Breastplate of righteousness: protect the heart from fiery darts

Ephesians 6 calls all believers to put on the Armor of God in order to be protected from the fiery darts of the enemy. In this series, we are examining the pieces of the armor and how we can use each of them as protection in our daily lives.

Modeled after the military dress of Roman soldiers, and worn over the torso, the physical breastplate protects the physical heart. The spiritual breastplate protects the spiritual heart. Should the sword of the spirit fail to thwart the enemy, or the shield of faith fail to deflect the attack, the breastplate is the final layer of defense.

breastplate

In the days of Roman occupation, the breastplate was typically made of iron or bronze, or a combination of the two. These materials were used because of their durability and resistance to rust.

Rusted armor is weak armor.

As I began walking down this path toward ministry, I knew I’d encounter obstacles. I was not surprised when situations and people rose up to stop me – in fact, after a while I began to see them as confirmations I was on the right track. The enemy wouldn’t poke at someone unless he was afraid.

Sometimes the pressure was too great and I’d back down. Sometimes I forged ahead, only to end up disillusioned and realizing I was on the wrong path to begin with.

This is all part of the journey, and through it all God has been growing me and teaching me about his plan for my life.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that those fiery darts will always come at you. And they will hit you. Often. Some of them will knock you back a bit.

The righteousness found in Jesus is oftentimes your only protection.

Photo credit: pastorjimdorton.blogspot.com

Photo credit: pastorjimdorton.blogspot.com

The enemy will whisper in your ear, tell you you’re not smart enough, talented enough, or connected well-enough. Sometimes he will send other people to whisper these lies. When you believe the lies, you are allowing the darts of the enemy to penetrate your heart. When the heart is crushed, inspiration, resolve and determination are often not far behind.

But when we focus on God’s righteousness, rather than our own, it is like being given permission to stand on the power of the God of the universe. Not because you earned it, but because Jesus earned it on your behalf. Friend, when you trust Jesus as your savior, you become well-connected. To the most resourceful, powerful being in all of the universe, and beyond it.

A commoner becomes a king or queen holding court. A lowly clerical worker becomes CEO.

When you stand on the mountain of the truth of you who are in Christ, you’re able to see the lies of the enemy much more clearly.

And when I wear this breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness I can stand strong against the darts and declare, “Yeah Devil, you’re right! I don’t have the abilities to do what God has called me to do, and thank God for that!”

I find my strength and power in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and that and that alone allows me to stand. I walk this path under the authority and provisions of God, and I can do so much more through him than I could ever do on my own.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)

Relying on your own armor or abilities rusts the breastplate of righteousness. The enemy’s darts can more easily penetrate weak armor, eventually getting at the heart.

It may seem as though the doors are being slammed in your face, even after God has swung them open for you. Take a step back and ask yourself whose righteousness you are relying on. Are you moving forward counting on your own abilities? Are you seeking God and praying about the next steps he would have you take? Or are you deciding your next steps based on your own will, not God’s?

A lot of people think of God’s plan as some mystical, secret thing. I’ve been guilty of this myself. But the Bible tells us that God’s will is for you to know his will:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, emphasis added)

The caveat to this is that God will only reveal his will to you when it is in his perfect timing to do so. I am so glad he did not tell me at age 28 that he wanted me to be in full-time ministry. He waited until I had experienced the fullness of his mercy, when I was on my knees and begging him to give my life purpose. And even after that, the actualization of this calling has been slow, a gradual unwrapping. There are still many, many layers to go.

He wants to reveal his will for your life, but first you have to lean on him completely and give yourself over to him, to come to a point where you recognize his righteousness as superior to your own.

Sometimes you just have to hold up your own rusted armor and let those darts pierce your heart before pride is broken enough to finally say “okay God, do your thing, because my way is not working.”

And what a beautiful thing it is to finally hold the true righteousness of God over your heart. There is tremendous freedom in letting go of your own ways, and in standing down from your own abilities. Only then can we fully gain the benefits of the knowledge of God’s wisdom and provisions.

If you are on the path God has designed for you, you will face opposition from the enemy. Keep moving ahead. Keep trying. If you are on the right path, God will deal with the people and things that get in your way. If not, he’ll lead you to the right path and another open door.

So protect your armor, examine it frequently for signs of rust, and then hold it up proudly, knowing your heart is protected and you have what it takes to keep moving on the front lines.

And always remember that Jesus took the full assault of the enemy’s arsenal, in order for you to wear the breastplate of righteousness. Stand strong and know that you are protected; Jesus has already won the war.

Photo credit: jay4jesus.blogspot.com

Photo credit: jay4jesus.blogspot.com

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