A Little Pastoral Transparency….

Are you dressed for war?

I’ve come close to giving up and throwing in the towel. Not once. Not twice. But a few times. I’ve re-evaluated every aspect of my life over the last nine months – really the last 18 months. I’ve questioned every decision. Questioned every move and even questioned my purpose and place in God’s Kingdom.

I wondered if I was just fooling myself. I wondered if I was really cut out for Kingdom Work, and even when God showed me that some of the things I was dealing with was a product of my own poor choices and bad decisions while others were due to spiritual warfare for being in the right places, I often wondered aloud: “Was the spiritual warfare and constant attacks that come with advancing God’s Kingdom worth the strain on my family, the strain on me personally or even the strain on the people and families most closely connected to me?”

I battled loneliness despite being in crowds. Frustration. Depression and despair – as well as a few other things. I rode the rollercoaster of spiritual highs and head-spinning lows. I wondered if my family was better off without me in ministry….or even without me period.

I’ve preached and taught through internal pain, wondering if anyone was really getting anything out of the ministry that I believed God had given me. And when I say that, I mean my ministry in general…not just a particular church that I’ve pastored.

Even after a spiritual victory, I couldn’t really enjoy it because I was dreading satan’s next attempt at exacting his revenge on me….his next scheme or plot against me, my family and/or my ministry.  I didn’t want to go through it. Whether it was suffering for righteousness’ sake or suffering for my own foolishness, I was tired of fighting the enemy.

But recently I’ve realized something:

I realized that it wasn’t my job to fight the enemy. My primary job is to Worship my God and find safety in His presence alone! I realized that my WORSHIP is my best WEAPON against my adversary. And when I say worship, I don’t just mean the songs we sing. I don’t just mean lifting of hands or shouting praises. I’m talking about the full scope of being in God’s presence through prayer and His Word. Meditation that involves speaking to Him but also letting Him speak to me. And then obedience. Because our obedience to God is our highest form of worship.

But I also realized that this was easier said than done…at least for me. Because there are times when even though you KNOW that you can and you must worship your way out of something, everything in your flesh wars against it. This, also, is spiritual warfare.

You know you should pray…and not just those simple ones, but truly laboring to access the presence of God. You know you should have that conversation with your spouse. You know you should make that controversial decision. You know you should deny the flesh. But you don’t …because it’s more comfortable to just stay where you are. And once again, that too is spiritual warfare.

Right at the beginning of teaching a series on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, God’s Spirit impressed something else on me. Something familiar, but something Oh so Timely. In meditation He just flat out told me:

“You’re not properly dressed for war.”

One day, in the midst of triple digit heat, I saw a guy walking the streets with an outfit on that more resembled something that should be worn for the winter months. As he walked down the street, he was donning a big towel around his neck and would use it frequently to wipe the sweat from his head and neck.  He was running the risk of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke because he was not properly dressed for the elements.

I remember a sad, sad story back in my hometown, Omaha, of a young couple in their 20s who froze to death in the middle of a blizzard, less than a few hundred feet from the warmth  and safety of their vehicle. They were tripping out on meth, but even more than that, they were found wearing clothes suitable for spring time, not a snow storm. They literally froze to death because they were ill-equipped to battle the cold.

As God continued bringing images to me that proved His point, I began thinking. How many of us just roll out of bed, crust in the eyes, no shower, no brushing of the teeth. Just roll out of bed and go straight outside? Hopefully none of us. We go to the mirror and we get ourselves groomed and ready for the day ahead…physically speaking. And then we may also check the forecast to see if it will be hot or cool, rainy or dry, and then we dress accordingly.

I wonder how many of us who are disciples of Christ take the same diligence to dress for the day spiritually.

I know I hadn’t. Let me explain:

Did I pray? Yes. Did I read and study the Word of God? Yes. But my level of spiritual preparation was no longer what was necessary for the place that God brought me to. Right before we moved our fledging ministry into the Forest Park area that God led us to, I remember Him telling me plainly that I would begin to see an uptick in spiritual warfare in my life.

