"The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17
One of the first things the enemy will do to defeat a believer is to get them to question God's best for them. From the beginning of the fall of man, the forces of evil have perpetuated a spirit of deceit. The old King James Version translated the first words of Satan to Eve as, "Yea, hath God said." (Genesis 3:1) This is a 17th Century way of saying, "You mean to tell me, you are dumb enough to believe everything that God says is true?" Satan has never had to use plan B because his plan A works most of the time.
The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon provided to the believer. Jesus used the Word of God to resist the temptation to believe the worst about God. When Satan tried to get Him to inflate His own ego by depreciating His value of God, Jesus quoted scripture. The Word of God confirms Satan is a world class liar, and the person who does not know what his Bible says is fighting a losing battle.
When Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer, the temptation to doubt God's best for our lives was unleashed with a vengeance. We both were attacked by the enemy with relentless thoughts, that led to sleepless nights, and hopeless days. Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, told his players, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." He was right.
At the end of every exhausting day, as we prepared for bed I would say to Dana, "This is becoming my favorite time of the day." All we wanted to do was to pull the covers up over our heads and end it. When people would ask me about our plans, I would say in all seriousness, "If the sun comes up, I plan on getting up." That was about as far as I could see.
Whenever I let dust or rust collect on the sword of the Spirit, the lies of Satan are always more tempting to believe. After a little practice, preachers become adept at sword handling and sword play. This makes them much like reenactors, who put on sword fights or gunfights at theme parks. They can shout, shoot, swagger, and swing their sword or twirl their pistols with all the skill of a juggler. They have no intention of doing any real damage with their sword, and the sad truth about all the shooting and shouting is they are really firing blanks.
Never confuse being a wordsmith with being a blacksmith. Sitting in a comfortable study, and putting a few platitudes together is not the same as forging metal over a flaming furnace. Forming a nicely packaged, pious philosophy of life does not compare with standing over a fire, to sweating, and pound a piece of raw metal into a weapon of warfare.
The sword of the Spirit was always close to me. I had to keep up appearances. Swinging it around and waving it at the enemy was part of my role as a pastor. The problem was that I was not always using it wisely. Military officers are often presented a ceremonial sword to be worn on special occasions. It is not meant to be used for combat, but for decorative purposes only. Placing it on the wall, or wearing it with a dress uniform will never strike fear in the heart of an enemy, or strike a decisive blow against them.
The sword of the Spirit is not meant to be used for decoration, but for declaration. When Jesus rebuked His tempter, He accurately quoted the scripture. He shoved the truth of God down the throat of a roaring, lying lion. He is our best picture of how to properly use the sword of the Spirit. When the lion suffers from a perpetual sore throat it is harder for him to intimidate a believer. If you can't shut the enemy's mouth then give him a good case of laryngitis by using the sword of the Spirit as a powerful tongue depressor.
There were many dark nights when I was intimidated by the lies of the enemy. I would find my mind wandering to places filled with strange sounds and unfamiliar voices. Death seemed bigger than life, and the lies of the enemy seemed to make a great deal of sense. Watching my wife struggle with her fight against breast cancer made a total recovery look very remote. Medical bills piled up. Chemo took its toll. Her hair fell out. Her energy faded. She lost her job. Cash flow dried up. Breasts were removed. Bill went unpaid. Collectors called. Things looked bad, and they felt worse. I remember people saying to me, "Well things can't get much worse." My response was, "I don't say that anymore. There is always tomorrow." The very idea of tomorrow was not filled with hope, but with a sense of foreboding that the worst was yet to come. My perspective did not come from the word of God, but it came just the same. Remember Satan is a liar, and every thought that he puts in your mind is meant to cause you to question God's best for you.
The length of the fight against cancer has a way of robbing people of hope. It wearies people who attempt to remain vigilant in prayer or to provide a support group. People get a bit annoyed or exasperated when cancer warriors do not take the advice contained their well-meaning cards... "Get Well Soon!" I had one mouthy guy comment after Dana's breast removal, "You're done with all this now, right? You can get back to work." He spoke as if Dana and i had been on an extended vacation at a health spa. What a sap. I should have punched him in the nose, and told him we would pick up this conversation after he stopped bleeding. Stonewall Jackson told his students, "If war comes then draw your sword, and throw away the scabbard." I have been a student of Civil War history for decades, but it is only in the last year that I have come to understand what he meant.
When breast cancer hits a woman, they are forced to defend themselves with everything they have for as long as it takes. There is no quarter given by the enemy. There are no time outs. There is no half-time, and there is no luxury of a half-time show that provides a breather between battles. It is a total, take no prisoners, fight til the bitter end. There is no second place in this contest. Winner takes all. Death to the loser.
Men are not naturally equipped to fight breast cancer with this level of intensity. They do not understand that it hits a woman at the very core of her femininity, but it also unleashes the warrior within her. I was surprised at the ferocity with which Dana showed up for the fight, and the tenacity she maintained to win it. Men may be tempted to ask in the middle of the fight, "Are we done yet?" Women know instinctively that this conflict is the fight of their life. They know it will change them. It impacts the way they look and the way they live for the rest of their lives. There is no getting back to normal. There is no normal to return to. There is only the "new normal" to get used to.
The sword of the Spirit is meant to cut the enemy. It does this best when it is taken up and used as an attack weapon. When the believer comes under the attack of the lies of the enemy, they need to be ready to respond with the truth of the Word of God. However, the sword can used in another way. It is not made solely for defense, but it can be an attack weapon. Rather than waiting for a sneak attack to occur, the believer can wield it on offense.
When we use it on offense, it is best used to cut the unbelief and disobedience out of our own lives. Before we try to use it on the enemy, the sword of the Spirit needs to do its work on us. We need to use it to cut out the cancer of sin, and remove any attitude of disobedience in us. When the enemy sees the blood on our sword, that is when they fear what it will do to them. When we come to them with cold, lifeless, religious platitudes hidden away in a calloused heart, then the sword of the Spirit as not been used to cut to the heart of the matter in our own lives. The enemy can smell a phony a mile away. Our adversary and his forces laugh at ceremonial swords. They know they are used by us to keep up appearance, but they know we have given up the fight. They have no fear that the sword will hurt them, when we have not let it cut us.
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edge sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) Don't be surprised when you read the Word of God if your heart does not experience a stinging sensation. I often say when I read the truth found in the Bible, "Ouch, that's going to leave a mark."
Take the lies of the enemy and let God's word judge them to see if they are true or not. Let His word give you His judgment as the final authority on God's love and wonderful plan for your life. When the enemy threatened us with deceit, destruction, and death, Dana taught me how to take up the sword of the Spirit, and cut out the doubt and despair to remember God's best is yet to come. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6