By Joanna Gregg
“When Jesus was tempted, scripture flowed from his lips. When Jesus was challenged, scripture flowed from his lips. When Jesus was crucified, scripture flowed from his lips. One of the ways to live like Jesus is to internalize scripture, so that when we are cut, it spills out.”
Bible Passage: Ephesians 6:10-14 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth …“
I often jokingly call myself “the world’s worst missionary”. Why do I do this? Because I’m human and I mess up all the time. I say things I shouldn’t say, I respond in ways that don’t reflect my relationship with Jesus and I think thoughts I would be ashamed if anyone knew. When I think about how God’s word has empowered my ministry, it starts with how God’s word has empowered me and changed me so I can do the work He has called me to do. Being a missionary isn’t what helps me stand firm or be prepared to fight the enemy. Being a missionary doesn’t mean I’m ready to face temptation or to live victoriously. God’s word is what helps me to stand firm, fight the enemy, face temptation and live victoriously. It is His word that enables me to test what I am hearing, thinking, and seeing against what is actually true.
2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan disguises himself like an angel of light. He doesn’t present himself to us as this scary monster. In fact, he disguises himself as closely to the light as he can. He wants what he is presenting to us to be so close to God’s truth that we struggle to differentiate between the two. He wants the opportunities presented to us to be so similar to what God says is right that unless we have God’s word to filter things through, we will never be able to tell with our own eyes, ears and thoughts whether it is truth or if it is the enemy disguising himself as truth.
Living in West Africa, I experience how he does this. When there, I see Satan’s work more clearly than when I’m in the US. People offer sacrifices to witch doctors looking for results that benefit them and it’s accepted as normal because it is all they know. Satan’s work in this is obvious to me because I am an American, I think like an American and I see things through my American eyes. I don’t think Satan’s work in West Africa is as obvious to locals as it is to me. However, if someone from West Africa were to visit the US, I believe they would see more clearly the work of Satan in the US than in their home country. They would not understand the materialism or the need for families to have such big homes or more than one vehicle. We see things differently because Satan is the master deceiver and he knows how to target us. John 8:44 tells us he is the father of lies. Deception is what he uses to target us, and he is able to deceive us without us even realizing he is doing it. He has us blinded to the work he is doing in our lives.
So, what do we do about it? Our victory starts with the truth. And if we are going to wrap ourselves in truth and use the truth to fight the enemy, we must know the truth. We cannot trust our own senses – what we see, hear, feel and think. We need something outside of ourselves to test the authenticity of the opportunities, relationships and difficulties we face. We need something else to lean on so we don’t lean on our own understanding, our own feelings, or on what we think we might know or what makes sense. We need God’s word. We need the belt of truth.
During the time Paul wrote Ephesians, the belt was the first thing a solider would put on in order to give them extra stability. The rest of the armor weighed around 70 pounds, so they needed extra stability at the core to prevent them from collapsing under the weight. The stability they needed came from the belt. In the same way, we need support to help us make the right decisions and live a life that is a reflection of Jesus. The truth is what will keep us strong, stable and upright when the enemy is trying to knock us down. We need God’s word. It is when we saturate ourselves in the truth that we can stand firm and not be easily deceived.
Putting on the belt of truth, or saturating ourselves in the truth, means we need to know, study and live God’s word. Knowing this has changed my life and the way I deal with temptations, difficulties and frustrations that are a part of daily life. I use specific verses that target specific areas I struggle with, and I start my day praying through these verses and asking God for the grace I need to resist temptation. Knowing scripture isn’t as powerful if I don’t do anything with what I know. Praying through scripture and making it personal to what I am facing and struggling with makes God’s word come alive and become more relevant. Priscilla Shirer refers to prayer as the 7th piece of armor – “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication …” (Ephesians 6:18). In Mark 18:38 Jesus tells a few of His disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Even if we have the desire to do what is right, our flesh is weak, and we need to be prepared for the temptations we will face. A.W. Tozer says, “Temptation often comes unexpected and subtle. It is unexpected and too subtle for the flesh, but anticipatory prayer gets the soul ready for whatever temptation there may be.” This is why it is important to know scripture; we can pray and claim God’s truth, preparing us for the temptations we know (and those we don’t know) we are going to face.
So, how do we stand firm, live victoriously and not give into temptation? How do we not get deceived, defeated or knocked down by the enemy’s schemes? We fasten on the belt of truth, which means knowing it, living it, and praying it. We must look to scripture as the deciding factor of the choices we make and how we choose to live. We pray as Charles Spurgeon did, “Lord, help us not only to be able to discern the difference between right and wrong, but please help us to be able to discern the difference between right and almost right”.