I was outside the other day raking up the leaves on our front lawn, a dreaded Mainers task every fall, and I caught myself gazing up at the trees to see how many more leaves were going to fall. I was pleasantly surprised that 90% of the leaves had fallen already, but something else caught my eye. Way up one of the maple trunks was a spot that was VERY worn from another tree’s branch rubbing against it. Now, this is a small branch, no bigger than my forearm, and it had caused a patch eight inches wide by a few feet tall to be worn and rubbed on this tree trunk. This branch, being swayed back and forth relentlessly in the wind, had caused such damage to this big and hardened tree trunk. I was amazed at how something so small could cause damage to something so massive. It got me thinking about how we often let the little things wear us down. These things; it could be a relationship, a situation, a job, or something somebody says to you, although they may seem small or even insignificant to us, could be causing A LOT more damage than we think.
In our country most people are pretty affluent; we aren’t in need for shelter, food, or water. Generally people have the basic things they need to survive. I mean, it isn’t a life or death situation when my wifi isn’t working properly, but it sure feels like it! But seriously, the things in our lives that stress us out or wear us down can be something that we don’t even notice. We may think that having a closet full of clothes is essential, but how much of your time is spent on picking the right outfits. Or it may have seemed important to have the TV package with 500+ channels, but honestly how many of those channels do you watch? These things may seem like really silly examples, but it’s important to think about where you time and energy are going.
A Blessing Or A Burden?
My husband, Kenny, and I recently moved from Vermont to Maine. In Vermont we lived in a big, beautiful log cabin that sat on a couple acres. We had a big driveway and a big lawn. Although these things were really nice, we spent most of our time maintaining this house. The logs needed to be stained every 5-7 years, the lawn took two hours to mow every week, the driveway took over an hour to plow every snow storm, and for me to even try to keep that house clean was a miracle in itself! This beautiful place we called our home had become a burden. We were spending all of our time and energy paying for and care taking this place. When we made the move to Maine, we wanted a place that would be a blessing. A place that was big enough to have a family someday and have guests over, but a place that wouldn’t eat up all of our time. We had realized that sometimes simpler is better and A LOT less stressful! Our old house was like that branch slowly gnawing at us and wearing a hole through our armor. Now, I’m not telling you that you need to move, but I am asking you to take a look at the things in your life that are eating up your time and if its something that is driving you closer to God or further away?
What Are We Up Against…?
Sometimes we need to do a little trimming of encroaching branches in our lives. In Ephesians 6:10-11 we read “Finally be strong in the Lord and is his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Often times people think of the devil sitting and plotting demon possession and the end of the world, but that’s not necessarily always the case. Sometimes his scheme is like a chess game, one pawn move at a time. Like having you run into someone at the store that brings up bad memories, that leads you to pick a fight with your spouse, which leads to a stressful morning the next day and a bad day at work where you snap at a co-worker who was just coming to ask for your advice about a problem they are having at home. That’s why is it so important to be watchful of these little things that can wear at us.
If we continue to read in Ephesians it says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”(v.12) We don’t fight against the people, the flesh in our lives, we fight against other things that distract us, steal our time, harden our hearts and snatch our joy. It is important to be aware of these things, so we can protect ourselves from them. It would be like going into a boxing match, closing your eyes and pretending like you don’t have an opponent. All of a sudden you are getting knocked around because you weren’t defending yourself.
… And What Can We Do About It?
But don’t get discouraged because there is a lot that we can do to protect and arm ourselves! “THEREFORE put on the armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, stand! Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 13-17). Let’s break down the armor of God for minute and look at why it is so important. The belt of truth is around our waist; this is the center or the core of our body, we need God’s truth to keep us centered and steady. Righteousness is the breastplate, which guards the heart. If we keep our hearts pure we can keep it protected from evil schemes. Our feet are equipped with the gospel of peace, so we are ready to walk and stand for God. We need a shield of faith (trust), so when others question us or throw “flaming arrows” our way we can be firm and steadfast in what we believe so we do not get injured. And finally the helmet of salvation protects our heads; we need to know in our minds that we are without a doubt saved.
So these are all of the things that protect us, BUT we also have two things that we can use on the offense! This is the part that gets me excited, because I don’t like to be the person sitting back all the time and taking the hits; I want to fight back and cause some damage against my opponent. The first weapon is the sword of the spirit, which is God’s word. And God’s word is the Bible. The Bible is so full with words of wisdom and comfort that we can find most answers to any situation in it’s pages. And finally verse 18 is our second offensive tool; prayer. “And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Prayer is a POWERFUL weapon. When we pray/ talk to God we give Him access into our lives and He can act on our behalf. For little things, big things, and HUGE things, God cares about them all and wants us, His children, to be taken care of.
So I encourage you to take a look around and see if there are any branches in your life that might have been causing some subtle damage to you. What is wearing on you and sneaking into your life that is driving you away from God? Maybe it hasn’t caused any harm to your armor yet, but it is getting awfully close, and maybe its time to do a little trimming!