Living the Christian life is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt to do. Of course, this is only true if you really attempt to live as a Christian. Far too many Christians think that it is enough to slap a fish bumper sticker on their car, wear Christian t-shirts, and attend a weekly worship service at the church building on the corner.
Truly living the Christian life does not consist of such things, and those who live the Christian life in such insignificant ways will face little resistance or trouble.
But the Christian who truly steps out to follow Jesus into the dark and hellish places of earth will experience great difficulties, trials, and roadblocks in life. Such Christians will be called to love those they would rather hate, to forgive those who deserve nothing but death, to be patient with those who are rude and condescending, and to serve those who are the least enjoyable to be around.
They will face great temptations in their personal life, will struggle with their marriage and with raising their children in their home life, and they will be challenged in their honesty and integrity at their work life. It is easy to sail through the Christian life if you are not actually living it, but there is nothing more difficult than truly attempting to follow Jesus wherever He leads.
Sometimes we are tempted to think it should be the opposite. Should not Jesus make our paths straight and our roads smooth if we are truly seeking to follow Him? Should not Jesus overcome the obstacles, quickly answer the prayers, and swiftly meet the needs of those who are seeking to serve Him best? One would think so, but the Christian life does not actually work that way.
Have you ever wondered why?
The answer is spiritual warfare.
Due to spiritual warfare, Christian families, marriages, and children are under attack. The church is under attack. Even the Bible is under attack.
It is spiritual warfare when an unexpected bill arrives in the mail right after you decide to give more of your money to help the poor and homeless.
It is spiritual warfare when you have a difficult time at work on the day you were going to take your wife out on a date.
It is spiritual warfare when your kids misbehave one hour before family game night.
It is spiritual warfare when we receive a critically important email five minutes before we were going to read the Bible.
Therefore, since Christians who seek to follow Jesus into this world will face the resistance and struggles of spiritual warfare, it is imperative for Christians to know what is involved in spiritual warfare and how we can prepare ourselves to stand in the midst of this struggle.
We must train ourselves to be strong and powerful soldiers of Jesus Christ in this ongoing battle. Ephesians 6:10-20 is the best passage from Scripture to provide such training.
The Battle Cry of Ephesians 6:10
The text begins with a rallying cry or a call to arms. When an army sees their foe across the battlefield, they often shout a battle cry to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline rushing.
When Gideon led his 300 men to face the Midianites, they surrounded the camp and then, all at once, broke the pots which hid their torches, blew a blast from their trumpets, and then shouted the rallying cry of “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (Judg 7:20).
Ephesians 6:10 contains the battle cry for spiritual warfare. Paul wants to spur us on toward victory, and so he says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
It would not be wrong to put an explanation point after this opening statement.
Now, although this is a battle cry for all Christian soldiers, it’s not just something to get the blood pumping. It is full of richness and depth of meaning.
This battle cry is not just meant to spur us on in the heat of battle, but also to prepare us for the battle.
Ephesians 6:10 is a battle cry to prepare us for battle and power up for battle.
Prepare for Battle (Ephesians 6:10a)
The opening words of Ephesians 6:10 are a call to prepare for battle.
Paul begins by directing these instructions to his brethren. It seems like a small, insignificant word in the context of this passage, but it is not. The concept of “brothers” is essential in any warfare context.
By using the term here, Paul is associating himself with those to whom he writes. He is saying, “I am not your general ordering you around in this war. Rather, we are a band of brothers in this battle. We are fellow soldiers in this war. We fight side by side. We watch each other’s backs. We protect each other and defend each other. We go to the wall with each other.”
This is essential to understand and even more important to practice. When you see another brother or sister in Christ who is facing problems, you need to come alongside them and help them. See what you can do to serve and support them.
In any battle, the heroic soldiers are those who stay and help the wounded get off the battlefield. Yes, some heroes are made by charging without fear into a barrage of bullets, but the real heroes are those who rescue and deliver the hurt and wounded from the field of battle.
The movie “Hacksaw Ridge” is a true story about Private Desmond Doss. He was drafted into the army for World War II, but since he was a pacifist, he refused to carry a gun or shoot others. However, he wanted to serve his country and do his part. He ended up earning the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving 75 fellow soldiers in the Battle of Okinawa, all without firing a single shot.
As Christians, we are in this battle together, which means we must help those around us who get injured and damaged in the fight. We must come around them and give them the encouragement and support that they need. We must protect and provide them. We must carry out our wounded and tend to the injured.
Furthermore, the concept of “brothers” reminds us that we are not fighting this war alone. We are not The Lone Ranger in this battle. We are not a one-man fighting machine like Rambo.
Instead, we are facing the enemy with friends and brothers on all sides of us. That is what Paul means by using those encouraging words, my brethren.
Now, having stated that he is giving his final instructions for this battle, and having shown that we are not going to face the battle alone, Paul gives the battle cry. And the battle cry is all about the strength and power we have in Jesus Christ.
