July 5, 2015
Easter is the “spiritual equivalent” of D-Day. Have you ever heard that? That’s how some have described it over the years. “The spiritual equivalent of D-Day.” I want you to think about that on this July 4th weekend. This is the time we think about our independence and the people who fought to win it, and the people who fought to preserve it.
So here’s how those two things are related. They say that when the Allies landed in Normandy, the course of World War II was pretty much decided. Granted, there was still terrible, terrible fighting ahead. But the course, the outcome of the war, seemed to be set after that day.
Now, this is how that relates to Easter. On the cross on Good Friday, and on Easter morning, the atonement took place. Jesus paid the price for our sins, and the victory over sin and death was won. But, like D-Day, there would still be struggles ahead. There would be difficulties for God’s people. As we talked about last week, there would be persecution and tribulation. But the outcome was decided. As Jesus said from the cross. “It is accomplished!”
Like we were saying last week in the Story of Stephen, the Apostles and the people of the early church would have many struggles! A great persecution arose after that day. And I’m sure, like the soldiers fighting their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, there were those in the early church who questioned whether or not they were making any headway in the struggle – even though the victory seemed certain.
Like them, we have struggles in our lives, too. We all know that. At times it might even feel like we’re fighting a never-ending battle against a relentless enemy. And we might feel like there’s nothing we can do to “make it any better.” Anybody ever feel like that? Well the good news is, it’s not up to us to win the victory. Jesus has already done that for us! Yes, we will have struggles. But we need to remember that Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!”
As we think about our struggles, I’d like us to consider this wonderful little metaphor Paul gives us here in Ephesians 6. This is often referred to as “The Whole Armor of God.” Here, he uses the imagery of a soldier and his accouterments. And remember, those people were under the Roman occupation. They would have seen soldiers every day. They would have known about the soldier’s armor. And so Paul uses those images to tell us how we are to clothe ourselves, how we are to protect ourselves, as we face life’s struggles. And these are wonderful things! Righteousness, truth, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. Read those through again when you have time.
In the meantime, I’d like to take the analogy a bit further. We need to remember that not everybody was actually in World War II. We weren’t all fighting the enemy. Yes, people were doing their part. It was a unified effort. We had rationing, recycling, and victory gardens. Some worked in the factories or on farms. Some were trainers. Some were medics, doctors, and nurses. And many, many people simply waited at home… and prayed for their loved ones overseas. And those at home, those who did not go to war, were protected by those who did! Do you see what I mean?
That’s what we celebrate each year at this time. We think of those who fought to win our independence. We think of those who declared our independence on July 4, 1776. Remember, we didn’t win the war on that day, we just started it. Does anyone know when we did win the war? The battle of Yorktown, October 19, 1781. As we know, there was much fighting to be done in those five years. But Independence Day, was the day they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
So, in a sense, July 4th is like D-Day, too. That was the day we “set the course” towards independence. Only in that case, the outcome was anything but certain! Our independence wasn’t easy. The struggle seemed hopeless at times. The fate of the revolution hung by a thread at a number of different points! When Washington crossed the Delaware, he did so because we needed a win! We needed it for our own confidence. We needed it to convince France to join us as allies.
For some, there may be a feeling that our spiritual struggle hasn’t been decided. At times, we may feel our own sense of hopelessness. That’s one of the reasons God gave us each other. Like I said last week, it’s our job to help, and encourage, and upbuild one another. We’re all in this together!
As we do that, we need to remember together that Jesus won the victory for us. We don’t have to “do battle” with the enemy. We’re like those on the home front. The fighting has been done for us! And the “whole armor of God” Paul is talking about here, is about our protection. That’s what we need to concentrate on.
I’ve heard some say that we need to spend a lot of time learning about our enemy, so we know how to do battle. But I don’t think that’s what Paul is getting at here. I believe it’s more important to know the one that protects us!
You see, we can’t just “put on the armor.” We can’t just make sure we’re wearing the various items of protection. In what I believe to be Paul’s conclusion, what does he tell us to do? He says we are to “pray and persevere.” He wanted us to talk to God!! We wanted us to be in communication – in communion – with God. We can’t just wear the armor. As I said, this is not just about knowing how to protect ourselves, it’s about knowing the one who does protect us.
So, as he says here, “Pray at all times…” “With all prayer and supplication.” Supplication is praying for our needs, or the needs of others. “Pray in the Spirit.” he says. That means being aware of and in tune with God’s spirit – as we pray “at all times.”
He says, “Be alert, and persevere.” That’s a great word, “Perseverance!” It means, persistence, determination, grit, discipline, “stick-to-itiveness!” No great endeavor really happens without it, whether we’re talking about the American Revolution, or World War II, or our faith!
Well, that’s a lot to think about, I know. But I want you to consider your life of faith this Independence weekend. I want you to think about how, for soldiers long ago and not so long ago, the struggles went on even after the victory was sure. Think about how that’s like your faith. There may be struggles, but the victory is won! So, pray and persevere! In all things, seek to know, and be in tune with, God’s spirit. Seek to know better the one who protects you!
And to him be all glory, honor, and praise, now and forever, world without end. Amen
Eternal God, whose victory on the cross was won for us, help us to persevere in faith, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Help us to look to him and follow him, no matter what the struggles of this life may be. Help us to know the joy of your kingdom. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.