It was a short conversation. I was checking on her father-in-law because I heard he was sick, and she was so appreciative and encouraging. During the quick exchange, she told me that I’m sweet and called me a prayer warrior. And, almost instantly I felt the weight of the very real knowledge that I am neither sweet nor a prayer warrior. In fact, I have a very difficult time taming my own tongue. I find myself struggling with selfish and unkind thoughts and words on the regular. And, I have never in my life been one that could be accurately described as a prayer warrior. In reality, there are days when I don’t breathe a single prayer. And some days, when I do pray, it feels robotic and unfeeling.
And I’m a pastor’s wife.
I used to think that there is some point in the Christian life when you arrive, when you finally see that your heart and head and spirit align in some sort of beautiful sphere of sincerity and goodness and true devotion to Christ. But the older I get and the more I have begun to understand why the Bible teaches that we need armor. Most often when we think about the armor of God, we think about attacks from the world around us, about the very real battle that we fight against ideologies that defame our Savior, against the pretty-sounding worldly wisdom that would cause us to turn our backs on the truth of Scripture. But we may be missing an important point when we think of the armor of God as weapons only for a battle against what is outside of us. We prefer not to think about the war that we should be waging daily against our own sin. Our pride. Our complacency. Our tendencies to exaggerate. Our desire for glory. Our rebellion. Our jealousy. Our selfishness. The list could go on and on. In truth, we are called to fight daily against what is inside of us. Paul puts it this way: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…” (Col. 3:5)
The Bible teaches that when we are in Christ, we are truly a new creation. But sin doesn’t magically disappear from our lives. We have to be vigilant, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in keeping our minds focused on what is good, noble, right, and lovely. And when we aren’t on guard against temptation, when we aren’t actively partnering with the Holy Spirit in killing sin, when are neglecting the reading of God’s word, when we don’t take the time to pray, then we are dropping large sections of our armor and leaving ourselves vulnerable to attacks and temptations from without and from within.
So, what is my point? Living the Christian life has to be an honest endeavor. One where we admit that we stink at some of the things we’re supposed to be good at. One where we ask God to examine us, to show us our true struggles, to change us by His power. And when we feel like complete phonies, when we know that we’re failing on multiple fronts, when we feel guilty just hearing a kind person’s praise that we know we don’t deserve, we don’t have to despair. Because sanctification is a long road with lots of twists and turns. There are pot holes. Our own hearts have dug plenty of deep, dark pits to wander into. But every day is a new opportunity to examine ourselves, to put on the armor that God has mercifully provided, to rely on His perfect strength, to do battle against our own lying hearts.
You see, there is no moment of arrival. At least, not on this side of Heaven. But on any given day, in any given moment, we can become a little more like Christ. We can become a little more devoted. We can have moments of sincere adoration and awe for who God is. We can grow. And, before we know it, if we establish these patterns of putting another sin to death, of taking one more step toward God instead of away from Him, we’ll wake up one morning and realize that we are a whole lot more like Jesus than we were twenty years ago. Growth is slow. But He is patient.
So if you, like me, are painfully aware of your own shortcomings, take heart. He knows you, and He loves you anyway. Keep fighting.