All sports require serious preparations. The preparations involve growing strength and stamina, both physical and mental. The players wake up early and follow through a regimen of workouts that develops them into world-beaters.
Apart from this, proper nutrition is a must. Their diet is professionally selected to help their bodies build up into what they require in the field events.
This reminds me of a Bible lesson I shared some years ago. It was the first lesson in a series of lessons on the Armour of God.
We drew this from the Book of Ephesians 6:10-18. As we started from verse 10, we discovered that being strong is not only the end product of having the full armour of God but also the starting point. It is the launching pad that shoots us into the armoury and finally, the battlefield.
‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.’
No emaciated and weak player can be allowed on the pitch by a coach. No weakling soldier can be permitted by a commander to be on the battlefield.
Cues from Roman soldiers
The Roman army was something to marvel at because of their ability to take on and decimate an enemy. Their adaptableness was astonishing. They were as flexible as figures in the hand of a statistician and as stable as a rock. They were well rounded and yet specialized. The kind of exercises they underwent prepared them to shoot above average. These are soldiers who could develop both circumvallation and counter-circumvallation during the Siege of Alesia.
Thus it is not surprising that Paul mentions strength before he goes ahead to elaborate the units of the whole armour. In fact, in verse 14, it says, ‘stand firm…..’. We cannot stand firm unless we are strong. A weak person will obviously be physically wobbly and mentally woollily.
That is why we must be strong and stand firm.
The next question we addressed in our study was this, ‘How do we become strong?’
This question takes me back to sports – rugby, football, cricket, athletics…..name them. It also drives me back into history – the time when Paul was inspired to write this. How did the Roman soldiers manage to become the sharpest knife in the kitchen?
Back and forth, we go! We must eat plenty of good food, breathe fresh air, exercise, and have adequate rest.
We must eat the portion of our daily sustenance as provided for in His word. Eating is a daily activity. No rugby player can skip meals in a day and go to face up with the All Blacks. This means that we need fresh supply every morning (Exodus 16:21; Lamentations 3:22-23; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 4:4; Joshua 1:8-9 and 2 Timothy 2:15).
Although Jesus was physically weak, after fasting for 40 days and nights, he displayed spiritual strength in deflecting Satan’s charms offensive. He did this by saying, ‘It is written’.
In the Gospels, we find Jesus withdrawing from the crowd regularly to go and get fresh air – prayer. We cannot be stable unless we learn to retire and get fresh breath. Cooperate prayers are vital, and so are private, personal communion with the Creator. It is during this time that we get regenerated and reenergized.
Paul exercised as a soldier by being a servant of Christ. He did the work of an apostle without noise or nonsense. That is what we are supposed to do; work out in the Kingdom of God. We were called into a mighty kingdom. In fact, the Kingdom has suffered violence since the times of John the Baptist. It is not a kingdom of passivity. The gifts and talents that are not actively utilized finally become vestigial.
Rest follows activity
God did not rest at the start of creation; He rested when he had completed the creation. Resting is not tantamount to laziness. It is what we must always do. We must rest in anxiety, fear and worry. We must rest in turmoil and tangles.
Peter never understood rest until Jesus had departed to heaven. At this point, Peter, instead of fighting with soldiers, he slept and rested between them.
‘The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.’
Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns in prison. What was happening in the external environment did not affect their inner atmosphere. They remained steadfast even in the face of imminent death.
In summary, we concluded that we can only be able to buckle the belt of truth, carry the breastplate of righteousness, be ready on our feet with the gospel of peace, take up the shield of faith, put on the helmet of salvation, and swing the sword of the Spirit, by being strong first. And when we are strong, then we can stand strong again because we have the armour of God.