What I should’ve done was adjust my personal spiritual preparation for it. I didn’t. I underestimated what I’d experience and the intensity of it. I felt that the things I’d already been doing was enough.

In essence, I was walking into war half-naked.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul is specific in telling us how much of God’s armor we need in order to be properly dressed for the spiritual elements. He tells us to “put on the WHOLE armor of God” so that we can stand against the tactics of the enemy. (Verse 11).

The full complement of God’s armor includes:

1. The belt of TRUTH (verse 14) – knowing the Word of God keeps us balanced against the lies of satan. We are told that we should adorn God’s truth around our waists at all times.

2. The Breastplate of Righteousness (verse 14) – a breastplate covers the specific area of our bodies where our heart resides. Righteousness covers our hearts from corruptness. Righteous words, righteous attitudes, righteous thoughts. Proverbs 4:23 says this: “Guard your heart ABOVE ALL ELSE, for it is the source of life.”

3. The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace (verse 15) – a warrior’s foot gear is just as important as any other garment of combat. In order to tread on certain terrain, you must have on the right shoes. Putting on the shoes of the Gospel ensures that we will be ready to share the good news of the love of Christ wherever we go.

4. The Shield of Faith (verse 16) – one of satan’s best weapons against us is doubt. God has told you something. He’s promised you that He would fix your situation, your marriage, your health, your wayward child’s heart. He only asked us to be patient. But while we wait, satan begins to talk. And as Jesus stated, the only thing satan knows how to do is lie (John 8:44). Every time satan speaks to us, our faith should tell him to shutup.

5. The Helmet of Salvation (verse 17) – let satan talk long enough and he’ll infiltrate your mind and make you believe that you are not who God said you are. A helmet protects your head. Therefore, the Helmet of Salvation guards your mind. It keeps you in the know of God’s promises and purposes for your life.

6. The Sword of the Spirit and Prayer (verses 17 & 18) – to this point, every piece of the armor of God has been defensive. But the sword of the Spirit, which Paul calls the Word of God, along with CONSTANT prayer (in verse 18) are the ONLY offensive weapons mentioned. That’s because they are the only weapons we truly need. When a soldier wields his sword, he’s not doing it for defense. He’s doing it for OFFENSE. He’s trying to stab, cut and kill. The Word of God is what we use to stab, cut and kill the enemy’s influence over our lives. And prayer… CONSTANT prayer is the staple of it all.

After allowing God to minister this to me, I began to realize that while I couldn’t control certain aspects of spiritual warfare, I COULD control its affect on me, my life, my family and my ministry.

I was convicted because I realized that I had been walking into the frontlines of spiritual warfare through this new place of ministry, only half dressed. If we truly desire to be victorious in battle, we have to do the due diligence each day of putting on our war clothes.

And as I shared with my NewLife family yesterday, the closer we get to Christ, and the more we decide to live a life on new levels of His glory, the more diligent we must be about making sure we are properly dressed.

I challenged our folks yesterday to take this week and pray Ephesians 6:10-18 each morning as a  way of declaring ourselves spiritually dressed and prepared for whatever the enemy would throw at us for the day.

We cannot control what satan tries to throw at us. We can’t control how spiritual warfare COMES to us, but we CAN control how WE come AGAINST IT.

And if we become causalities of spiritual warfare, we can’t blame satan for doing his job. The blame falls back on us for NOT doing ours.

Are you properly dressed for battle? For now on, I’m making doubly sure that I am.

Until Next Time,

B+ (Be Positive)

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~ by gabrielcstovall on July 9, 2012.

4 Responses to “A Little Pastoral Transparency….”

  1. Reblogged this on 3sidedtruth's Blog and commented:
    An on time message.

  2. Thank you for sharing “being properly dressed.” This is an old favorite passagae of scripture and you have made it even more meaningful. Thank you also for the monthly devotional calendar. It is so nice to have you “back at it” again and keep it coming.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It is what I truly needed to hear right now in my life. The world can be very confusing and sometimes its hard to find direction when you heart is so weary. But I will use this to strengthen myself and preparation. I to want to be properly dressed!

  4. This is great, I needed it about NOW.

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