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Description: The Power of God’s Armor
The Power of God’s Armor
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you take the Bible, loved ones, and turn to Psalm 91. It will tie up to what we will talk about
later. It is that great Psalm which is a comfort in all circumstances we pass through. “He who
dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the
Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare
of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his
wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror
of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the
destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right
hand; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the
wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall
befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you
in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest your dash your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under
foot. Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my
name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and
honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”
Those last verses are obviously spoken by God. I’ve been stupid that at different times in my life
God would speak to me and I would say it out loud. But then immediately with my old liberal
education, I would think it’s just my own thought. I just thought about it. What would God say at
this time? At last I finally wakened up and realized it is God speaking. I don’t know if you have
found you do this. It is important to realize the other is the height of egotism. It struck me how
ego-centric it was to think I thought it up. There were times when it was so different to what my
own feelings were that I should have known. I think that is what is happening here in this Psalm.
You need to look out for it and not bring God down to our level.
Can I jump right in? We are studying Ephesians 6:11 and I’ll tell you what I think I am to share
this morning. Last Sunday’s verse was Ephesians 6:10, “Finally be strong in the Lord and the
strength of his might.” We talked about that and you wonder what sense can we be strong in his
might. Of course, the dear Bible says, “I knew you would ask that!” So in verse 11 it tells us what
his might, “Put on the whole armor of God.” We’ll talk about that phrase next Sunday. Then it goes
on to say, “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The putting on the whole
armor of God is how you stand in the strength of his might.
I go back to the financial crisis of 2008. That’s how the armor of God came back to me in a very
real way. You remember the situation for Hank Paulson [Secretary of the Treasury, 2006-2009].
Lehman Brothers had failed and the bankers were anything but cooperative. The whole credit system in
the U.S was frozen. Everybody was worried — Timothy Geithner [Secretary of the Treasury, 2009-2013]
— everyone was worried and Paulson didn’t know what to do. As Secretary of the Treasury, he had
everything in his hands. You remember there was one particular meeting they all had where no one
could see their way through and Paulson admitted that the “whole world financial system is about to
collapse.” So it was that bad. He was actually physically sick in one of the meetings.
He went to his phone and called his wife who was also Christian Scientist. He said to her, “We are
at the end. I do not know what to do.” He was bewildered. She seemed to be a dear girl and she
quoted to him 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and
love and self-control.” She said that to him. God has not given to us a spirit of fear but a spirit
of power and love and a sound mind.
His words are so familiar. They’re words the evangelicals used to say to me when I was a liberal. I
thought they were a bit thick, very metaphorical. So Paulson said, ‘I put on my sword and went back
in to the meeting.’ The sword was this dear Word of the spirit of power. He was probably brought up
in the Sunday School tradition. The sword you needed in all kinds of conflicts and battles was God’s
Word. That’s why he said, “So I put on my sword and he went back in.” He went back in protected with
the verse or by the verse protecting his heart and mind.
That brought home to me some of the truth of the armor of God. This is what we will spend the next
weeks talking about that. It seems to be the vital factor in the way we confront our conflicts,
problems, challenges or temptations. It is vital to put on the armor of God. I’m making a song about
it because I have not always treated it with such clarity. I have known about the armor of God.
Obviously David fought Goliath without any armor; Goliath had the full array of armor. I know the
helmet of salvation and some of the parts of it. I thought it was a nice metaphorical, childlike way
of explaining it to make use of God’s truth, Word and gospel.
Only recently has it become real to me that without the armor you are in real trouble. Unless you
know what it is and how to use the armor you are equally in trouble. I could apply that today and
that’s part of the reason this is the preliminary — we are really not dealing with the verse today.
We will start dealing with it next time.
This truth that Paulson quoted seems to me to be vital for us exactly in our situation. It came home
to me when I read it again. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear.” You remember the little
French movie we watched, “Romantics Anonymous” where the psychiatrist asked the fellow, who had such
trouble with people, “Well, what are you afraid of?” The fellow looked down and said, “Everything.”
Whatever you can think of, I’m afraid. My father used to say to us, ‘Let’s hope nothing bad happens
to us.’ I know that so well where you look out to see where the clouds are — not looking for the
sunshine but the clouds. Or to see the sneaky little lions creeping up on you. That spirit of fear
which is a general apprehension.
It is really godlessness. It’s saying to yourself, “This world is a scary place.” It is chaotic.
Obviously everybody gets trampled over everybody else. So it is dangerous. This is why I have to
manouver my way through. That’s where our eyes are. We put our eyes on earthly things. We start
trying to figure out how we can manouver around those earthly things with God’s help, we always say.
I’m glad I have faith in God. Yeah, but your faith and looking are actually on the world. It’s
actually on your trouble. It’s not on God. Well, yeah, but you have to think about them a little to
know how to deal with them. Yes, but is your mind not preoccupied with them. Well, I have to think
and work out what to do. Somehow or other you have a spirit of fear inside you.
I looked at other translations. In the Revised Standard Version, “For God did not give us a spirit
of timidity.” What made a difference to Paulson was he got that word quoted by his wife from the
Bible and he saw there is no place for fear. I go in with a spirit of trust in God. He exercised his
will over his mind to do that. God did not give us a spirit of timidity. Now that’s what came home
to me, in a way it’s not quite fair to use this but if the cap fits we should all see it properly.
