13-18Be 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. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
We are in a battle - life is never easy. Our passage today is best known as describing the weapons of our warfare. In the Message Bible, the passage does not outline "putting on" or "taking up" these weapons / pieces of armor. Instead, it gives us the reminder that there is a great deal of attention that must be paid in "being prepared". I like the way this translation opens this passage for us because it is describes the fact that we must learn how to apply these various weapons / pieces of armor in our lives. It s something we must learn - it does not come naturally to us.
The important reminder we are faced with in our opening verses is that we are up against way more than we can handle on our own. Mark my words, we may try repeatedly to handle what life throws our way without ever seeking God in the midst of it, but we don't handle it well when we do! We need God's help - and he stands at the ready to do just that. God has "issued" us certain weapons - things we have at our disposal that we must become proficient at using.
When I was in the military, I was issued a M-16 rifle. I learned how to handle that weapon - everything from zeroing its sights, cleaning its many parts, and actually firing it with proficiency. It became a tool in my hands that was to be used, if warranted, in the defense of my life. So it is with the weapons of warfare that God has given us - the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, Prayer, abundant Faith, and even everlasting Peace. Regardless of the "weapon", each serves a purpose in our "arsenal" of defense against the enemy of our souls.
Paul reminds us that these are more than mere words on a page - they are true life "tools" we must become skillful in implementing. We need to learn how to pray - not just pouring our hearts out to God asking for his help, but in supporting each other in prayerful battle. We must engraft truth into our daily walk - keeping us steady when the enemy tries to offer deceptive tactics. There is stability in learning what it is to stand in the peace of God - unwavering because we know that we are in Christ and he is in us.
Regardless of the "tool" provided, if they are not used, they are useless. Every weapon / tool provided for both our defense and our offense are necessary. The skill of learning how to use them is often best learned from others who have already learned - just like I learned to fire my rifle on the firing range with a group of instructors who were expert marksmen. Yes, we will learn much on our own, just us and God. Yet there is much to be learned from each other - so come alongside one who has walked through many a battle and learn how they have used the weapons of our warfare in their lives. The fact remains - we need to learn how to apply the weapons (utilize the tools we have been given) because we will need them all our lives!
We are not exempt from learning how to use these weapons - there is a command in this passage. Where a command exists, there is implied obedience as an expectation. Therefore, it is imperative that we don't take for granted what we have been given for our defense. Preparation is a process of making ready. Are you ready for the battle? Are you ready to stand strong? Are you ready to stand for another when they can barely stand alone any longer? The invitation is to be prepared - learn how to use your weapons of warfare well!