Protection
Ephesians 6:10-20

I was talking to a wise Father in the congregation the other night and we realised we’d missed that we’d missed the Pro Bull Riding on OneHD because we’d been out listening to Rollie Martinson talk about the topic “Where have all the men gone?”.  I know not many of you probably watch the Pro Bull Riding, but at least a couple of us do.

This made me think about the protection that the bull riders wear these days.  When I first started going to rodeos as a kid there didn’t appear to be any protection at all, but if you take a look there are lots of bits and pieces that they wear to protect them from dangers inherent with riding a grumpy bull that weighs a tonne or two.

Some wear helmets, others the standard cowboy hat, then a protective vest, similar to military or police bulletproof vests.  There’s a strong leather glove to keep the skin on the hand intact as the bull does his best to get rid of the rider.  Most wear chaps for a bit of extra leg protection and of course they have the bull rope to keep that one hand attached to the bull.  Last but not least is a quality pair of boots, complete with spurs.

These guys know the risks involved in what they do so they protect themselves.

I noticed a couple of weeks ago during the St Kilda versus Hawthorn match that one player hadn’t been wearing a mouth guard; I watched the replay of this game twice so I saw it a few times; when Buddy Franklin goes up for the mark, a St Kilda player manages to knock out one of his front teeth! 

At least one commentator after the game used this incident as encouragement for young kids to always wear a mouth guard when they’re playing football. They need to be aware of the risks and protect themselves.

We realise that in many situations in life that things will go better and safer if we use the right protection.  This is probably easier to do when the dangers are visible, tangible, or the risks are high. 

So why is it that we try to go through life without protecting ourselves from the devil’s schemes?

Perhaps you think you’ve never run into him, so the risks aren’t great, so why bother?  We need to acknowledge that the evil one IS out there. 

1 Peter 5 says this, “[k]eep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.”

Now we don’t want to spend our lives so caught up in what the evil one might be doing that we forget that we are protected and saved by Christ, but to ignore the fact that the devil exists is like riding a motorbike without a helmet on.  You’re asking for trouble.

We need to know the weapons our enemy the devil uses against us, so that we can put in place the defences required to resist him.  That makes sense doesn’t it?  You don’t go out snow skiing wearing just your underwear, you need to wear the right gear to protect you from the cold and from sun glare.

So what are some of the ways the devil tries to attack us?  One of his classic moves is to put doubt in your mind, for example, “He (the serpent) said to the woman, ‘Did God really say’…   Doubt comes in all shapes and sizes.  Am I good enough to play music in worship?  What if something goes wrong?  If I give to the ministry of the church will there be enough for me? 

Satan loves it, anything to stop the building up of the church.  And it’s not just church related, sometimes he wants to stop us having fun in life, or from applying for a better job or a promotion, starting a business, you name it, it could well be the devil chucking doubt in to trip you up.

Fear is in some ways similar to doubt, he uses that on us too.  We know the disciples were fearful in the storm on the lake, probably many of you were fearful in the last few days with all of the wind we’ve had.  Jesus tells them, “Do not be afraid”.

Unforgiveness is another one, I was going to preach a series on conflict reconciliation during August but with my sickness it hasn’t happened, I hope to do this series in October after General Convention, but to give you a preview, we read in Ephesians 4, “ do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  We can read from this that by not forgiving others, that is, by staying angry, we give the devil a foothold to drag us down to his level.

So then how do we protect ourselves from this evil one?  We start by simply resisting him, as we read in James “Submit yourselves then to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

We must then stand firm, be strong in the Lord as we heard in our reading.  Put on the full armour of God.  The belt of truth, - which works against lies and deception.  The breastplate of righteousness, that works against accusation and condemnation.  The gospel of peace, which is effective against unforgiveness and unrepentance.  The helmet of salavation that protects us from temptation, theft and destruction.  The Shield of faith that guards against doubt and fear, and of course the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, which protects you from evil in every way.

You might notice that this doesn’t say that we attack, but that we stand firm in the Lord and use his mighty power against evil forces.  I heard once at a course about at least one lady who likes to go through the motions each morning of putting on the full armour of God to protect her, it is her way of reminding herself that she is protected by God, as she prays and prepares to enter her day fearlessly.

All of this protection should remind us that Christ has already won the victory.  God gave him the name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

Jesus Christ is all powerful, when we stand firm with him, nothing can separate us from his love.  We don’t go into the struggles or the victories of this life alone and unprotected, but with Jesus.  He has promised to be with us to the end of the age and has won the victory for us, we can put on salvation because he has won it for us already.

I was at a party last night for a while, and it was the first time I had seen gatecrashers make things difficult for the hosts.  As we drove up to the party there were a couple of groups of teenagers milling in the street, probably about thirty all up.  When we got to the door we had to have our names checked off of the list that they were using to make sure only invited guests came in.

Over a period of an hour or so many of those teenagers that had been out the front attempted to come in using false names or they actually got in by jumping over the back or side fences.  When the host of the party realised that people were there he didn’t know, he got together a posse and ejected them out the front door.  I’d never seen anything like it before, times have certainly changed!

The devil often tries to gatecrash our party, we need to recognise him, and eject him before he can do any damage.

As you go about each day, pray to God for guidance and protection because he has given us all we need for life and salvation.  Stand firm in his power.

Next time you see someone putting on all of their protective equipment, to ride, skate, drive, ski or even putting on a thimble to do some needlework, be reminded, you are protected and saved by Jesus Christ, your Lord and your saviour.

Amen.