Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day . . . (Eph. 6:13).
Being equipped and being ready are not the same thing.
How many sets of golf clubs are tucked away in the corner of a closet, acquired with enthusiasm and the best of intentions, now neglected because there’s just never enough time? How many tents and backpacks are up in the attic or shelved in the garage, still waiting for the hike of a lifetime that just never quite came together.
Buying clubs is one thing. Becoming a golfer is quite another. Being outfitted for the trail is one thing. Becoming an outdoorsman is quite another. And yet, how can we ever become what we aspire to be unless we are equipped?
The Drum Kit
For me it was a set of drums. I was in the eighth grade. A couple of years earlier I had decided to give band a try, having never really found my place in the world of sports. My instrument of choice: a snare drum. As it happened, I enjoyed hitting a drum. I decided I would probably enjoy hitting an entire assemblage of drums.
This was the era of Paul McCartney and Wings, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Those drummers sounded very cool. Of course, to play like that would require a drum kit. The solitary snare just wouldn’t do. And so, for my birthday my parents presented me with my first set of drums. I was equipped. But I was no drummer, at least not yet.
I had no idea what to do with multiple drums. I was awkward and stiff. What’s more, I had no context for actually using a drum set. I put the drums in my room, listened to the radio and tried to mimic what I heard. Years would pass before I played with enough competence to accompany other musicians.
The difference between being equipped and being ready shows up in the Bible in the book of Exodus. After ten plagues that display God’s power, Pharaoh relents and allows Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Exodus 13 tells the story this way.
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. (Ex. 13:17-18)
There was a well-traveled trade route that would have taken the Israelites to their intended destination. It was the shortest, most obvious way to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’. But it traversed some dangerous territory. While the road seemed best, the way fraught with obstacles.
God did not lead the people in that direction. They would too soon face war and in the fight they would become fearful and discouraged and decide it was best to go back to Egypt. And yet we are told that “the Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.”
They were armed, but not yet ready for the fight. It would take some time in the wilderness to get ready for what was ahead.
Test the Armor
The whole armor of God is available to you today, every piece of it. You are equipped. But there may be some battles for which you are not yet ready. God may have you in a difficult place, a wilderness place, but his purposes there are to train you for what Paul calls “the evil day.”
Spiritual Warfare sounds large, ominous and cataclysmic. And it can be. But there are small ways today that God may be getting you ready, preparing you for things you cannot see and may not expect.
Not every day is an “evil day” – but Paul tells us that such days will come. And when they come, God will give you what you need to stand firm.
So test the armor of God in the place where you are right now. Test it in seemingly small ways, knowing that God goes before you and behind you, always at work in barren and hard places to get you ready for what lies ahead.
Prayer:Merciful God, use whatever this day brings to build our faith, to teach us to trust, to move us to prayer. And in all things prepare us for the time when we will need to stand firm in struggles we do not yet see. We will follow you faithfully as you lead us, through Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.