Trinity 21 2021

Ephesians 6:10-17 – The Battle

October 24, 2021 

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID 83686

The war had been going on for years.  Countless battles fought. Lives lost. Lives saved. There he was. The soldier. He wasn’t anyone special.  Just a grunt. Following orders the best he could under the circumstances.  At one time, he was on the front lines, but the fighting had been seemingly slow. Despite some incredible battles, against all odds, he’s only been wounded, and is still able to fight. 

As you can imagine, war wears on people.  Maybe the waiting for the battle to come is the hardest. He sits at his post, with only random gunfire to be heard far off in the distance.  He’s been assigned to this duty with special emphasis, yet it seems the most boring of them all. It is simply guard duty.  His dreams alternate. He wants to be back home with his family and friends, the way it used to be when he was younger and ignorant of the horrors of war.  At the same, he also dreams of the glory that could be his. Oh, the battles he could fight and the hero he could be if he just had the chance. 

His chance came.  A battle began.  The enemy forces tried to break through the front lines, but this was only a diversion. The real attack was to come from behind.  Long hours of anticipating an attack which never seemed to come had dulled his attention.  Weariness, lack of good rest, boredom, and hours of staring into an endless darkness on a moonless night.  The enemy was using these against this soldier, as he snuck around to attack from behind.  The enemy wanted to be silent, so none of the other guards would be alerted that the perimeter was breached.  His gun was put away. He would use more silent and inconspicuous weapons.  He prowled, like a lion stalking prey. He got closer.  He knew the guard was distracted.  And he waited. 

While all this was going on, what the soldier on guard duty didn’t know is that while battles were being fought the war has been won already.  The enemy didn’t seem to know this either though, or at least care. He still fought, even though his side has already been defeated.  In that sense, this one battle wouldn’t determine anything in the grand scheme of the war.  But it meant everything for this soldier and the enemy stalking him.

The soldier was enticed by the battle going on in the distance, and had no clue the danger lurking behind him.  He wanted to help his fellow soldiers.  He didn’t see anyone around him, and it wouldn’t do any harm to leave his post since he didn’t feel he was guarding much anyway. He could help, and he wanted to help. So he grabbed his weapon, and as he was about to hastily make his way to where he thought he could do some good, it was at that moment that the enemy pounced…

What happens next, I don’t know.  Because that battle is being fought as we speak, right here, right now, in your lives.  You are that soldier of God, enlisted into His army by virtue of your baptism.  St. Paul speaks of this in our Epistle lesson. The Christian life is one of diligence, of guard duty, to stand firm in the Christian faith dressed in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13).  Knowingly or not, as a Christian you are constantly tempted by impatience to seek out dramatic encounters and glorious victories.  So you are tempted leave your post and go out in search of the enemy and seemingly glory in spiritual warfare… 

That’s just what Satan wants us to do.  The devil’s frontal attack is to get us to sin, then accuse and condemn us because of that sin, rather than letting us rest in the forgiveness of Jesus. His back door attack is to get others to sin against us and then for us to quit serving in love.  He wants us to abandon our post, our station in life, so that he can lead us on a wild, spiritual goose chase.  In doing so, rather than being the war hero, we become the one that needs to be rescued.  We cannot win the war ourselves.  We cannot be the war hero, for there is only one true hero of this war.  The son of the General of the army, the Lord of hosts, Jesus Himself joins the battle, rushing headlong into the waves of enemy healing those wounded by sin, caring for the victims of evil, sacrificing His life for His men so that all who believe in Him might live. 

Which means we do not need to chase after the enemy all over the world, but only at our post. St. Paul writes, “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.”  We are not required to defeat evil, but only to stand firm and faithful against it. That is enough, the outcome remains with God.  It is His war after all.  Our post is our given location in our family, the world, and the Church.  Christ puts us there and appoints us to guard duty together with Him.  There we stand on guard duty for the saints, the holy people of God, those whom God has placed in our care.  There we guard holy ground, the territory Christ has conquered, and the people that belong to Him.

The place for battle is our station in life, the place where God has put us.  If we remain there, we do not need to look for the enemy; Satan will come out of hiding and engage in battle with us right where we are.  We need to use the right power in fighting the enemy.  In spiritual combat, our knowledge and expertise, our guile and courage, count for nothing.  We rely totally on Christ; He is our champion, the victor in battle. We depend on His strength and power, for He is our armor.  Being ready to fight the good fight of faith means being dressed in the righteousness of Christ.  He empowers us by giving us His Word and His Spirit.  These were the weapons Jesus used when tempted by Satan at His baptism. And these are what Jesus gives to His soldiers.

Spiritual struggles in life call for persistent resistance, withstanding the attack, standing our ground, refusing to retreat from our post or surrender to the enemy.  We fight by our faithful attendance of the Divine Service, for here is where Christ fights for us and equips us for the battle.  It is here that our sins are forgiven again and again, and spiritual strength delivered in the body and blood of Christ. We fight through our daily devotions as the Word of God comes to us.  We fight by raising up our children in faith in Christ, so that they may be equipped with the whole armor of God.  We fight by having a faithful school, a faithful daycare, by having a Sunday School, wherein the Word of God is central and sinners are declared righteous for the sake of Jesus. We fight through trusting in the grace of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and living daily under that grace by His protection freed from all adversities and devoutly given to serve God in good works (Collect of the Day). 

When attacked by the great enemy, and drawn into the battle of your eternal soul, simply say, “Yes, I have sinned, but Christ has died for me and my sins. He stands in for me against the devil and before God the Father. I am baptized, and He covers me with His righteousness and holiness. His blood I receive in Holy Communion cleanses me from all sin.  The Gospel is the ground on which I take my stand against the attacks of the devil.  Christ fights for me. Christ protects me.  Christ has already won for me.  And in His victory, I am victorious over sin, death, and the devil! For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”