If you’ve ever seen Saving Private Ryan, you’ll remember the famous opening scene on Omaha Beach.
The soldiers swam, stumbled, and crawled ashore, anxiously seeking cover from the bullets and mortar rounds that rained down on their heads. It’s visually painful to watch as soldiers run headlong into gunfire that cuts them down mercilessly, turning strong men into dismembered bodies strewn across the beach. It’s almost amazing that any of them make it at all, yet many do. Finding shelter behind a berm, the soldiers lie there to catch their breath and strategize their next move to take out the German machine gun nests. One of the soldiers gets plunked in the helmet by a glancing bullet. Surprised and amazed that his helmet did the job, he takes it off and stares at it in wonder. As he does, you cringe to know what’s coming. A second perfectly placed bullet hits him right between the eyes, right where his helmet had been, killing him instantly. You wonder, “Why did he do that?!” He had made it that far against all odds…and he dies like that? It seems so unnecessary – so foolish – taken out by something that didn’t have to kill him if he had just kept his helmet on.
The scene has great application to our daily battles. Not necessarily your battles with traffic, or your battles with your boss. But your real battles. The ones that threaten to destroy your marriage, your effectiveness, and ultimately you.
I’m talking, of course, about the life and death battles in the spirit realm. Though invisible, its impact on all of us is significant and eternal, and much more impactful than any battle we can see with our physical eyes. In this battle we fight principalities and powers and rulers of darkness. I know that sounds nebulous and may be hard to wrap our minds around. But what it means is that we are fighting evil forces that have authority on earth over people and places we visit every day – and that have the goal of taking us out.
Why would a bullet between the eyes kill you instantly? Because it hits you in the control center of your life. If your brain is disrupted, everything else shuts down, either instantly or eventually.
Satan and his forces aim for the same place: Your mind. What’s more, the seat of our own sin nature and evil desires is in the mind, which is part of your soul (the soul consists of the mind, will and emotions). If we begin thinking negatively about our spouses, our kids, our jobs, our lives, or God Himself, it impacts everything else that matters.
Whether or not we face the battle isn’t a choice we get to make. The war for men’s and women’s souls, and ours, rages all around us every day. The choice lies in whether we will be prepared to fight and win the battle for ourselves and our families. And the good news is – we’ve been given the tools to fight. It’s called the armor of God. Ephesians 6 says:
“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. 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 around 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. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV)
Each piece of the armor is significant, and so is putting it on. So what exactly does that mean? How do you put on an invisible piece of armor?
Each piece of the armor is tied to a significant spiritual concept that helps to defend us against the enemy’s attacks. Asserting each one is essential to winning the battle, and you put it on by mentally assenting to each concept in prayer (which is best to do before you engage in your daily battles). For example, here’s how I might pray through putting on the armor of God:
“Today I put on the preparation of the Gospel of peace on my feet. When I walk from place to place today, and whatever places I walk into, I carry with me the Gospel of Jesus Christ to share with those that don’t know Him or need his encouragement. And it’s a message that’s full of peace (the peace that passes all understanding, to know that God Himself paid for man’s sins and then rose from the dead and went to prepare a place for them in heaven).
I put on the belt of truth. I will not allow any lies to come into my mind or heart today. I will only believe and speak the truth. It is around my waist because I choose sexual purity today. I will not allow the deception that comes along with sneaking sexual sin into my daily routine.
I put on the breastplate of righteousness. Jesus, You are my righteousness. You have paid for my sins and made me pure. It is because of Your righteousness that I am in right-standing with God. I rest in that place today.
I take up the shield of faith. No weapon formed against me or my family can prosper today. I believe that by faith. I declare a hedge of protection around those that I care about, and I also put up the shield in front of my wife and kids.
I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I hide your Word in my heart today, God, so that I might not sin against you. Your Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, and it separates my soul from my spirit so that my spirit has control of my actions today.
And finally I put the helmet of salvation on my head. I am marked with salvation. When God looks throughout the earth and sees me, He sees that I am saved, and that I am His child. I choose to take my thoughts captive today and to make them obedient to Christ. I also make a covenant with my eyes today not to look lustfully at a young woman.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
And with that, I am equipped for the battle. Sometimes I even do the motions of putting on each element of the armor. When I do this with my kids we draw our swords by motioning our right hand to our left hip and pulling it out (frankly I often do that when I’m by myself). That part isn’t necessary, but the physical motions help my mind picture each piece of the armor. It may feel silly at first, but when you realize how real this battle is, you’ll do whatever it takes to win.
I have set myself up for success no matter what I encounter today. I challenge you to do the same. We have the armor (and the weapons) we need to win this battle. We just have to put it on.