Today’s verses are very familiar. We’ve all read about the armour of God.
So I’d like to focus on the first thing that Paul says after he has told believers to put on the armour of God. It’s in verse 18, and it’s basically the last thing Paul writes to the Ephesians.
Almost the first thing he wrote to them was about prayer. In Chapter 1 verse 16, Paul said: ‘I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called.’
And in verse 18 he says: ‘Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.’
Some people think that prayer is part of the armour, but it doesn’t seem to be. It follows on after the armour. Once you have all the armour on, then you are ready to pray. Having on the armour of God is preparation for action. We don’t put on the armour and then sit back and relax because we are safe now. No, we aren’t safe just because we have on the armour.
Not only does today’s Scripture tell us to pray, it calls us to stay alert and be persistent.
We need to be on the alert, because our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a lion looking for someone to eat. 1 Peter 5:8.
When he went to Gethsemane to pray, Jesus told his disciples to ‘Stay here and keep watch with me’. A little later, when they fell asleep, he said, ‘Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ Mark 14:34.
1 Corinthians 16:13 says, ‘Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.’
It is no good being like the ostrich and sticking our head in the sand so we don’t see what we don’t want to see.
The fact that this instruction is repeated should tell us something. It should tell us that it is important to be alert. It is important to be vigilant. It is important to watch out.
Point one is this. You are not automatically protected from the devil because you are a Christian who really believes in Jesus. God is not in control of everything that happens. The reason is that he put us in control, and therefore we have responsibility. Our decisions and our actions affect other people for good or for ill.
Point two. God wants to warn us when Satan is about to attack. He wants to alert us to the devil’s tactics. He tells us to be alert and watchful. If he tells us to do it is because first we can do it, and second we need to do it. We can see the devil’s hands at work if we are alert.
Point three. If the attacks of the devil are always going to be obvious, there would be no need to be alert and vigilant. Isaiah 56:10 warns us about the blind watchmen. How many of us are like that, or like the disciples. Jesus quoted Jeremiah to them, saying: ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’
We are not to gaze idly at the passing scenery. We are to keenly observe. There is a Korean movie out now called 감시자들 or ‘The Watchers’. I saw it on Friday. My favourite character was a young woman with the code name ‘Flower Pig’. It is about a team of police whose job is to watch and follow criminals. It emphasises how they need to be alert to the tiniest details in order to succeed, and how if they miss a small detail the enemy will get away or kill. It is actually rather good.
We are on a similar team for God, and we need to be alert at all times.
If we are not alert, if we do not spot what Satan is up to, or see God’s messages to us, what do you suppose will happen? Ignorance will not be bliss. Ignorance will be defeat, and it could destroy us.
If Satan is gaining the upper hand in your life, in your workplace, in this city, in this nation, could it be because we have failed to see him at work, and have thus failed to do anything about it? Could it be we have preferred to hide in the comfort of the darkness, instead of facing the pain and struggle of broad daylight. If Satan has made any gains then we need to admit it, and then fight back with the heavenly weapons or prayer.
If you have been deceived by Satan, now is not the time to hide and pretend that it is all fine. Now is the time to stand up and fight back with prayer.
The biblical watchmen, the watchmen of the Old Testament, watched out for two things. They stood on the walls of the cities looking for enemies and messengers.
An experienced watchman could see from afar who a messenger was by the way they ran, and he would tell the gatekeepers to open the gates.
We learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, and with experience we can tell which messengers to trust. We can learn to recognise the wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing who come to come to devour the flock. They recognise them by their stride. One of the most trusted watchmen, and a person who I listen to, is my wife. This is not judging people. We have to be very careful not to judge. It is being alert to the small things that warn us of danger.
Watchmen also watch for the enemy. When they see potential danger, they sound the alarm. When the watchmen are doing their job, we will never be surprised by Satan’s attack.
As watchmen, we do not live in fear of the enemy. Nor do we live in ignorance of him.
And neither are we to be preoccupied with the enemy. Satan would love for us to get this wrong, so again we must be alert. Alert and prayerful. Always praying as we watch.
We must absolutely avoid becoming fascinated with Satan, but we do need to know about the enemy. Our focus is worship and love, but we are alert and ready when it is time to fight.
We are surrounded by a multitude of unbelievers. Right here in Jinju believers are a small minority. Some say as small as 5% of the population, compared to 34% for the nation as a whole. Most people you meet will be non-believers. Not all of them are lost sheep, some of them are wolves.
When we are being alert, operating as watchmen, we keep our eyes on all these people. We do not fear them, but we are alert. We must keep Satan out while praying for the safety and protection of all the believers.
And our prayer is to be perpetual. It never ceases. At all times we are to pray for all believers, and we are to be alert. We are to watch out carefully for the messengers that God sends to warn us of Satan’s activities. We are to watch out carefully for the enemy that roams around looking for someone to eat.
You’ve got your armour on. You’ve got the power of God in you. Don’t go to sleep now. Stay awake and pray. Your Lord needs you to do this for the sake of his kingdom and for the sake of the other believers. There is power in your prayer, and you are responsible for how you use the power of God in you. Be careful.