With you, Trish, I saw when you spoke timidity. You going into a shop with timidity. In fairness to
you, we don’t want to come across as loud mouthed Americans. We do want to be sensitive to the
person we are talking to. In fairness that does explain the tone of voice. But I thought too there
was timidity and it could come across to the person. Sometimes I thought I saw that in their faces
that this person is very timid and very shy. But God has not given us a spirit of timidity.
Then I thought what is probably going through your minds, as it did when I first got up to speak,
is a preoccupation of what everyone is thinking of me and what they were thinking when I spoke and
how my voice must have sounded to them. So I was utterly preoccupied with myself and what my
position was to them and what they were thinking about me. So I was timid. There was not the Holy
boldness that God wants us to have.
God has not given us the spirit of timidity. Timidity comes when we think about what we are facing
here such as a facing a person who we want to buy our products. Or we are thinking about the
economic position we are in. Or, we are thinking about the financial situation in our bank account.
Our mind is in that and not on our Lord God who holds the whole world in his hands. We get into a
spirit of fear and timidity when we are really being practical atheists, when we are believing sure,
sure God is way up there. The way the deists believe. God is up there but he doesn’t have any
intervening power in this world.
We get into this position of God is up there and we know it will turn out OK in the end, God will
bring the success but at this moment he is not here to intervene in this situation. So really it is
a lack of faith. It’s simpler than that because it is a refusal to exercise our will over our minds.
Because we can bring every thought captive into of Christ Jesus and we can think of things the way
they really are. Indeed in a thousand situations driving in the car you have to think now where is
this guy going and where will this other fellow end up and where should I put this car. Again and
again we are trying to establish what the reality is. It’s very normal to do that. What we are
trying to do here is establish that God is not really here. God cannot do anything about this
situation. He doesn’t know the details of this — he can’t see the look in this person’s eyes and
he is not able to do anything anyway. So it is really a downright atheism – a chosen atheism we are
walking in. Then a spirit of timidity comes in.
So God has not given us timidity, he has already provided everything for us. He has surrounded us
with angels. He has already seen the situation we are in. He already has plans for our deliverance
from it. He’s told us that. So the whole thing is under control – his control. We are there by his
appointment and his weapons, with his power above everything else governing it. So that if I end up
hanging on a cross, I will be safe in his arms. It’s free from how it looks it is going to turn out.
It’s free from appearing not turning out so well. It is in God’s hands and his will will be done.
You can have complete confidence in that. So your confidence is totally in him and his ability. God
has not given us a spirit of timidity.
The American Standard Version Bible translates it, “For God has not given us a spirit of
fearfulness.” God did not give us a spirit of fearfulness. That’s where the little guy from that
movie comes into it hoping nothing bad will happen to us. A general spirit of fearfulness that we
walk in continually — a background in our thinking and our life. It’s a general tendancy to be
fearful first — it’s almost the first thing we are — we are fearful. We come into a situation and
we don’t see this as Lord you see this and have a way forward in this and I listen to you to show it
to me. It’s an immediate spirit of fearfulness — just walking in fearfulness — fearful of lack of
money, fearful of what this person will say, fearful of what will happen to you next week or next
year — a general spirit of fearfulness. Yielding to that is allowing nothingness to run your life
— we like to call it Satan but it is really nothing. It is turning away from the one who controls
things, pretending he doesn’t exist.
That’s the worst of it — nobody is in charge then. It seems that nobody is in charge. So you look
out on the situation with no context in which to view it except how you feel, so you are filled with
fearfulness. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind. I thought
that was interesting – a sound mind. A mind that is very capable to cutting up the various
situations and then coming to an answer. A sound mind is balanced, sees things as they really are
and acts on the basis of that insight. So God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love
and a sound mind. That is generally the armor of God.
What came home to me was if I don’t actually, mentally with my mind think those things, I am without
armor. I think that’s partly how we get into the mess. We are ego cantered. I’m not saying we are
selfish brats. We aren’t selfish brats. We often do things for each other and we often are generous
and giving but we are ego cantered. We first think first of our own thoughts. What we are thinking
that’s what governs us. We feel that’s all I’ve got. No, you have the armor of God! Yeah, yeah,
sure I know about that but, but really finally all I’ve got is myself and my own wit here. It’s an
atheism that is not empty. It’s an atheism that is filled with ourselves and what we can do and what
we are able for. It’s absolutely crazy. By thinking, can you add one inch to your stature? No. Can
you actually change anything about yourself? Very little. We can get a little fat off. We can’t
radically change ourselves. Only he is able. He can.
So we either think in the midst of ourselves and our own inabilities or face reality that God has
provided our armor. Most of it is concerned with the exercise of the mind. I’m convinced that a lot
of our troubles comes from passivity of the mind. Our troubles come not just from passivity, letting
the mind wander but from not using the mind at all. Above all, it is not using our wills to control
the use of our minds and thoughts. I think part of that is egotism. Part of it is saying well I
don’t need to do that. I can live this life by my own strength and I don’t have to follow those
directions. I don’t have to do it that way. But it is his word; he knows the way you do it. You
bring every thought into captivity of Christ Jesus. You have not been given a spirit of fear but of
power, love and a sound mind. You can’t say I have a sound mind, a balanced mind that can apply
itself to what the truth is. The truth is that God is here and he has organized the whole thing.
So just think a little about it. What I’m going to do is pay attention now to this armor of God.
Because it seems to me that is the way to face these problems that we are having. It brings a power
of God that transforms the situation.
Let us pray.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each
of us this coming week. Amen.