You may have heard this before, people talking about putting on “the armor of God”. But what does it mean?
A double edged sword
The world isn't exactly teeming with information about the armor of God. Therefore most of us will have to go through at least some trial and error when building that armor. It would be easier if this stuff was common knowledge. But it can be beneficial to be forced to seek God more on our own. Personally, as with many things in my life, I was put through the paces before I ever found examples to learn by.
When you’re self taught on any subject, information naturally comes in waves. Not having an experienced teacher around means you have to go through more trial and error. That kind of unguided experimentation is not necessarily wrong, but it does invite more mistakes. Therefore, you get a push-pull effect.
You experiment, you do something wrong, in comes some negative experience. You learn from that negative experience. You start doing the task better and things go positively for a bit. Then, as you move to the next level of learning, you start that process all over again. After having wave after wave of seeing what happens when you do things wrong, then seeing the opposite, you can look back and make definitive decisions about what doesn’t work and what does.
As with many things about my spirituality, this is how I learned most of what I personally know about the armor of God. I learned some of it from reading, watching and listening, but its confirmation came first from experience. I spent many days and nights in a row staying away from poor behavior, sin. In those times I found much less hardship and much less negative influence from the world outside. Then I’d break a path to better myself, engage in things I should have nothing to do with, and watch the consequences flow back in.
The data didn't lie
Over many periods of back and forth the message never failed and the data never changed. Fly straight, avoid spiritual contaminants like thoughtless angry words, addictions, mistreating my body, etc… life was better, prayer was stronger, blessings, joy and peaceful moments came in abundance. But have a relapse and things would fall apart. I’ll give you an example; why I’ve stopped drinking.
Before I continue, it’s important to note that I’m not criticizing anyone who drinks. The acceptance of light drinking is debatable in religion and I’m not getting into that right now. But what I don’t recommend is getting drunk. Definitely for me it’s not a good thing.
Anyway, I’ve never drank frequently, but about 2-4 times a year I would have a night of fun. I’d drink until I was waddling around like a duck with a half empty 2-liter bottle of soda strapped to its back... swish, sway, “oops there’s a wall”.
I was a fun guy when I would drink, usually full of jokes and laughter. I never had any serious “Oh no, did I do that?” moments. I was relatively calm and tame. I could see the car keys right in front of me and push them away.
My regrets never came from losing control of myself while drinking. But as I dug deeper into Christianity, they started to come from the aftermath that lasted for weeks.
My communications with God would remain murky and hard to understand. He didn’t stop hearing me, but I would have trouble getting information from him. The world brought me down and I could almost never feel the power of the Holy Trinity.
To get back to a good spiritual standing I would have to pray, read the bible, give up habits, exercise, etc, all far more than normal. Even then, it would take what felt like forever. And in the interim, many things in my life would fall short or just fall completely apart.
When I flipped the switch
Within a few hours prior to the last time I got drunk, I’d been feverishly getting the divine message “don’t do this”. But between life’s pressures and the celebration at hand, I felt I could use a few hours in a disconnected state. Foolishly, I rebelled, picked up a bottle and started in.
And if I ever think it might be worth it again, I’ll just do the comparison… a decent few hours of relaxation against a painfully hard few weeks of slugging my way back.
It’s been this way over anything I’ve done that throws a wrench in God’s system, anything that is addictive or damaging behavior. Photos and video from the internet (not the kind you want Mom to know about), an uncontrolled need to watch TV, excessive video gaming, repeatedly stuffing my mouth with food until my gut hurts… it all has the same result.
It all follows the same pattern of data. Keep away from it for a while, things are better. Engage back in, things get much harder again. Repeat and learn the same lesson over and over.
The consequences got old and the rewards of avoiding them became clearer and brighter. The more I decide what happens before I let my consequences decide for me, the better life gets. The more vows and sacrifices I make to God, the more bigger and better doors he opens for me. It was simply time for the change.
So how does poor behavior weaken the armor of God?
Some of it opens very specific doors to the enemy no matter how little you do it, like the photos and videos you don’t show Mom, or the drunkenness. Some of the other stuff is not all that bad by itself. But there’s always another potential for underlying damage.
That danger comes from the moments when the behavior controls us instead of the other way around. Like when I need to back off of something, but I just can’t wait to get to it. If we’re willing to push aside what’s most important for the sake of a potentially bad or uncontrolled behavior, the enemy sees this, waits for it and exploits it to the max.
When I let a behavior, a hobby, a habit or anything like them go to an extreme, I’m somehow also waving the enemy in. I don’t try to fully understand the details of how this happens because I don’t need to, but there is some sort of technical aspect to this and I’ll loosely explain it.
Whatever doors open to such seemingly harmless or self-justified activity, somehow those same doors are open to evil. Open the bottle, the baggie, or the website about the unclad… spend too much time in front of the screen, the rolling dice or the plate of food… you’ll get more than you thought would ever come with it.
And your enemy will get a free ticket into the lives of not only you, but also those you care about. And like me, whatever armor you have against the world, evil and their influence, it won’t hold water any better than a bowl full of holes (sprinkle… sprinkle… drip… done).
Why is a lack of armor so common?
Among others, there is one big reason the world is often either unaware of the armor of God, or often just laughs at it. When we grow up with things that are bad for our hearts, minds and our souls, and when our peers help justify and claim indemnity, we accept what doesn’t belong. And there's a lot of it.
There are entire stores dedicated to things that weaken our spiritual protection. Websites that offer carnal media are $0/dozen. Hate and anger are everywhere and our legal systems are riddled with corruption.
Life is incredibly hard for many of us. So the temptations that offer short-term relief are, understandably, easy to get into and hard to get away from. This opens up 1,000,000 reasons to dive into temptation and justify, justify, justify. As long as that kind of acceptance has a hold in our lives, we will never experience the protection of being all-in with God.
It's a necessary step
We have to take back the control of our behavior instead of it controlling us. We have to look past the perks offered by the world and start reaching for the stronger, bigger rewards offered by God. This is how we can build the basic structure of our armor.
Once we have this foundation we can start to fill in the rest with other very important steps. It's not easy, but neither is having the enemy lurk through our hearts and minds, wreaking havoc in our lives while hiding under the cover of acceptance. You just have to decide, who governs your relationship with God and the level of it's rewards? The enemy... or you?
It’s like owning a super car, but never pushing the pedal down and taking it over 35 MPH.
The final article in this series The Armor of God - 3/3 - Putting it On
More detailed descriptions on how to make it work.
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