11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Like a general preparing his troops for the big battle, Paul stirs up the field-soldiers of faith with a vision of the larger picture. This is what the real battle is about, the true enemy. So often Christians struggle against the wrong thing or we stand firmly against the lesser things. Not that they are bad things, but we need to see clearly who or what is trying to destroy our faith.
Putting on the full armor of God begins with understanding what is really going on. Nothing worse than putting on your sports equipment before asking which game we are going to play. That hockey equipment is not much help if you are entering a swimming contest. We need to understand the nature of the ultimate enemy, and let that knowledge determine the kind of defenses we need.
For Christians the enemy is the devil, a real, personal entity. He goes by many names: Lucifer, Satan, the father of lies, the accuser of the brethren, Beelzebub. The enemy is not a neighbor who plays loud music, or the member of the board who always wants his own way. It is not cancer, or diabetes, or MS, or a congenital abnormality. It is not the drunk driver who takes your child’s life, the boss who fires you, or the Christian who opposes you.
Your sworn enemy is Satan and the forces at his disposal, and he has declared war on the people of God. His armies are not physical like an earthly army. Although some Christian authors paint fanciful images of demonic figures complete with sulfur-breath and stereotypical evil features, Paul describes them simply as “rulers …powers …world forces of this darkness…spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Apparently, in the spiritual non-physical realm (here called heavenly places), there is structured ordering of evil beings. We have seen these before in Ephesians (see 1:21, 2:2, 3:10).
These are formidable foes and we cannot afford to treat their existence lightly. As any general would know, the more you know about your enemy and his ways, the more you are able to counter-act his offensives. However, we must remember verse 10, to be strong in the might of the Lord. We must stand firm and not shrink back. Fears must be overcome, the fear of failure, criticism, doubts, weakness, insignificance. We need to train ourselves to understand the darts and shots of our enemy.
Lord, You are the General of my life. I stand strong in You as I face the onslaught of the devil, even in the daily skirmishes of life.