The hosts of wickedness arrayed against the Christian can possibly be divided into two groups. The one group is described in our text as principalities, powers, and world rulers of this darkness. This must be those people who live outside of fellowship with God.
It is still true that in most places on this earth true Christianity has not penetrated very far into the life of the people. Those who rule are usually worldly people. They have the power in this age, and it is likely that we shall have no change until Christ returns. Only rarely do they rule in harmony with God’s Word and Spirit. The spirit of the world is like a boa constrictor that is ready to crush its victim; Christians meet it on every hand. As long as there is a spark of spiritual life in your and my heart we shall have to battle against this evil spirit; if we do not, our Christianity will soon be a thing of the past.
The Christian needs to be clad in the full armor of God at all times; his battlefield is in the worldly home, the worldly business places, in worldly society, in town hall or the halls of Congress. Briefly, a Christian must be prepared for war wherever he is. He who thinks himself spiritually secure will soon discover that the world is a strong and dangerous enemy of everything that is from God.
Christians of a generation or two ago were very much afraid of keeping too much company with worldly people; possibly they went too far in that direction. They forgot that it was not human beings they were to turn away from, but the spirit which dominates in the world. It may be that we have gone to the opposite extreme; Christians today do not think of the world as being particularly worldly. Christianity has been made to fit into the scheme of things in the world. Christians of the present day are not afraid of being associated with worldly people in business or politics. When worldly people are reasonable in their attitudes, as they frequently are, it is so easy for the Christian to lay the sword aside. But then he does not have to go much further before he is a friend of the world and an enemy of God.
The friendship of the world is enmity with God.
It appears so innocent to be friendly with the world; it looks so refined too. But it is not long before the friendship of the world is found to be more delectable than the company of Christians. When that happens we are on slippery ice; only God’s grace can keep us from falling. As a fly is caught and loses its life in a web of exceedingly fine threads woven by the spider, so have many Christians been caught in the web of worldliness and have lost their lives. They died quietly, yet so surely. They forgot that they were at war; this was the tragedy that spelled their doom.
Here — precisely here — many present day Christians are in great danger; many have already been deceived, perhaps even without knowing it. While they are boasting of having progressed far beyond the gloomy spirituality of the pietists they have landed in a veritable black death; they have pinned a Christian badge on the lapel of a worldly spirit. They still want to be known as Christians. This humbug is frequently paraded as Christianity that has been liberated from ignorance and superstition; it is Christianity that has grown to maturity.
“Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”
To resist with all might On every hand Is both proper and right For him who will stand. But it takes more than this a wreath to win,
Persistency alone will conquer sin.
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The other enemy with which the Christian must reckon is the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The enemy is not only here on earth and visible to us; he is about us in the air, invisible.
In Daniel 10 we are told that Daniel was in mourning for three whole weeks. From other expressions in the book we are led to understand that he prayed a good deal during this time. There was a special burden upon his heart concerning which he had to speak with the Lord; verses 12 and 13 leads us to believe that. There it is written: “Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thy heart to understand, and to humble thyself before thy God, thy words were heard: and I am come for thy words’ sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.”
Daniel’s prayer was heard in heaven from the first day that he called upon the Lord, but it took twenty-one days for the answer to reach him; the powers of the air prevented the messenger from getting through to Daniel. We are told that this power was the prince of Persia. If help was to reach Daniel, God’s messenger had to be given assistance in breaking through the spiritual hosts that opposed him. So Michael, one of the chief princes — the guardian of Israel, was sent to assist the messenger so that he could reach Daniel. After this the messenger was to have a new encounter with the prince of Persia, and was also to meet the prince of Greece; again he was to be assisted by Michael.
If we turn to the Book of Revelation we shall find that the same powers are fighting each other. “And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.” (Rev. 12:7-9).
These remarkable powers in the air seem to have two methods of carrying out their warfare. The first is to prevent help from God to reach us. It is a kind of spiritual blockade that is applied against the Christians in order to starve them into submission. The other method is one of direct attack.
Daniel and John show us this battle as it is fought between the hosts of God on the one side and the hosts of wickedness in the air on the other. Paul shows us these same evil powers at war against God’s people.
Such clear passages should convince us that the doctrine concerning the evil powers which oppose God’s people is not empty talk. Furthermore, we ought to remember that Satan is not only fighting against individual Christians, nor even against the whole Christian Church; he is seeking to conquer the nations and to make them subservient to himself. It is Satan himself who is chief of the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the air.
Few, if any, of us have a clear conception of what power these spirits of wickedness have to deceive Christians and to bring disaster to nations. If we could understand this a bit more clearly, and could gain a greater insight into the methods of work of these spirits, we should be able to know the reason for much of the evil that we see in the world. We should then discover that the origin of world wars lies more with Satan than with kings and dictators.
The same Satan who sought to control Persia and Greece in days of old has not forgotten the world in the twentieth century.
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Our great comfort and hope for the future is that this evil power shall one day be broken. Satan shall not only fall from heaven; he is to fall out of every man’s heart and out of the world; he is to go down into the bottomless pit, down into the lake that bums with fire and brimstone, down into the place prepared for the devil and his angels. There he shall be imprisoned through all eternity. This comfort gives every Christian courage to continue the battle.
Victory over Satan is as certain and glorious as the battle is fierce. When the victor’s crown shall have been placed upon our heads by the Savior Himself, and we shall have become like our Lord, no one will be sorry that he has had a part in this battle. It will be a great day when the last notes from the trumpets of war shall have died down, and we may go through the portals into the city of rest and gladness. If the battle has been hard, so much more glorious shall the victory be; peace and life shall rule in God’s eternal Kingdom.
And angels shall stand on that heavenly strand, To welcome the victors to heaven’s bright land.
The hosts of God have also had a part in this battle; therefore they shall also blend their voices in the victor’s song. What a jubilant song that will be!
Onward then ye people, Join our happy throng, Blend with ours your voices In the triumph song; Glory, laud, and honor Unto Christ the King; This through countless ages Men and angels sing.
We shall try in later chapters to find what the Word of God has to say of the armor that He has provided for us. This is the armor that we must wear if we are to be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane, But the Church of Jesus Constant will remain; Gates of hell can never ‘Gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ’s own promise, And that cannot fail.