January 16, 2018

Who Needs Armor Anyway?

Gary T. Fisher

At the time of the attacks of September 11th I, along with all the other chaplains of Fort Jackson, South Carolina, were in Charleston at a profession development conference. We all immediately began watching in disbelief what was happening on the TV screens— America had been attacked! Our lives and careers changed in that one moment. We knew as chaplains that our jobs just got tougher. We were at war.

I began thinking about my drill sergeants. How is this going to affect them? I have 1,250 soldiers in our barracks who will start basic combat training in two days. How is this going affect them? What am I going to say? I thought of friends who are in Special Forces and other war fighting units. Are they going to deploy?

Now we find ourselves in a new kind of conflict—a war against terrorism. We as Christians have a specific calling to fight spiritual war through spiritual means. Only a few people act in terroristic ways. However, man’s capacity for evil seems to have no limit and is not limited to Islam’s extremists.

A key passage of Scripture that has helped me as I have sought to encourage my soldiers is Ephesians 6:10–18. I have been a chaplain for basic training, or “boot camp,” for three years and 14 training cycles. Nearly 17,000 soldiers have come through my battalion. I see three basic needs of new soldiers:

First, they need to know we are at war, a spiritual war. Satan is after their souls. Secondly, they need to be fortified with the full armor of God. Lastly, they need to learn how to pray and prepare for battle. Our enemy is greater than the Al-Qaeda. “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” (Eph 6:12). This battle is real, difficult, and dangerous. No true soldier of Jesus Christ can expect to be immune from the assaults of the enemy; we cannot be neutral in this conflict.

Prepare for Spiritual Warfare

My soldiers must clearly know and understand that we are at war. Who is the enemy of this war? It is not the nonbeliever, although occasionally you will meet people so full of evil that they may even declare their rebellion against God. It is not the world or our society; although they may work to undermine God’s truth, they are not the enemy. Paul declares that our enemy is Satan and the spiritual forces of evil. Satan, the deceiver and destroyer, is the adversary of our souls. Beginning in Ephesians 6:10 Paul offers a call to arms: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God: that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” He is sounding the alert. God wants us to do our pre-combat checks. As Paul is calling us to arms, he wants us to know whom we are fighting. Our enemy is powerful, but he is already defeated.

Notice the phrase “In the power of his might.” Our strength comes from God. To be strong in the Lord is not a one-time exercise. It is like gaining physical strength, being built over time after making daily commitments to eating right and getting proper exercise. It we do not continue striving for excellence, we will grow weak. If we want to accomplish anything for God, we have to spend time with the spiritual disciplines: Bible study, prayer, church fellowship, and service.

I have made the point to my soldiers that being a Christian is not simply a discipline; rather it is a living, vital, and growing relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ. Like any other relationship, if you want it to be strong and deep it takes time and commitment. The battles are going to come; whether spiritual or earthly combat, they are coming. The deeper the relationship we have with God, the greater the threat we become to Satan and his forces. That is why Paul calls us to check our armor.

God not only is our strength, but He becomes our protection. Some Christians don’t use the full armor of God. Why? 1) Because they do not sense danger or recognize the power of the enemy; 2) or they do not have the weapons they need because of poor training; 3) or they do not have the necessary training to use effectively the weapons they already have; 4) or they are too comfortable, too far from the fight. We are to put on our armor and stand victoriously in this battle.

Put on the Full Armor of God

As my soldiers face the influences and attacks of Satan, I encourage them to recognize that the power and presence of God in their lives must be greater than any threat they face. A key objective of basic combat training is to bring individual soldiers to the point where they trust their equipment and know how to use it without thinking. Likewise, I must bring my soldiers to the point where they see the battles of life as a way of getting to know God more. My soldiers need more of God. We must train our people to cultivate a deeper sense of God’s presence, to seek more direct contact with Him, and to rest in complete dependence upon Him.

