Wage a Winning War for Life (Part 1)

Thomas Constable wrote, If we want to obey God... we are in for a struggle. It is not easy to become a mature Christian nor is it automatic. It takes diligent, sustained effort.” That’s why we need to know how to wage a winning war for life. Let us read Ephesians 6:10-13 together: 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.[1]

The word “finally” in verse 10 shows that Paul is giving his final thoughts in Ephesians. Let’s look at the basis for this conclusion. From chapters 1 to 3 Paul explained the calling we received from God. Then from chapter 4 to 6:9, he urged us to conduct or “to live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received” (4:1). We are to enjoy a significant life and experience meaningful relationships between husband and wife (5:21-33), between parents and children (6:1-4) and between employer and employee (6:5-9). Now, starting with verse 10, he warned us that we will face conflicts. We are in for a fight not only against our own sinful, selfish nature, not only against a world system that goes against God’s standards but also against an Enemy who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
In his The Invisible War seminar, Chip Ingram warns us, “When was the last time you honestly considered that some struggle or relational conflict was rooted in satanic opposition? There is an invisible world that is just as real as the visible world. We are involved in an invisible war, a cosmic conflict that has eternal Implications.”[2] It will do no good if we deny the reality of our war against the devil and his cohorts. Make no mistake. We are up against a very cunning and powerful evil force.

However, remember that we WAGE war FROM victory, not FOR victory.
[3] Look at how Ephesians 4:8 described what happened at Christ’s death and resurrection: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” Paul used the image of a victorious king who just conquered a territory. He then would hold a victory parade. “Once the city was captured, the king or general would often ride a white horse as he returned from the conquered city back to his home city... Behind him marched all of his troops in shining battle array as the victors. Behind them, lined up in formation... and often a mile or two long, depending on the number of captives, would be the conquered... Captives have no right. They were often partially or completely stripped of clothing and dignity while they were paraded as trophies of war. Victors utterly humiliated their foes.”[4] The Romans call that victory parade “triumphus.” That’s Latin from where we got the word “triumph.” Christ triumphed at the cross! “There [on the cross] Christ defeated all powers and forces. He let the whole world see them being led away as prisoners when he celebrated his victory.” (Colossians 2:15)[5] In short, Christ won the war already on the cross. What seemed to be defeat was actually victory. That’s why “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are fighting from a position of strength, not of weakness. We are not fighting to win. We already won! God wants us to live victorious lives, not defeated lives. He wants us to overcome sin and to live obedient lives. That’s why He sent His Son to die for us.

You may be asking, “If our enemy is already defeated, how come we still face challenges in life? I thought Christ won the war already. Why are we still fighting?” We should also ACCEPT the fact that life is a BATTLEGROUND, not a PLAYGROUND. Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is—apart from the Lord.”
[6] The word “struggle” in verse 12 refers to a wrestling match. I like how The Message translated this verse: “This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” Unlike what we see now on TV, it was not merely theatrical. “When wrestlers went into the ring in Roman times, each one would attempt to get his hands around his opponent’s neck in a stranglehold. He then would try to press the opponent’s shoulders and head to the ground. If a wrestler’s head was pressed to the ground, he was put to death. But if only his shoulders touched, he lived to fight again.”[7]

Though he is already defeated, our Enemy is engaged in guerilla warfare. It’s much like what happened in Iraq. The combined forces of US and Britain ousted Saddam Hussein and brought down his dictatorship. There’s a new government in Iraq. However, still there are pockets of resistance from Saddam’s followers. That’s what Satan is doing now. He knew he lost already and that his days are numbered. So he wants to bring down with him as many as possible. That’s why 1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack.”

Verse 11 says that we “stand against the devil’s schemes” or methods. We are fighting a clever, ruthless enemy. We should not surrender to him even an inch of territory. He knows how to exploit a weakness. For example, Ephesians 4:26-27 warns us, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” When we have unresolved anger, we are giving the enemy a chance or an opportunity to attack us. He will also take advantage of us when we harbor bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 2:10-11, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Let us not give the enemy the upper hand. It depends on us whether we want to be victims or victors.

On our own we are no match to the enemy. That’s why we must RELY on God’s PROVISIONS, not on our own POWER. Verse 10 commands us: “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” The phrase “be strong” is in the passive voice. It means that this power is not something we generate by ourselves. We only receive it from the Lord. We only have access to “his mighty power” if we are plugged into the source of power, “the Lord.” The Good News Bible goes like this: “build up your strength in union with the Lord...” In Ephesians 1:19, Paul explained that this is the “great and mighty power that God has for us followers.”
[9] Thus, this power is only for people who accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior. The phrase “be strong” is also in the present tense. It means we should always rely on this strength that God provides. And this is the power that is guaranteed not to fail especially when we need it the most. For that power “is the same wonderful power he used when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven” (Ephesians 1:20).[10] In short, we are to continually rely on the strength that the Lord gives.

Other than the strength, God also provided a spiritual armor for us. Verses 11 and 13 say, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes... 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.” We will discuss the armor of God and how to put it on next time. It says “when the day of evil comes”. The question is not “if” but “when.” Facing challenges in life is inevitable.

Now there are two reasons why we need the armor. First, “so that [we] can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” To take one’s stand carries “the idea of holding a critical position while under attack.”
[11] Second, “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” It assures us that, after standing face to face against the enemy, one still stands as a winner in the end. The Message goes like this: “So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way... Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet.”

Take note that from the beginning till the end of life’s struggles, God assures that He has the first word, the last word and every word in between. He prepares us for the battle by making us strong “in his mighty power” (v. 10). He helps us to take our stand against the ongoing attacks of the enemy (v. 12). He will make sure that “when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm”
[12] (v. 13). From start to finish, we are assured of victory.

Thus, we can wage a winning W-A-R for life.
WAGE war from victory, not for victory.
ACCEPT the fact that life is a battleground, not a playground.
RELY on God’s provisions, not on our own power.

Let us pray...

[1]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[2]The seminar is available through WorldTeach Ministries.
[3]This point was adapted from “The Invisible War” seminar by Chip Ingram.
[4]Chip Ingram, “The Miracle of Lifechange.”
[5]Contemporary English Version (CEV)
[6]“The Bible Exposition Commentary.”
[7]Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., “The Believer’s Armor.”
[11]Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., “The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians”


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