Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. —Ephesians 6:10–12, NIV
Picture an ancient Roman soldier—like the ones who guarded Paul as he wrote Ephesians—preparing for battle. Different pieces of armour protect specific areas of the body so the soldier has the best chance of surviving blows from any direction, while also being agile to attack the enemy.
The breastplate covers the torso, from neck to thighs, front and back. It shields the soldier’s vital organs—but most importantly, it protects the heart. It was called the heart guard.
A beating heart is vital for life. As you read this, your heart pumps blood through your veins, picking up oxygen and nutrients and transporting these to be turned into energy. When a heart is weakened, or malfunctioning, it can create a ripple effect of damage through your body. The body weakens, and may eventually stop functioning.
Our spiritual heart is just as important. Comprising our mind, will, emotions, and conscience, it is the center of our spiritual being. Without protection, one swift blow from the enemy can devastate.
Just like the breastplate covers the soldier’s most vital core organs, for the spiritual warrior, it represents Christ’s righteousness given to us—His strength and protection against the lies and attacks of the enemy.
God’s righteousness is the standard of His character, the truth of who He is—His justice, consistency, holiness. Nevertheless, righteousness does not define God, rather God defines righteousness.
While it is His righteousness, not our own, which defends us against spiritual attacks, God has also given us strategies to not leave our heart vulnerable to attacks. In scripture, He lays out practical steps like taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5); do not be afraid (Genesis 15:1), do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6); to think on what is pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8); to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11); to love one another (John 13:34); and more.
The soldier’s shield is also used to defend, but it is the breastplate that protects from the up-close deathblows. The scripture above says to “put on the full armour.” It’s a choice. As leaders in ministry, our work requires us to use the armour of God constantly.
When not in battle, a soldier trains for it. The enemy won’t wait until we’re prepared. He often attacks when we are most vulnerable, emotionally and physically. We must maintain vigilance and protect what is most vital. The 300 chosen men of Gideon’s army were picked because they remained vigilant while drinking at the water (Judges 7:4-7). They used their hands to drink, instead of limiting their vision by drinking straight from the stream. They were physically ready for any attack at any moment. We must be on guard against spiritual attacks aimed to cripple our spiritual lives and cause us to doubt our righteousness in God.
The breastplate was connected to, and supported by the rather hefty belt—the Belt of Truth. If the breastplate became dislodged from the support of the belt, it would fall, rendering it useless.
What areas in your life and your ministry are vulnerable to spiritual attack? Guard your heart and defend your God-given righteousness by clinging to His truth and by living out His practical standards, which are designed to keep our minds and hearts healthy.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).
Article originally published in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI Roundtable.