About every other time I get my teeth cleaned, the hygienist takes x-rays of my mouth. Before she takes them, she puts a lead blanket over my torso to protect my vital organs from radiation. The blanket is heavy, though not uncomfortable since it’s only on me for a matter of minutes. The heavy feeling of the vest, sort of blanket-like but not quite, reminds me of what my spirit feels like when a spiritual heaviness hits even though my daily habits haven’t really changed.
The Panoply of God
When a spiritual heaviness hit me recently, I did my usual self-check. I was exercising regularly and eating well. I was keeping to my daily and weekly spiritual disciplines. Life had thrown us some punches recently, but they by no means were they serious enough to create doubt about God’s goodness. If anything, they reemphasized how blessed I truly am.
Yet the heaviness remained.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)
Words used in other translations in place of “full” include “all of,” “whole,” “complete,” and my personal favorite “panoply.” The definitions of these words together create a better understanding of what is meant by their use in Ephesians 6:11.
- Full — containing or holding as much or as many as possible; having no empty space.
- All of — the whole of
- Whole — comprising the full quantity, amount, extent, number, etc.; without diminution (diminishing, lessening, reduction) or exception; entire, full or total
- Complete — having all parts or elements; lacking nothing; whole; entire; full
- Panoply — a complete or impressive collection of things
In the context of this verse, we see that the armor God gives us to put on should be complete, that all the parts should be worn and none neglected. The armor exists not as separate, single pieces; instead, the individual pieces together comprise the whole armor.
Assessing Your Habits
In considering the armor of God as a whole rather than only looking at the individual parts, several aspects arise that help make an armor-wearing assessment productive. Start your assessment by asking yourself a question: Can you use the following words to describe your armor-wearing habits?
- Consistent: Nowhere are we told to ever remove the armor. Yet, the assumption seems to be that we will remove all or parts of it at times. So, the “put on” exists as a perpetual call for consistency in doing so.
- Complete: Already detailed above but certainly worth reemphasizing, we are vulnerable if we do not put on every piece of armor. The directive is all, not some.
- Christ-like: If you list every piece of the armor and the spiritual qualities they represent, you’ll see the all of who Christ is and what he did. In other words, putting on the full armor involves a decision to become more Christ-like.
When I think of the pre-battle scenes in some of my favorite movies (e.g., Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avengers), I remember the emphasis made of putting on armor or battle gear of some sort. The scenes remind me that even the most seasoned warriors prepare to face their enemy by putting on what they know will protect them from attack.
We are warriors too, and we must realize the importance of consistently gearing up for the unseen battle that can cause heaviness and steal our focus. Unlike in the movies, though, our battle in the spiritual realm doesn’t end or even abate, which means we must keep our armor on at all times.
We’re human, though, and we won’t, so we need to remember to consistently put on all the pieces and realize that we put on Christ at the same time. In no other way are we at all prepared to take a stand against the enemy’s schemes.