Paul calls us to put on the armor and stand ready for battle. In the Army we say, “We train as we fight and we fight as we train.” Why? Because we must give the training environment the necessary intensity in order to hone the skills vital to survival and success on the battlefield. The armor has been given so that a person can stand his ground when evil comes and when the conflict becomes most severe.

The first element of armor is not armor at all; it is a belt. Before the armor could be put on, the soldier would bind up all his loose clothing so he would be free to move. For a soldier to tighten the belt meant he was ready for duty. Verse 14 calls us to stand firm with truth as our belt. Truth is the foundation of our armor, and it protects us from the father of lies. I always encourage my soldiers to return to the Bible for the source of all truth. As their chaplain, I must help them to learn how to read and study the Bible for themselves, so they can gain truth from the Scripture when I am not available.

The second element of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate protects the soldier’s vital organs. The righteousness of God is what protects our heart. I believe that an aspect of putting on the breastplate of righteousness is coming to grips with the basic tenets of the gospel. My soldiers must understand that God loves them and sent His Son to die for them, and they can be made righteous by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The third element of the armor is boots of peace (v. 15). Satan wants us to believe that telling others about Christ is worthless and hopeless. He wants us to think the job is too big and that we may offend others. But God gives us comfortable combat boots that enable us to proclaim the Good News. Asoldier needs sure footing to enable him to march and move quickly when necessary. The “preparation of the gospel of peace” is a great way of saying that the Christian must be prepared with the gospel whose message is peace.

The fourth element of armor is the shield of faith. Verse 16 tells us that, in addition to all the elements of armor, we should never be without the shield of faith—complete and total dependence and reliance upon God. Satan and the world would have us to doubt God. The shield of faith protects us from the fiery darts. The shield breaks the force of the arrows, and they fall harmlessly to the ground. With God’s perspective, we can see beyond the current circumstances and know that victory has been assured.

The fifth element of armor is the helmet of salvation (v. 17). A helmet is designed to protect the head. Our helmet is salvation, and it protects our minds from doubting God amidst trials. Confusion on the battlefield is deadly. A clear understanding of salvation and a daily realization of our need before God protect our mind from being defiled by Satan and the world.

The “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” is the only offensive weapon in the list. I tell my soldiers that the M-16 is only a $400 stick unless you know how to use it and have ammo. A sword is only effective if used properly. The need is great for Bible-teaching chaplains on active duty to be able to proclaim the truth and teach people how to read and apply the Bible. A single text of Scripture well understood and rightly applied in the soldiers’ lives can change them forever. God recommends only one weapon, which is the Sword of the Spirit. No substitute is enough to do battle. Only the Sword will do.

Pray Before You Go into Battle

Now the soldier is dressed and ready to go into battle, but something else is needed. He needs to pray! Prayer is like the infantryman’s best friend, “close air support.” Verse 18 says, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching. . . .” Proper communication on the battlefield is crucial. The soldier must know his orientation to the battle and clearly understand his role. Prayer and watchfulness are the proper attitudes in conflict and crisis. Prayer keeps us in a proper relationship with our God. It is not an alternative to preparation for battle; it is an essential part of the battle. If my soldiers are going to live for Christ, I must teach them to pray before they leave basic training. They must develop and live a life of prayer. It is essential to growth.

In the time I have been here at Ft. Jackson, I have touched many lives with the Word of God. But for everyone who has been touched there have been many others who go into the fray outnumbered, unarmed, and unprotected from the enemy. I am one man in one battalion in a standing Army of 468,000 soldiers. When I look out across the formations of troops and hear their footsteps, I am deeply moved, for I know they are souls and perhaps I am the only one standing between them and hell. We need more chaplains who see the need to enter the fray and reach our soldiers for Christ. Our soldiers face an enemy greater than the war against terrorism. This battle has eternal consequences. I have heard the call to arms—have you?

As every soldier of Christ engages in spiritual warfare, let him first put on the full armor of God, complete all necessary pre-combat checks, and then engage the enemy with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Chaplain (LTC) Gary T. Fisher’s post of duty is Fort Jackson, near Columbia, South Carolina. His endorsing agency is the FBFI.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2002. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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