TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18
Robert the Bruce was king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. Early in his reign, King Edward I of England invaded his nation, defeated his army, and forced him into hiding. While on the run, Robert the Bruce took refuge in a cave.
Completely disheartened, the Scottish king lay by a fire in the cave, ready to resign himself to complete defeat and the loss of his kingdom. But then, in the flickering firelight, he noticed a spider on the cave wall, spinning a web. The spider repeatedly attempted to secure the web, then failed, attempted again, then failed. Finally, the spider was able to anchor the web, making it strong and secure.
In the persistence of the spider, the Scottish king saw a metaphor of his own struggle against the English invader. He decided he would not allow himself to be defeated by past failures he had to continue the fight for Scottish freedom. Robert the Bruce left his cave, led his troops into battle, and defeated the English invaders at Bannockburn in 1314. He continued to persevere for the next fourteen years until he finally won Scottish independence in 1328.
In times of spiritual warfare, we will often be tempted to metaphorically crawl into a cave and just give up. We will often be discouraged and distressed. We will often feel as though we are too weak to carry on. However, as we learned in the first message in this series, our strength is not in ourselves, but in the Lord. Paul tells us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” We cannot be strong on our own, rather, we are made strong through Jesus Christ and Him alone. In the midst of our spiritual battle, we must learn to lean on God and not on ourselves. When we do that, we can come out of our cave and return to the battle.
In the second message in this series, we focused on the stand of the saints. Paul tells us that we are to “put on the whole armour of God so that we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” When we put on the whole armor of God, we are clothing ourselves in the righteousness of Christ that is afforded to us through salvation. The devil will attack us spiritually, but we can overcome him if we stand against him in Christ’s strength. If we stand in Christ’s strength, clothed in the armor that God has supplied, we will not succumb to the devil’s strategy.
So, God has given us strength, and we are commanded to stand. But what do we need our strength for? And what type of enemy are we to stand against? We are going to answer those questions today as we look at our spiritual enemy.
Paul says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” You cannot fight effectively in a war unless you know who your enemy really is. The devil will try to get you to think that your enemies are physical — people whom you can see and talk to. However, that is only a strategy to keep you sidetracked from the real battle.
The Bible tells us that our enemies are dark spiritual forces. The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible states, “Paul lists four varieties of nonhuman powers, all under the control of the devil, against which believers have their struggles. …this struggle is ultimately not against ‘flesh and blood,’ that is, it is not against other human beings, but rather ‘rulers,’ ‘authorities,’ ‘powers of this dark world,’ and ‘spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’, all of which instigate people to practice evil.”
The Greek word which is translated “wrestle” is only used here in all of the New Testament. Wrestling was a popular sport during the time when Paul was writing Ephesians. Instead of using a more common term for fighting or warfare, Paul uses this term to indicate the closeness of the struggle we face on a daily basis. The implication is that we are engaged in hand-to-hand combat against the enemy. It is a constant, unrelenting struggle. A human opponent might give up after a while, but the devil never gives up. He is always seeking to drag us down and cause us to ruin our testimony for Christ.
The devil will often use people as a means of carrying out his attacks on us. However, if we are aware of this, we will not waste time battling flesh and blood. Rather, we will turn to Christ for strength, and we will focus our offensive weapons of prayer and Scripture on the devil himself.
As followers of Christ, we are engaged in a great spiritual war with unseen evil forces. To overcome the devil, we must stay focused on the enemy, stay confident in God, and determine never to accept defeat.
A story from the Korean war illustrates this attitude. As enemy forces advanced, Baker Company got separated from the rest of their unit. For several hours no word was heard, even though headquarters repeatedly tried to communicate with the missing troops. Finally, a faint signal was received. Straining to hear, the corpsman asked, “Baker Company, do you read me?”
“This is Baker Company,” said the sergeant.
“What is your situation?” asked the man at headquarters.
The sergeant said, “The enemy is to the east of us, the enemy is to the north of us, the enemy is to the west of us, the enemy is to the south of us.” Then after a brief pause, he added, “Well, at least the enemy is not going to get away from us now!”
Although surrounded and outnumbered, he was thinking of victory, not defeat. We ought to have the same attitude as we engage in spiritual warfare. Because we are clothed in the armor that God supplies, we can go forth into spiritual battle confident of victory against our spiritual enemy — the devil.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “Take Me to the King” by Tamela Mann and “I Surrender All” by CeCe Winans