Stand & Withstand

1st of 8 messages delivered at the ERCS Family Camp, 19-22 Jun 2006

Part 2 of 2

[In the first part of this message, we saw that we have all been enrolled as soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ and have been thrust into the War of Ages. We shall have to fight many battles in this war. The apostle Paul reminds us firstly, that we need to be courageous to fight this battle; ‘Be strong in the Lord’ he says. Secondly, he reminds us that the battle will be very intense, and so we will need the strength and equipment that only the Lord our King can supply: "be strong… in the power of his might" says Paul. We are continuing on the third point in this second instalment of the message.]

3. It is a Spiritual War

12 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.

The Roman soldiers battled against flesh and blood. They saw their enemies. They saw them coming. They knew precisely what the enemies were doing when they attacked and how many enemies they killed.

They had a far easier job than we. We do not see our enemy. We do not hear them. They can sneak up against us without our knowing. We may not even know when they launch an offensive until the damage is done.

But the battle is for real. The enemy soldiers comprise of spiritual beings for right at the heart of Satan’s strategy and machinations are demons and spiritual forces. And although Satan is called the Lord of the flies—Baalzebub, we must not imagine that they are disorganised like flies or mosquitoes. No, no; they have a definite structure. They are organised. They too have a plan of attack.

Paul speaks of principalities and powers and rulers. I do not think he is detailing the structure of the demonic army as we may speak about division, brigade, company, platoon and section. But he is telling us that the army of the devil is structured and determined to fight against the army of Christ.

And they are wicked; they are opposed to anything righteous. They are rulers of darkness; one of their aims is to darken the understanding of those they capture.

Beloved brethren and children, let us not be ignorant of this army that is encamped against us. They are like the Al Qaeda, a terrorist army.

But they do not plant bombs or fly aeroplanes into buildings. They do worse. They make those who plant bombs and fly aeroplanes into buildings think that they are doing a good deed; and they make others think the same way.

Also, they seek to prevent anyone from joining the army of Christ. They seek to make those outside taunt Christ and they seek to make the soldiers of Christ bring dishonour to Him. Oh beloved brethren and children, do not fall under the devices of this spiritual Al Qaeda! Be aware of its existence. Be prepared to fight it.

But how do we fight the battle? What strategy should we use?

Paul reminds us that…

4. We must be Good Defenders

Paul says, "be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

That is to say: We must first fight a defensive war.

We are not fighting a war that is between two equal parties. No, no; Christ has already conquered. The territories that we must battle for do not belong to Satan, but to Christ. We belong to Christ, and therefore we must defend ourselves against the attacks of the evil one.

Now, as we shall see later, in this defensive battle there will be offensive elements (just as the Coalition forces in Iraq or Afghanistan have to launch offensive strikes, though they have won the war and are fighting a defensive war).

Our offensive will be through the use of the Sword of the Spirit in the preaching and witness of the Gospel and in the Reformation of the Church. Christians are not called to attack Satan or his army directly in any other way. There are some charismatic groups who think that they have the authority to rebuke the devil and his demons, whereas both the apostle Peter and Jude condemns those who in their pride "despise dominion and speak evil of dignities" (Jude 8), "Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord" (2 Pet 2:11).

No; no, we are not called to attack Satan or his army directly whether verbally or otherwise. Christ our King has already conquered. He conquered at the Cross of Calvary. We are more than conquerors in Him. What remains as our main duty in the war is to stand our ground. We must defend the territory Christ has conquered.

Satan will want to regain lost territory. Paul speaks about the ‘wiles of the devil.’ The word translated ‘wiles’ come from the Greek word methodeia from which we get the English word ‘method.’ Satan has his cunning and deceitful method of trying to regain lost ground. He will resort to trickery and temptation.

We must be aware of his methods. We must take heed lest we fall. We must be watchful. We must be sober and vigilant, for as Peter reminds us, our adversary the devil is prowling about like a roaring lion waiting to devour whom he may (1 Pet 5:8).

You know how lions hunt don’t you? They do not run after their prey like cheetahs. They wait. They wait for their prey to be inattentive or they wait for the water hole to dry up so that it becomes a mud trap to their prey. They wait for their prey to be trapped in the mud hole! They wait quite patiently. Sometimes they even wait for days and weeks.