Power Up for Battle (Ephesians 6:10b)
Many people are afraid of facing the forces of darkness in spiritual battle because they think they are not strong enough. They worry that they do not have enough power.
And guess what? They are right. You are not strong enough. You do not have enough power to face the forces arrayed against you. It is foolish to think otherwise.
But thankfully, you do not have to depend and rely upon your own strength and power in this fight. With his battle cry in the second half of Ephesians 6:10, Paul shouts, “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!”
In Ephesians 4–6, Paul instructs Christians to perform certain duties and responsibilities. But he only did this after revealing the riches and blessings that we have in Jesus Christ which will help us do what He asks. God does not ask us to do anything without first providing us with the resources we need to do it.
This is why, at the very beginning of this section on spiritual warfare, before Paul tells us what to do in this battle, Paul points out that God has provided to us the strength and power we need to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy. The power we need for spiritual battle is not ours, but God’s. The strength and resources of God are at our disposal for the battle before us.
This theme of power and strength from God was also mentioned near the beginning of the previous two sections in Ephesians. At the beginning of Ephesians 1–3 which deal with our riches in Christ, Paul writes that the exceeding greatness of God’s power has been given to us who believe (1:19). Near the beginning of Ephesians 4–6, which lay out our responsibilities as Christians, Paul writes again about our power (3:7) and prays that those to whom he writes will know and experience the great power of the Spirit in their lives (3:20).
Paul was not the only Biblical author to speak of such power. Almost every New Testament book speaks about the power that Christians have been given through the Holy Spirit living in their lives. Since this is so … since every Christian has this infinite supply of power available to us, why do so many Christians live in such a defeated state? Why do so many Christians appear to be so powerless? Why is it that we don’t feel it, or experience it, or see its effects in our lives? If we have all this power, why do so few of us seem to see any evidence of it in our lives?
The reason is that although we are plugged into the power of God, there are things in our life that restrict its flow. Picture your life as a spiritual fuse box.
No matter how much power is available, the fuse box only lets a certain amount of power through. If too much power tries to get through, or if there is a power surge, the fuses break.
This is how it is in our lives. We have an infinite source of power available to us in God, but our lives are cold and full of darkness because we have a tiny little ten amp fuse in the middle. No matter how much power you pump into that fuse box, only ten amps are going to get through. If you try to draw too much power, the fuse blows, and you end up with no power getting through.
But thankfully, you can get a bigger fuse. You can get a bigger circuit breaker. You can draw more power. This is what Paul is talking about in this battle cry when he says be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. So how do we get a bigger fuse? How do we allow more of God’s power to flow into our lives?
The answer to this question is to remember that we are soldiers of Jesus Christ in a battle for God’s creation. And just as any soldier in any war can gain strength, so also, we can gain strength in this war.
How? Through training and exercise.
If you have believed in Jesus for eternal life, you are plugged in to the infinite power of God, but until you go through Christian boot camp to learn the skills necessary to fight in Christian warfare, and develop the discipline and strength necessary to stand your ground against the enemy, you will never be able to access more than a tiny trickle of the power that God wants you to use. Until you go through this training, you will never be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
When Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesians, he was familiar with the solders of the Roman military. The Roman soldiers had extremely rigorous training. About 1700 years ago, as the Roman Empire began to lose strength and influence, a man named Vegitius believed that the waning power of the Roman Empire was due to the waning power of the Roman Military. So he wrote a book titled The Military Institutes of the Romans in which he sought to return the Roman military to their former glory and strength by reminding them about how the soldiers used to train for war. He wrote:
Victory in war does not depend entirely upon numbers or mere courage; only skill and discipline will insure it. We find that the Romans owed … the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observation of discipline in their camps and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war.
What sort of training and discipline and cultivation?
After taking their oath of service, they were branded or marked with the letters SPQR, which was a Latin acronym showing that the soldier belonged to the “Senate and People of Rome.”
If you saw the movie “Gladiator” you remember that Maximus, played by Russel Crowe, has the letters SPQR branded onto his shoulder, and later tried to scrape this brand off so that nobody knew he had been a Roman solider. It was the mark of the Roman military. Remember that as Christians, we have been sealed with a mark of ownership as well (Eph 1:13).
Upon receiving this seal of ownership, the soldiers began their training. Strenuous exercises helped the Romans be more disciplined, physically fit, and healthy than any other army of their time.
They trained in any weather, and their training consisted of three categories—physical, weapons, and field service. The most important of the three was the physical training. What good is knowing how to use a weapon, if you quickly became tired when using it? The physical training consisted mainly of marching. You think, “Marching? That’s not very physical.” Well, their marching was slightly slower than running.
Their first goal—while wearing 66 pounds of armor—was to march 20 miles in 5 hours. When they were able to do this without great difficulty, they increased their march to 24 miles in 5 hours. You begin to realize how astounding this is when you learn that the average finishing time for Marathon runners is 4.5 hours. And a Marathon is 26.2 miles. But these Roman soldiers sought to run 24 miles in 5 hours while wearing 66 pounds of armor. It sounds nearly impossible, but that was their goal.
