“How can I obtain or recover a joy in Christ that is so deep and so strong that it will free me from bondage to Western comforts and security, and will impel me into sacrifices of mercy and missions, and will sustain me in the face of martyrdom?” John Piper: When I Don’t Desire God, p20

Last week as we were driving to our mid-week prayer service, my wife was trying to help me drive my car. “Speed up. Slow down. Go around him.” I tried to be godly in my response by not saying anything, however my countenance gave me away. As we approached the church, I decided to ease the pressure by changing the focus. So, I said to Barbara, “Boy it would be great if for one week all of my pressures would go away.” There was a moment of silence and then she said, “Where do you want me to go?” Cute!

 I think it is natural for us to want ease in life. But, when you join an army, I think it is fairly obvious that pressures are part of the deal. This truth is clearly set forth in the Bible. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world;” [John 16:33] and, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” [Matt 5:11] Paul said this: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [2 Tim 3:12] Peter added this: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” [1 Peter 4:12] Trouble, persecution, suffering and pressures should not surprise God’s warriors.

It occurred to me, that in our study of spiritual warfare, it was time to make clear what we were fighting for. In other words, in the midst of battle, when you are taking all kinds of hits, when the pressure falls and stays for days, it is important that we know why we must fight on. What blessing, what gift, what motive is strong enough and deep enough and long enough to keep us standing in the midst of great conflict? Jim Fix was the guru of distance running. In his book, The Complete Book of Running, he talked about times when he was in the midst of a marathon and his body was in agony and his brain confused by exhaustion. In those stressful moments, he sometimes forgot the reason he entered the race. It was then that he spoke these words to himself, “I may not now know why I started the race, but I am certain I had  one when I began, so I will keep running.” It is just as crucial for God’s harried soldiers to know they not only have a glorious reason to begin, they have a glorious reason to endure. It is always too soon to quit.

In Ephesians, Paul gives us the reasons we fight on. I think it is helpful for us to see Ephesians as a battle manual. In chapters 1-3, Paul establishes the soldier’s identity. In chapters 4-6, he lays out his strategy. It is not until the soldier knows who he is and what he is to do, that Paul passes out the weaponry [6:10-20]. The key motive that holds all of this together and the power that keeps us going in pressured times, is revealed in Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”   

God has filled our lives with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Everything that our hearts were made for, all that we need to satisfy our deepest needs, all that brings us eternal pleasure and joy, has been poured into our lives through Jesus Christ. But, we must be careful here. The purpose of God choosing us and blessing us is not to reveal how wonderful we are, but to display how glorious He is. Three times in the first fourteen verses of chapter one [verses 6, 12, and 14], Paul defines God’s purposes for blessing us: “to the praise of his glory.” All that God has done in creation and redemption is to manifest the awesome glory of His name.

Our part is to see that glory and love that glory and proclaim that glory. You see, praising is nothing more than prizing. We praise what is valuable. And, praising is not mere ceremony or form. It is a matter of the heart. The more we love someone, the more beautiful they are to us, the more delight they give us, the more joy we find in them. The Westminster Confession asks this question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It is in our enjoyment of God that he is glorified. We were created to glorify God by delighting in Him. That is why it is my conclusion, based upon the Word of God, that the objective we fight for in the midst of spiritual warfare is our joy in the Lord! 

Another passage will help us shed more light on this crucial truth. In Philippians 4, after admonishing the church to stand strong in the Lord [Vs. 1], Paul writes this command: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” [Phil 4:4-5] Paul says, rejoicing in the Lord is not an option, it is a command. He says this for two reasons. First, rejoicing in the Lord is worship. When we are in a struggle and we find in Jesus a joy so strong that we choose rejoicing over resigning, his true worth is magnified. Few take notice of our faith when things are going smooth, but when we are in the midst of trial and still rejoice, Jesus is seen as glorious.

Second, rejoicing in the midst of trials is a weapon. The enemy tries to steal our joy through pain and pleasure. In pain, he tries to deceive us into thinking that God is not glorious enough to deliver us. In pleasure, he tries to deceive us into thinking God is not glorious enough to satisfy us. In both cases, he seeks to subvert our faith in the greatness and the goodness of Jesus. That is why Peter describes the devil as a lion who prowls around seeking whom he may devour. What is he seeking to eat? He wants to eat our faith, for it is our faith in Jesus that guards our joy in Jesus.

So, how do we win the battle for faith and joy in Jesus? James assures us that we can have success. If we resist the devil, he will flee from us [James 4:7]. But how do we resist him? Peter helps here by explaining that we resist him “by standing firm in the faith. [1 Peter 5:8-9] In Ephesians 6:10-20, the focus of our study, Paul will give us the details of how we can stand firm in the faith. By wielding the spiritual weapons Jesus has supplied, we resist him by standing firm in the faith. Basically, I think the process of resisting can be summed up by saying it is trusting in God for all that he has promised us in Jesus- in the midst of battle.

Before my son Chad left for Officer’s Candidate School, I asked him why he chose to be a part of the Marine Corp. His response was immediate: “I want to be a part of the greatest fighting force in the world!” Right now he is learning what that means. He is being transformed from a civilian to a soldier, from a follower to a leader. He has been beaten on, challenged, yelled at, taught, disciplined, trained, encouraged, and tested to the max of his strength and beyond. Today he goes camping in the woods in the midst of winter. Tomorrow he will take a nine mile hike with a full back pack. He will crawl on his belly through a swamp, pass under barb wire, he will climb over walls, pass through obstacles and do whatever it takes to complete his mission. And, no one, I mean no one, will feel sorry for him or cut him slack. Why? Because he is being prepared for war! He is a soldier! He is a Marine!

We are also soldiers. We are members of the greatest fighting force in the universe. Our cause is bound to the glory of God. We are being shaped and formed into spiritual warriors who know how to battle the enemy’s lies, and after everything he has thrown at us, to stand. We don’t dwell in self-pity or wallow in confusion and doubt. Our Commander has already won the battle on the cross and given us everything we need to win. We just need to do what it takes to complete our mission. We must take our stand in faith by putting on the full armor of God and taking up the weapons he has supplied. Sure we will take some hits and at times think we can’t make it. But our Commander is near. We cannot only fight, but we can fight well. He will see to it that we will come though the battle, victorious, with joy!

 So, if your faith is faint and your will is wilting, prepare for battle. That is why Piper writes, “The ‘good fight of faith’ is at its root a fight for delight. It’s a fight to maintain satisfaction in God against all the enticements of the world and all the deceptions of the devil. The fight for faith in future grace is a fight for joy. Knowing this will help us understand what is happening to us when the temptations come. Diminishing delight is a summons to war.” “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us!”