Armed Forces Sunday – 2019 LSB #668
Text – Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD
Being prepared is always on the minds of our men & women serving faithfully in the armed forces. There is never a day that goes by that they aren’t ready or training to be more ready. They must be prepared to answer the call at a moment’s notice. Once the alarm sounds, they don’t have time to ‘get ready’ ... they need to ‘be ready.’
And to ‘be ready,’ they train, train, & train some more. They train as they would fight. That’s how our military leaders continue to ensure our personnel are ready for combat. The institution gets them physically & mentally prepared to make a defense of our country – for the hope of freedom. The Navy SEAL motto is, ‘The only easy day was yesterday.’
It is all about preparation & being ready to win our nation’s battles. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree & I will spend the 1st four sharpening the axe.” Preparation & readiness are critical in any planning, but especially in planning a defense.
It’s important to be aware that we truly are living in the Church Militant. We are in a war with the devil, with the world & with our sinful nature. So I ask: Are you ready? Are you ready? What is your plan to sustain you on the battlefield of suffering? How will you endure? What is your hope & confidence as you go into battle & suffering?
We live, surrounded by evil, in a sin-sick world. In America, we may not yet be hauled out of our churches, our homes or our businesses by wicked men who put us on our knees with a gun or sword at our head & yell, “Renounce Jesus or die!” Yet, we know that in other parts of the world, this is happening today. Christians are being executed & martyred daily for their faith. Here in our country, people are losing their jobs or positions for giving a defense of the faith & speaking out against issues that go contrary to the Word of God. We are being told to keep our religion in the church & out of the public square.
Oh yes, they tell you there’s freedom to worship in your church, just don’t bring it out into public. Hang your personal faith at the door on the way out of your home or church. How often have we ‘given in’ & stood by quietly in a discussion in public about cultural issues?
Did you remain silent because you simply didn’t want to be labeled a ‘bigot,’ judgmental, narrow-minded or the proponent of “hate speech?” We don’t want to suffer for what we believe. We want to be ‘liked’ & ‘accepted.’ It’s not easy to stand strong in the Lord.
Or you might be saying, “Come on, Pastor. I’m in the middle of a war right now with an illness, broken relationship, guilt, depression, addiction... I know what war looks like spiritually as well as physically. I’ve tried everything I can to fight ... to win ... yet the pain continues, & I am stricken, smitten & afflicted.”
That’s when St. Paul points to our fortress, our help, our comfort, our armor. It is not within ourselves. We cannot stand & fight alone. The devil will find a chink in the armor & again bring us to despair & hopelessness. Even in physical war, we can give our troops the best equipment possible to protect them, but day after day we see our troops killed in combat.
Many are killed by shrapnel or bullets despite all their training, all their combat gear. The enemy found chinks in the armor. My friends, the devil will do the same to us. He knows your temptations & your weaknesses. He will attack, & attack where you are most vulnerable. Therefore, our Lord pleads with us to come to Him.
In Psalm 46, God reminds us that He is our fortress, our refuge & our strength. In the sermon text, Paul reminds us that it is the armor of Yahweh that we wear in spiritual warfare. The ultimate goal of our enemy the devil, & his wicked schemes, is to get you into hell with him. He wants you to doubt the Word of God. He wants you to doubt the promises of Yahweh. He wants you to lose all hope in Jesus – falling into despair & hopelessness. In that light, we see the comfort & the absolute power of this passage from the Word of God:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord & in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God…” — NOT just parts of it. (Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV)
Why? So when the devil says, “You aren’t good enough to be a child of God, you are too evil for God to love & die for, Jesus could not have paid for your sins, your guilt, your evilness,” even then you will be able to stand your ground in the power of the Holy Spirit. To stand your ground, to stand firm – God gives you His armor.
The truth is that God, who cannot lie, has promised you eternal life. Living in a world where there seems to be no truth, we hold up our armor with the truth of God. He promised you eternal life. He, who cannot lie, told us that Jesus was sent to live, to suffer, to die and to rise again for you! God, who cannot lie, promised that whoever is baptized & believes will be saved.