Other forms of physical training included the long jump and the high jump, running, carrying heavy packs, swimming, and vaulting onto a horse. All of this (except for the swimming) was also performed in full armor.
The weapons training consisted of teaching them how to use swords, shields, and javelins. Sometimes they would have mock battles to help in their training. The field service training was created to help familiarize the soldier with the battlefield conditions.
First, they would perform a military march in full armor and with 17 days’ worth of food in backpacks. These marches were often performed in perfect military formation. At the end of the march, they set up camp. Each soldier dug a ditch of specified width and depth, and then built a small stone wall around it.
Another aspect of the soldier’s training involved his diet. Special attention was paid to the diet in order to keep the soldiers healthy and active. I won’t get into what a healthy diet looked like for them, for it hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. The soldiers were also trained in the areas of sanitation and personal hygiene. Again, much of what they practiced sounds surprisingly modern.
Now, at the end of all this training and exercise, imagine the sort of might and strength that resided within the average Roman soldier. And then when you put them all together as a single fighting force, as a band of brothers, there was no greater military force on earth at that time.
The soldiers might have joined the military as overweight and undisciplined weaklings, but by the end of their training, they had gained great strength, power, and might.
Imagine for a moment what would have happened to the Roman army—or any army for that matter—if it had neglected this training and discipline. Imagine that the Roman soldiers joined the army, received their SPQR brand, and then were allowed to just sit around, drink, sleep, play games, and do whatever they wanted. Imagine the commanding officer telling these new recruits, “Welcome to the military! You’ve got your brand, so you’re good to go. We’ll call you when the battle starts.”
If that was how the Roman military had trained, there never would have been any such thing as the Roman Empire. Such soldiers would all get killed in their very first battle. They would be decimated.
Yet, far too often, this is exactly how Christian train for spiritual battle. People believe in Jesus for eternal life, they receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, and then we thank them for joining our group, and tell them they can just sit around and relax until they are called up for battle.
No discipline is needed. No training. No exercise.
Then we wonder why so few Christian have any power in their life. We wonder why so many Christians are decimated by sin and temptation.
We shouldn’t wonder at such failures. We should instead take these new soldiers of Jesus Christ, and train them. We must show them how to become spiritually fit. Show them how to use their weapons. Show them how to defend themselves. Show them what a spiritual battle looks and feels like. Show them what good spiritual food tastes like. Show them how to remain spiritually healthy.
Every Christian solider will be a weakling until they endure this rigorous training. Without proper preparation and discipline, every Christian solider will be useless in spiritual warfare. As Paul says, we must become strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
This is not physical strength Paul has in mind, but spiritual. He wants us to exercise and work out spiritually. But just as with physical body building, spiritual strength training does not happen naturally. You do not become physically strong by sitting in a couch watching TV, and you do not become spiritually strong by sitting in a pew watching a Bible teacher. You will only become strong by getting up and engaging in strenuous spiritual activity.
And what does this look like? How can you work out spiritually? Paul will go into more detail on this in the following verses, especially when he begins to lay out the pieces of spiritual armor that God has provided to us.
By knowing what this spiritual armor is, and how to wear it, we will be gaining the strength, power, and might of God in Jesus Christ. So wearing the spiritual armor is one key to gaining spiritual strength, and later chapters of this book will go into great detail about the armor.
But putting on the armor is not the same thing as exercising with it on. Remember, the Roman soldiers exercised and marched while wearing their armor. So how can we exercise as Christians? How can we work out?
Paul has already explain how throughout his letter to the Ephesians. We must know what we have been given as Christians, and then we must use these gifts from God to love and serve others. Each of us has responsibilities from God, and as we discover what tasks and assignments God has given to each of us, we must start practicing them.
Just as in the Roman military, not every soldier was an expert swordsman, and not every soldier was a perfect shot with a bow. In fact, some soldiers might have been better at cooking or logistics, and so might not have seen much combat at all. But all the parts work together as a whole when each part performs the task it has been assigned.
Each Christians has been given special responsibilities and assignments by Jesus. As each person learns to fulfill the assignments they have been given by Jesus, the whole body works together as each part does it share, for the benefit and blessing of us all (Eph 4:11-16).
If you are a teacher, teach! If you are a servant, serve! If you are a leader, lead! If you are a giver, give! As you practice and train with the skills and gifts you have been given, you will be working out and exercising as a soldier of Jesus Christ, becoming an effective soldier in His army.
Do you want to learn about spiritual warfare and how to put on the full armor of God? If you want to defeat sin and gain victory in your life over temptation so you can better follow Jesus, take my course on the Armor of God as it is explained in Ephesians 6:10-20.This course costs $297, but when you join the Discipleship group, you can to take the entire course for free.