On The Winning Side

God has your six.

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Shaking, almost uncontrollably, I lunged toward a small rope ladder on the side of a Japanese container vessel in the Bearing Sea. It was dark, and the freezing rain stung my face as I made my way up about 20 feet to the deck of a vessel the Coast Guard deemed suspicious enough to investigate. I was part of a six-man boarding team whose mission was to clear the ship of illegal drugs or contraband. As the group’s newest member, I was positioned in the second row, armed only with a can of military-grade mace. That first turn we took, I was overwhelmed by the foreign whispers resonating through the darkened hall to the point my shaking must have been noticed by one of the two sailors behind me. Leaning up to my left ear, my shipmate simply said, “McCracken, we got your six; “six” referring to the number on a clock in relation to the 12; in other words, he was saying my back was covered.

Many times, in my fourteen years of military training, in both the Army and Coast Guard, this concept had been reinforced; soldiers and sailors protect each other’s six. Even our military’s modern armor reflects this as the Kevlar bulletproof inserts and shielding are to be worn on the front, never the back. This is not unique, the Roman military in the Apostle Paul’s day maintained the same practice. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, he likened the spiritual resources available to the Christian soldier to the military’s practical ones. The Apostle Paul said to “take up the whole armor of God” so that Christians could stand victorious on the battlefield of the faith. The word “whole” speaks to the completeness of the armor God issues to each Christian in His army; in other words, nothing is lacking; God supplies all that is needed to achieve victory. But, if we look closely at each component of our “God issued armor,” there appears to be a point of vulnerability.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul identifies six distinct pieces of armor the Christian must don when engaging in spiritual warfare; the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit. Every part of the body is covered, or are they? Notice that each piece of armor is designed to protect the wearer from the top, bottom, front, and sides; the breast, head, feet, and shield, yet God’s supply locker has nothing to cover the back! Remember that young and scared sailor on the Japanese ship, concerned about what he couldn’t see or defend lurking behind him? It was that quiet and reassuring voice that whispered, “We got your six,” that instilled a sense of peace and calm.

There are a few reasons God does not provide for our back:

1. Retreat is never an option for the Christian. There should never be a time when a Christian soldier should turn their back on the enemy and run for fear. God has defeated that miserable snake and given every believer the power to storm the gates of Hell (Mt. 16:17-19).

2. As Christians soldiers, we should all be protecting each other’s six. There’s no place for disunity among the ranks of God’s army, hence no need to fear an unprotected back when surrounded by Christian comrades (John 15:13).

3. Our Commander is always with us. As we march into spiritual war, I can almost hear the Commander-our Heavenly Father-whispering through the ranks of those overwhelmed, anxious, and scared, “I got your six.” No matter who might conspire against us, abandon their post beside us or hurl weapons at us, God will always protect us (Isa. 54:17).

The battlefield of our faith has never been so active as it is in our current culture. And, more and more Christian soldiers have walked away from the battle, hung up their armor, and given up the fight; many viewing victory as a hopeless and hurtful cause.

There is one nugget in Paul’s address to the Christian soldiers that perhaps can encourage you. Before Paul tells each believer to put on the armor of God, he first says to “Stand.” In Paul’s day, that was a wrestling term, and the only wrestler that could stand was the victor after the match. By Paul telling us to stand before we put on our armor for battle, he reminds us that Jesus has already obtained victory through the cross. The war is not ours, but His, and He has already fought and won; we are now just marching home carrying the banner of our victory and fending off any disgruntled enemies along the way!

Scripture: “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. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” -Ephesians 6:13-18, ESV

Question: Have you gotten so discouraged, fighting for your faith, that you have given up? Have you surrendered to this world? Resigned just to hide out and wait until your Commander calls you home?

Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me of your power inside of me. At times I feel so lonely as if I am the only one on the battlefield. May I have the faith to believe that you are enough, even if everyone else does abandon me, your power and presence are more than sufficient. Please give me the strength to continue and the power to overcome. May I be so confident in you that I march boldly through this world as a victorious child of the King. Thank you for overcoming the world, sin, and Satan, and thank you for the reminder that I am on the winning side. May I be faithful in your fight today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

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