(The following is taken from the message that was preached on February 28, 2021.)
Text: Ephesians 6:17
Voltaire once said, “My life is a struggle.”
Voltaire was a French thinker of the Enlightenment. He hated Christianity and wrote a lot of criticism about the church and people who believed in Christ. But he said, “My life is a struggle.” This is an idea that many people would agree with, I’m sure. And particularly in the world in which we live right now. People are struggling. People struggle with sickness, with depression, with finding work, with money troubles, with family relationships, and I’m sure you could add another 50 things to that list.
This is the same for all of us, whether we’re Christians or not. Voltaire hated God, and life was a struggle for him. But we who love God also find that life is a struggle. We’ve been thinking about this struggle as we read it in Ephesians. We’ve been talking about this passage in chapter 6 for a few months now (v.10-12):
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
There is that word in verse 12, “struggle”. Now this word is the Greek word “palay”. This word actually means wrestling. A wrestling match. Similar to sumo wrestling, I guess, or maybe judo. In the Greek wrestling match, your opponent would try to throw you down and hold you down, with his hand upon your neck.
There were a few rules, for example you weren’t allowed to intentionally punch, kick, bite, or gouge the eyes. But, as Wikipedia tell us:
“All other holds intended to persuade the opponent to concede defeat through pain or fear are permitted and are an integral part of the contest.”
Pain and fear are used to defeat a person in the struggle. Christian believers are in this struggle with spiritual forces of evil, and these forces often use pain and fear to throw the believer down. The pain of sickness or injury, the pain of rejection, the pain of not achieving your hopes and dreams. And fear. Fear of people laughing at you, fear of losing your job, fear of failing.
And what is our defence against pain and fear? Armour. When you’re wearing armour, you don’t need to fear anything. If you stepped into a wrestling ring, with a belt, a breastplate, boots, a shield and a helmet, you wouldn’t be in the least bit afraid. You’ll also be protected against pain. Whatever this guy throws at you, it’s probably not going to hurt.
The Lord loves us so much, he’s given us his armour. We have this spiritual armour for the struggle we find ourselves in.
Paul tells us here (v.13-17):
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Now, we’ve looked at the belt, the breastplate, the boots, and the shield. Today, let’s think about the helmet of salvation.
What exactly is salvation? Well, basically, before we knew Christ, we were walking down a path that leads to death. We hated God, we didn’t want to know him or worship him, we were selfish and proud and were heading straight for destruction. In many ways were dead in our sins. But Jesus came, and he made us alive. He took us off the path of death, and put us on the path to life.
The helmet is the hope of salvation. The hope that one day, in the future, everything is going to be OK. The struggle will be over. The pain and the fear that we sometimes experience in this life will end. Everything will be put right.
The devil is struggling with you, trying to throw you to the ground with despair. He’s trying to convince you that there is no meaning to all your trouble. That there is no point to carry on. That all your hardship and trials are all for nothing.
So, God has given you this helmet. The hope of salvation is your helmet. Your salvation is nearer now than when you first believed. Hang in there, don’t give up, stay strong.
Last week we looked at the fiery arrows.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Sometimes the devil shoots these fiery arrows at you. These are specific trials and temptations that will hit you when you’re not ready for it. Arrows that are targeted at yourself, your family, your work, or anywhere really. For these, you need the shield.
But the helmet is different. It’s for a different kind of attack. The devil has many schemes. He has arrows, which are targeted specifically. But he will also try and wear you down, make you weary. He will try and make you lose hope, so that you get blue, depressed, and lose all your energy. When this happens, you need to take up the helmet.
Let us not grow weary in doing good. Stand firm. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
C. S. Lewis said that this is the main arena where the Christian war is fought. In the daily routine of everyday life. When I was younger I used to have these daydreams, when someone would burst in the room with a gun and say, “Deny Christ or I’ll kill you!” and I would stand up and say, “Pull the trigger!”
You ever have daydreams like that? But for most of us, that never happens. Our daily life is often mundane and routine. And the devil will try and drag you down in the daily drudgery of just living each day.
But don’t give up.
Life is a struggle. The enemy is often on your back, pushing you down into despair. His voice is telling you that God doesn’t care, that God is not listening, that God is not with you. And the enemy is trying to get you to despair, to give up, to pack it all in.
If that is you today, then you need the helmet of salvation.
Voltaire said, “My life is a struggle.” We can say the same thing. But there is a huge difference between Voltaire and a child of God. Voltaire didn’t have a helmet. He had no hope of salvation. We do.
You may be weary of life. Tired of your work, tired of looking after your family. It feels like you’re just doing the same thing every day, day after day, week after week, month after month. You’re tempted to give up, pack it all in.
Look past your situation right now, to the hope of God’s salvation. If you are a child of God, you are saved! We are in a struggle, but all these light and momentary troubles are achieving for you an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.