This is how our enemy operates too. He is waiting for his opportunity to attack us. He is waiting for us to drop our guard or to become entangled in some cares of the world.

Therefore beloved brethren, let us ever be vigilant. Let us bear in mind that the war of ages will affect every aspect of our lives. Do not allow, for example, the demands of work, or of the education system to trap you or to rob you of your spiritual alertness.

I am quite convinced, for example, that the public education system in Singapore can become a mud hole in which we may get trapped and become easy prey for the Wicked One. Let us open our eyes and be alert.

But not just that, disagreements and dissentions within the church can also become mud holes. If disagreements within the church are not handled properly, the water of grace dries up and the members of the church that venture into the disagreements get trapped in the mud hole and become easy pray for the Wicked One.

If we let our guard down, Satan will surely attack us. He will rob us of the spiritual blessings that God has given us (Eph 1:3). He will make us doubt and make us joyless. He will make us bring dishonour and shame to the name of our Lord.

We must therefore stand our ground!

But in order to do so, we must put on the whole armour of God!

5. We must put on the
Armour of God

Now the words ‘whole armour’ translate from a single Greek word, panopliva, from which we get the English word, panoply. In the army, we have what is know as SBO—skeleton battle order; and FBO—full battle order. When we put on the SBO—we do not carry all the equipment that we need. We can only go for short-term missions. But when we put on the FBO with all the ammunition that we need, we can go on for days.

Paul, as it were, wants us to put on the full battle order. He wants us to put on every piece of equipment that we need for the battle. We must not miss out any piece.

Now, we will look at the individual parts of the armour in the course of this series of messages. But for now, let us understand what it means to put on the armour of God.

Well, in the first place, let us understand that Paul is not telling us to go through a ritual of putting the armour on piece by piece. I know a friend who was in the Charismatic church who was taught to do so literally. So every morning, he would very religiously do it as an exercise. He would put on the spiritual helmet, the spiritual breastplate, the spiritual belt etc., etc. I do not think that Paul means for us to do that at all.

What then is it to put on the whole armour of God? I believe Paul is referring to (1) obtaining, (2) using, and (3) cultivating the Christian graces that are available to us for repelling the temptations and strategies of Satan.

(1) How to obtain these graces? Well, in the first place, as soon as we enrol into the army of Christ, Christ our Captain and King has the entire panoply prepared for us. That is to say: To make sure that we have the equipment we need for the warfare, we must make sure that we are personally enrolled in the army. The king is not interested in pretenders. You will get no equipment if you are merely pretending to be a soldier of Christ when your heart is really with the army of the Enemy.

Also the King has allowed enrolment by proxy for our covenant children. But, children, you cannot remain a member of the army by proxy. You must make sure that you personally believe in the Lord if you are to be enrolled personally. Only if you are personally enrolled in the army by faith can you be assured of the panoply for you to fight the battle.

Now once you have obtained the panoply, you can be sure that every part of it is ready for your use. They do not need any alteration nor will you be required to change any part of it as we often have to do in the army.

(2) However, you must be aware that you have the equipment and you must make use of it.

It will be a great shame if Christ has prepared a panoply for you, but you lay it aside and would not use it.… especially when Satan comes to attack you. We will talk about how each part of the panoply must be used shortly. But consider for example, how sad it would be if Satan tries to hit your head, and you fail to put on the helmet of salvation but allow yourself to sink deeper and deeper into hopelessness.

Putting on the whole armour of God means making use of the whole armour to repel Satan’s devices.

(3) But finally, putting on the armour also means that you must take good care of it. If you do not maintain your equipment they will be stiff and rusty and uncomfortable to us. It can even be dangerous to use them. I have a pair of combat boots in my cupboard which I have not worn for about 10 years. It has become very stiff. I doubt I can walk with it, not to mention go into battle with it!

So you must maintain the panoply. How to maintain the panoply? Well understand that the panoply is not something external. It is in your heart. To maintain the panoply is therefore to keep your heart. "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov 4:23).

This is what we must do if we are to be better equipped to fight the spiritual war or to resist temptations. We can’t do any other. We may try to help ourselves by smashing the TV, setting up a firewall, or joining a monastery, but if we keep not our heart, we will still fall casualty to the Wicked One.


Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power, beloved brethren.

You can be more than conquerors through Him who love you and laid His life down for you. Amen.

—JJ Lim