Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Armor of God

I have been going through quite a few spiritual, mental and emotional battles recently.   I don’t have fear about the what, whom or why of being attacked, because I trust in God’s sovereignty &  life is always full of both ups & downs.  However, I also do not underestimate what these battles could do in me and I know I need to fight for my joy & strength in the Lord.  In other words, I know my relationship & intimacy with my Heavenly Father is worth protecting passionately.

I have realized these battles always start in very insignificant, small ways – just like my walk toward the Lord – one step at a time.   I am not sure how this battle started….maybe I was a victim of hormonal changes, maybe I chose a wrong attitude in an annoying relationship dwelling on myself, or I allowed myself to get consumed in something that really has no eternal significance… It doesn’t really matter how this particular battle started…but ultimately it left me having a bad attitude with the Lord & it left my heart unguarded.
As I turned open my Bible study somewhat begrudgingly one particularly grey day, I saw the question, “which of these pieces of the armor of God (in Ephesians) is most important to you?”…   I remembered the last time I studied this chapter how the Lord had shown me in such an intimate beautiful way that this armor, each piece, like everything in scripture – was wrapped up in Jesus.  It found its purpose & meaning in Jesus.  From the belt of truth (“I am… the truth” John 14:6), the breastplate of righteousness (“our righteousness” I Cor 1:30), the gospel of peace (“He himself is our peace” Eph 2:14), the shield of faith (in Jesus), the helmet of salvation (“He became the source of eternal salvation” Heb 5:9, I Thes 5:9, Eph 1:13), the Sword of the Spirit, the Word (John 1:1, 1:14)… Everything is Jesus.  Jesus is everything.  Jesus is most important.  The end.  

This was such a great reminder to me.    As I focused on Jesus, my Savior & Everything,  I felt the Lord slowly & gently melting away my hardness.  All the fears, doubts, just  plain negative & nasty thoughts & attitudes I had been carrying as I thought about Him just seemed to fall away.  I really understand why people call it a “soft heart”.  They really do feel like hard & soft hearts when we have them!

The armor that was particularly special to me as I focused on Jesus was that precious breastplate of righteousness.   The breastplate protects the heart.  Protects the relationship.  The love.  I really believed I had let go of that breastplate of righteousness, and that is where I needed to begin, yet again.  I had forgotten, to “guard my heart”.  I had allowed my thoughts (my focus) to be consumed with questions, doubts, pity parties, un-thankfulness, anxieties, confusion, self efforts, whatever – rather than allowing my thoughts to be consumed with my Lord & Savior.   Oh yes!....(duh!)…. how did I get to this place again?  How did my mind & thoughts wander so far from Jesus?  

As tears rolled down my face without me even feeling particularly emotional, I really learned a valuable lesson.  When I feel my heart is under attack…when I am feeling my love for God is waning… when I begin to doubt that His love for me has changed…. I must return to that place I know so well - the foot of the cross.  Where righteousness was passed to me simply because I surrender to that gospel truth.  God sees me as righteous, praise the Lord!  It never ceases to soften my heart when I focus on that cross & how He sees me.  I really believe God loves Jesus with a consuming, all powerful love.  I am thoroughly convinced of it. To KNOW & reflect on the truth that He looks at me through His Son whom He cherishes so much is so amazing!  

The most beautiful part of this conversation was how gentle the Lord was.  He is such a perfect Father!  I really felt He reminded me that even though I had let go of that breastplate of righteousness (in my thoughts), the truth is, I was never the one holding it in place anyway.  I am and will always be… fully clothed in His righteousness.  Praise Jesus!  He put that breastplate in place and He will never take it from me.  Now it’s just up to me to believe it!  Even when I let go of that truth in my thoughts, it is still there, praise Jesus!  Therefore, the battle that I have to participate in, is not dependent on my strength to hold on to any armor – but to do all I can to protect my mind, to guard my heart – against any thought that makes me believe I am not fully protected with “every spiritual blessing” because of Jesus!  (Ephesians 1:3)  I have all the armor I need in Jesus & my job to is to stay focused on Him, nourished by Him, close to Him.  The next time my mind wanders, I pray I will be able to more quickly run back to the foot of the cross & be reminded, drawn in, reassured, rejuvenated, restored, refocused!   That is my best advice to give to anybody spiritually battling depression, fear, doubt, anxiety – focus on Jesus, start at the cross!  You are covered!