As I was reading Ephesians 6 today, I was struck by the word Paul uses to describe our spiritual struggle as we follow Jesus. Notice what it says in verse 13,
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
The word “wrestle” is describing close hand to hand combat. I think it is easy to read this verse and miss the significance of this description. Paul is figuratively describing an intense struggle and wrestling on the ground with our enemy.
Is that how you have been thinking of the Christian life? I think this concept of “wrestling” stood out to me today because last night I experienced my first Jujitsu class. Jujitsu is a form of grappling or wrestling. After we each had learned a couple of moves, we were told to start wrestling with a partner until we could get our opponent in submission! I hadn’t wrestled since High School, but I gave it a try. It was an intense struggle to avoid being put in submission by my opponent while trying to get him to tap out.
Surprisingly, I did well against the other beginner students. BUT, when the teacher asked to wrestle me I knew I was in trouble. Because of his skill, speed, and experience, he was able to overcome my strength advantage. Whatever I tried to do, he had a way to counter or get out of it. Eventually, he got me to a point where I had to give up. He forced me into submission!
We as followers of Jesus are fighting a very experienced foe, who has organized this world in a way to bring us into submission. The problem is that we often do not see life in this way.
As I studied this word “wrestle” a little more, I was challenged by the insight of Kenneth West when he said,
“In the word ‘wrestle,’ (palē (παλη)), Paul uses a Greek athletic term. Thayer defines as follows: ‘a contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to press and hold down his prostrate antagonist, namely, hold him down with his hand upon his neck.’ When we consider that the loser in a Greek wrestling contest had his eyes gouged out with resulting blindness for the rest of his days, we can form some conception of the Ephesian Greek’s reaction to Paul’s illustration. The Christian’s wrestling against the powers of darkness is no less desperate and fateful.”
We are in a desperate fight for our obedience to Jesus, but most of us in America live as though we have no enemies. We live an unguarded life against the schemes of the evil one. He knows our weaknesses and is ceaselessly trying to pin us before we even know we were in a fight!
Paul shows us that our only hope in this battle is with God’s armor. Verse 13 says,
“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.”
Wuest continues his valuable insight into verse 13 when he says,
“The verb is aorist imperative, which construction issues a command given with military snap and curtness, a command to be obeyed at once and once for all.Thus, the Christian is to take up and put on all the armor of God as a once-for-all act and keep that armor on during the entire course of his life, not relaxing the discipline necessary for the constant use of such protection.”
Wow, what a description of our struggle to be faithful as a follower of Jesus in this world! Our only hope is to withstand our experienced foe is by putting on the whole armor of God and fighting. This armor is describing what a soldier would put on as he went into battle. Each piece had a particular purpose.
Father, I thank you for the reminder that following you in this world will be hard even though the victory is assured. I will be wrestling with a global system designed to lead me astray from simple obedience to you. Help me to remember this life will be a daily struggle and that I need your armor to be able to resist its influence. By your enabling, give me a life of victorious faithfulness.
Following Jesus with you,