We were dead in our sins & soiled by evil, yet God made the great exchange & gave us the robe of righteousness (the breast-plate of righteousness). In your Baptism, God reached into the muck & mire of your sinfulness & made you His child. He freely gives to you His righteousness. He grants you forgiveness, life & salvation!
No matter what accusations the devil throws your way – about how bad you are or how good you may think you are, your own righteousness is still like filthy rags. Yet our Lord gives us the breastplate of His righteousness. Jesus lived that perfect life for everyone. Jesus kept the law perfectly for you & me, now crediting that righteousness to us, declaring us “not guilty.” Satan’s darts of accusation cannot penetrate the Lord’s breast-plate of righteousness, which you can wear with confidence & pride. But the Lord continues to give additional armor. He creates & sustains faith in your heart that clings to the truth of His promises, which clings to His Word of forgiveness, hope & healing.
Faith clings to the cross of Christ Jesus, which puts out the flaming arrows the devil shoots at us. The Holy Spirit called us by the Gospel. Faith was given to us in our Baptism & in the Word of God. That shield of faith resists the lies & the despair of Satan, & clings to Jesus.
By the grace of God, for Christ’s sake, through faith, we are saved! That is our helmet given to us by the Lord – the helmet of salvation – the knowledge that our faith is not in vain, that we are saved from the devil & from hell. We know that our salvation is given to us freely by the grace of God, for Christ’s sake, through faith.
Also, the Lord gives us the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That is a two-edged sword which beats back the devil & his lies. Jesus Himself used the Word of God as a sword to defeat Satan while being tempted in the wilderness. The Holy Spirit continues to give you the Word of God to pierce the devil, the world & your sinful flesh.
As Luther so boldly proclaims, “One little word can fell him (the devil)” & “Get behind me Satan.” God has given us a piece of armor that is both defensive & offensive in this spiritual warfare. There will be those who continue to doubt the Word of God, but not us. We know that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit.
Finally, there’s another piece of armor that many forget about, or take for granted – the footwear. As any foot soldier or grunt Marine can tell you, it does matter what you have on your feet. Without the proper protection, it is easy to slow down, lose your ground & not stand firm. The Lord is reminding us that because of all that we have just heard, we can believe & stand firm. Now that we know we have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation & the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God), we are ready to move out. We are ready because we have the gospel of peace – a powerful passage from the Word of God. This is that peace that surpasses all human understanding.
It is the peace of God, knowing that we are forgiven, that we are saved, that we are redeemed children of the heavenly Father. This gives strength to continue in this vale of tears, in this Church Militant, in the present warfare. We already know the end of the line – we are forgiven children of the true God who loves us & will never leave us nor forsake us.
This peace comes from knowing that all things will be worked out for good & according to God’s purpose. This peace comes even though we may continue to feel pain & sadness, struggle with our pet sins, experience pain in relationships, illness & disease, feel loneliness in the loss of loved ones.
Yet, in all that, we will stand firm, trusting our Lord Jesus – trusting that even as we live in a sin-sick world, & all that comes with it, heaven is our home. Jesus has defeated our enemy & given us the armor we need to endure until our end comes, or Jesus returns again on the Last Day. In all our struggles we still move out & share that peace with our neighbors.
Are you ready for war & suffering? Are you ready to face the temptations that befall you? Are you ready to face the pain that may come your way? Yes! Yes! Yes, you are ready, because Jesus has made you ready by His living, by His suffering, dying & rising – all for you! Jesus made you ready by giving you His armor.
By the grace of God, for Christ’s sake, through faith, you are ready for the attacks & the suffering you will face. You have a faith that clings to the promises of God that you are a baptized, redeemed child of the heavenly Father. Your God-given faith clings to the cross of Christ for your salvation & will not allow the devil to give you doubt or despair, no matter how much pain & suffering you encounter. That is your hope & sure defense! Your hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness. God is your fortress, a trusty shield & weapon! Amen.
Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the foe destroy you; for Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious; against all foes be thus victorious, for God protects you from them all. Fear not the hordes of hell, here is Emmanuel. Hail the Savior! The strong foes yield to Christ, our shield, & we, the victors, hold the field. Amen. LSB 668:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet