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Pray For Me

“And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.”
Ephesians 6:19-20

So far in this Epistle, Paul has been dispensing wise and helpful words for the benefit of his friends back in Ephesus. He’s been praying for them, encouraging them, blessing them and revealing God’s truth, and now, as if he senses that he is coming near the end of his letter, he suddenly turns to consider himself. And so he should. Locked up in a probably disgusting prison cell, in chains, it has been amazing at what has flowed from his pen. But not a hint of self-pity. Quite simply, he asks for his friends back home to pray for him. Even then, I would have expected his prayers to be focused on his circumstances – the cold cell, the damp, the lack of sanitary facilities, the rats, his chains, poor and insufficient food. But none of this. He only wanted them to pray for him, that he would, at every opportunity, be able to share the Gospel, the Good News, with everyone to whom he had access. So a passing jailor would frequently receive Paul’s message. A soldier at the end of his shift. Fellow prisoners in adjacent cells. They all knew what Paul stood for. On occasion, he would have been taken out to meet a magistrate or some other dignitary, once again being processed through the next step in the Roman legal system. But no hint of wanting prayer for his protection, from abuse, from ridicule, from an aggression unknown in our culture. He wanted prayer for the courage to speak out clearly and boldly so that there would be no excuse for his hearers if they rejected his message. The Jews would have been incensed that this ex-Pharisee was preaching that they should intermingle with the hated Gentiles. The Gentiles too would have been upset that someone was rubbishing their gods. All in all he would have been unpopular at best and constantly vilified at worst. 

But I can feel his anguish as he clenched his fists, digging his finger nails into the palms of his hands, crying out to God for more power, more opportunities, more of the right words to penetrate into the cultural fog of his day. And to help him in his mission, he asked his friends to pray for him. Was it a pointless prayer? Something he felt he should ask so that the Ephesians could think they were doing something useful to help him? No – he really valued their prayers. He believed, in faith, that God would answer them, granting him the right words and opportunities he so desperately desired.

So what about us? Do we ask for prayer from those around us? From our church family? From our pastor or minister? Or do we continue to live on in our circumstances, too proud to admit we need help? Here’s a revelation – pilgrims need prayer. Constantly. For their health, their life, their witness, their journey. And God has given us the means to help one another – prayer. Prayer changes things. God listens to our prayers and delivers answers. Paul knew the value of prayer, and so should we. Note that I’m talking to myself here as well – I’m not good at asking others to pray for me. But thankfully God hasn’t finished with me just yet. 

Let’s resolve today to ask some one to pray for us. We never know – there might be a life-changing answer just waiting to be delivered, an answer that is timely and profound. Bringing clarity into our lives. Unstopping an obstacle. Removing a hurdle. Healing an illness or condition. Our journey with God is exciting – we never know what He has for us next. With prayer we might just get to find out.

Spiritual Praying

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Ephesians 6:18 NLT
“Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the Spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the Spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.”
1 Corinthians 14:15

We are pilgrims marching along the corridors of life, fully equipped with our armour for defence against the devil’s attacks. And at all times in our journey we are in communication with our loving Father, who watches over us and leads and guides us. But the “in communication” bit is crucial. Carrying on the analogy of the Roman soldier, that has been in our thoughts over the previous few days, we have to be in contact with base, where our Father is. Imagine a modern soldier, who would normally be in radio contact with his fellow soldiers elsewhere, being suddenly unable to connect with them? In the decades after the 2nd World War, occasionally a Japanese soldier appeared on global media, having been discovered still at his post in remote terrain somewhere – he had been unable to make the connection with his base and learn about the change in circumstances. Unfortunately in our churches today there are people who have lost connection with their Base, but continue with their liturgies and customs regardless.

Paul was aware that communication with Father is of paramount importance. And the spiritual radio set God has made available to us is powered, not by batteries, but by the Holy Spirit Himself. And we pilgrims avail ourselves of that power and pray. We pray in the power of the Spirit. By allowing the Holy Spirit into our prayers, we immediately access what our Father in Heaven wants us to pray about. He leads and helps us in our prayers. How many times has a thought popped into my mind about someone or some issue and in the process of praying about it I wonder where the thought came from? It was the Holy Spirit of course, gently leading, gently reminding, gently nudging, helping me to pray in line with God’s will.

Praying in the Spirit” can also mean praying in tongues. This is more contentious in some Christian circles, but nevertheless, to those who can speak in tongues, this is an important part of their prayer life. The implication of the verse from 1 Corinthians above, is that praying in the Spirit using tongues is not understood, even by the speaker. As a tongue-speaking pilgrim myself, I am aware sometimes of an urgent need to pray, but about what I do not know. Speaking my prayers in the Heavenly language God has supplied me with somehow makes sense, as I experience a lift in my spirit as it connects with God’s Spirit. A mystery perhaps, but somehow important and relevant to many Christians, including me.

Paul finishes the verse with the exhortation to be alert. We need to constantly be on our guards, always aware that the devil is constantly cooking up schemes to separate us from God, not just so we will end up in a blind alley somewhere, but because he will try and frustrate us in our efforts to share the Gospel with the lost world around us. So we pray for our fellow believers. Those in our churches and fellowships. Those in our countries. And especially for those being persecuted in other parts of the world. 

So I appeal to all pilgrims reading this today, including myself – we must keep our spiritual batteries fully charged up in the Holy Spirit. A life disconnected from God doesn’t work. We will instead end up in remote terrain somewhere, cut off from the very Life Source we need in these troubled days.

Final Items

“Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Ephesians 6:17

So we come to the remaining items of armour from Paul’s analogy – the helmet and the sword. So far he has listed the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, and the shield of faith. He looks at his soldier companions in his prison cell, and wonders for a few moments about what the helmet achieves. It protects the soldier’s head from a blow that would otherwise kill him. The head contains the brain and it is particularly vulnerable to an enemy’s attack. So it is with us – our brains are where battles are fought and won or lost. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we read, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ”. Paul had his finger on human thinking and behaviour when he wrote these words. He correctly noted that “human reasoning”, “false arguments” and “rebellious thoughts” are all strongholds. Places where our thinking can be trapped into an apparently indestructible state of falsehood. Our human minds can develop all sorts of tricks to tick all of Paul’s boxes. Consider the following scenario. A thought pops into our minds. But intuitively we know that what we are thinking is driven by our sinful natures, and in our minds we then go through thoughtful gyrations to try and rationalise that our resulting actions won’t be too bad, or that we can even repent of what we intend to do at a later time. Paul summed up our problem very well in Romans 7:23. “But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!”. Paul knew the value of the helmet of salvation. If we read on in Romans 7 and 8 we see how our salvation is essential to fending off these attacks. 

The second weapon in this verse is the “sword of the Spirit”. This is the only offensive weapon mentioned by Paul, and it is extremely effective in fighting off the devil’s schemes. Again this morning I am conscious that the devil doesn’t want me to write these words because he knows the power that we have at our finger tips – the Word of God. In His temptation in the wilderness Jesus used His knowledge of the Scriptures to frustrate the devil’s onslaught. Three times Jesus refuted the devil’s temptations with references to Scripture and we read that because of this the devil finally left Him, for another “opportune time”. The devil has no defence against the Word of God. None at all. The Bible we have access to, wherever it is, on paper or on our smart phones, tablets or on-line, is a powerful weapon that should not be underestimated. A Roman soldier, if under physical attack, would not dream of not using his sword in some way. He would not forget it and leave it strapped to his side. With his shield and his sword, protected by all the other items of armour, he would have been a fearsome opponent in hand to hand combat.

One thing we should note. Our Roman soldier didn’t one day put on all his armour and become a warrior. He would go through a period of training. With fellow soldiers, they would have trained together to develop the combat skills needed. The skills needed were not automatically available. I’m reminded this morning about young David, in the passage in 1 Samuel 17. “Then Saul gave David his own armour—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine“. David had never used the traditional armour and weapons of his day, so they were no good to him. However, he was equipped with a very effective weapon that he had trained himself to use. I can imagine that on many occasions he had taken his sling and lobbed stones at the equivalent of tin cans, in his days spent watching his father’s sheep. And we read that when wild animals turned up hoping for a tender, juicy, lamb steak, then they received some well-aimed missiles, hitting them in painful places, discouraging them from their endeavours. David’s response to King Saul was basically that he couldn’t fight the traditional way because he had not been trained. 

The illustration of David is crucial to our journey as a pilgrim. Without being trained in the right way, we will inevitably fall by the wayside and never reach our promised destination. So we must read the Word of God, absorbing the Scriptures into our minds, getting used to our armour. Our training in the university of life constantly improves our skills. But occasionally we will be knocked down by the devil’s onslaughts. We will be bruised and battered. Full of remorse for not having done better in the fight. And we find that our loving Heavenly Father is there for us. He picks us up, dusts us off, forgives us and helps us on our way, loved and healed and ready for the next steps in our journey. What an amazing Father we have!

Fiery Arrows

“In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
Ephesians 6:16 NLT

So far we’re doing well, working through our defensive armour. Paul has suggested the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the Gospel. But he thinks we also need a shield. Now, the Roman soldiers were very skilled with their shields. Not only was the shield an essential part of their body armour, but it had a corporate purpose as well. The Roman soldiers on occasion formed a column of men with shields positioned above, at their sides and at their front and back. It became known as a testudo or tortoise formation. It was very difficult for an enemy to pick them off, because there was nowhere an arrow could penetrate.

But what form do these “fiery arrows” take. Don’t forget that our adversary the devil, is a master of telling lies. We saw that a couple of days ago.  So he will try and deceive us. A bit like the scammers who ring people up with an investment opportunity that sounds so good and plausible that, before they know it, they have committed their savings to a dodgy scheme. The devil will on occasion sound so plausible, twisting the meaning of Scriptures, or telling lies about all sorts of things that might be of interest to us, that we have to be on the ball, always aware of his schemes.

Why did Paul describe the enemy’s barbs as being “fiery“? Perhaps some of the “arrows” he fires at us are shameful memories. From a time before we came to faith in God. And they induce in us a red face, fired up and flushed with shame. A flaming arrow is also more destructive, achieving more damage than an ordinary arrow would. 

So two things about the shield of faith. Firstly, as Christians, we each have one. Even a new Christian will be equipped with such a piece of armour. After all, we came to God through faith, believing that Jesus is who He said He is, and that is sufficient to protect us even when the devil is doing his utmost to destroy us. Secondly, just as a troop of Roman soldiers, we can join together with other Christians to form our own tortoise formation, each of us using our faith to help protect us all. A Christian on his or her own, perhaps going through a wobbly patch, and susceptible to a whisper of deceit, is easily picked off by the devil. There is safety in numbers, in the church. So we must never stop joining with other Christians, as the writer to the Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:25, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near“.

We’ll finish this morning’s blog with a scripture written by another Apostle in 1 Peter 5:8-9a,“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith…”. So listen out for a prowler and keep your shield handy, just in case.

Shoes

“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” Ephesians 6:15 NLT

and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15 NIVUK

Paul glances at the feet of his fellow occupants in the prison cell. They were wearing shoes, and he proceeded to muse about their potential spiritual equivalent. What do Christians wear on their feet, he wondered? What was it that pilgrims everywhere need to be prepared for in their journeys onward and upward? And then he had a light bulb moment (well, he would have had, had light bulbs been invented in those days!). He had a new revelation of the Gospel. Now, that’s something we can stand firm on. It’s something that will always confuse the devil’s attacks because he knows that the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus and all that He did for us, is truth. The devil may ask us a difficult question about our faith, or tell us a lie as he did with Eve in the garden. He may bring doubts into our minds, but us pilgrims can just respond with the truth we know, that regardless of anything he says, the devil can never deny the truth of the Gospel. He thought that he had defeated the Son of God, by getting Him crucified on a cross, not realising that it was all God’s plan, and that Jesus would rise again on the Sunday morning, the third day after.

So we are ready. Shod with the Good News. And we bring it right up to date with our messages of hope, our testimonies of what God has done for us, all founded on His amazing plan. We have Good News to tell a world absorbed by bad news. We can share our hope for the future with a society that has no hope even for the present. A counter-cultural message that will pierce the enemy’s darkness with a shaft of pure light, penetrating and exposing his lies. I can just imagine Paul getting quite excited in his cell, as he realised that regardless of his situation, or the fragility of the early churches he founded, the power of the Gospel was insurmountable. And, folks, it still is today. 

In another letter, this time to the Roman church, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life”“. The Gospel. The Good News. And it’s not a wishy-washy statement, just a few boring words. Paul said that, “It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes”. And he was exactly right. He spoke the truth. And the devil keeps well away when we stand on the truth of the Gospel. He knows he can’t touch us.

Belt and Braces

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of how Paul advised devil resistance. For the third time in this short section, he exhorted his readers to “stand“. “Stand your ground“, “stand firm“, “standing firm” all appear between verses 11 and 14. In the face of an onslaught, when the fight or flight emotions flood in, just to stand seems a bit counter-intuitive. But Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s direction and influence, knew what he was talking about. There he was in his prison cell, probably chained between two Roman soldiers, suddenly struck by how he could use the armour they were wearing as an illustration of the spiritual armour his friends in Ephesus would need. 

The first item that caught his eye was the soldiers’ belts, which he straight away associated with the “belt of truth“. He could see immediately that truth was an important defensive weapon to be used against the devil’s attacks. The devil is very good at telling lies. In fact, Jesus warned us of his propensity for lying, as we read in John 8:44, “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies“. But we have access to the absolute truth, because it is contained within God’s Word. Perhaps the devil is whispering things in your ear this morning, like “you’re rubbish”, or “you really messed up yesterday”, or he prevails on someone else to malign you on social media. All such comments can be distilled as lies, because the absolute truth is that you are a child of God. And so am I. I’m conscious as I write this blog today, that the devil is not happy with the words I’m using. He’s telling me I’m running out of time and need to be doing something else. But I’m determined to write down the truth about God’s love for His children. About how He created us, planned for us before the world was even created, put us together in our mother’s wombs. About how we are so wonderful to Him that we are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8) and have our names written on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16). These things are the truth about us. Not the lies the devil is using. So we stand firm in the truth about who God is and His relationship with each one of us. 

The second item Paul noticed that his soldier-jailors were wearing, was their body armour. Their breastplates, protecting their hearts and vital organs from attack. And he associated this with righteousness. You see, it is our hearts that are the place where our relationship with God resides. Not our physical hearts, but that part of our spirit that softens when we think of God and His people, where the love for Him flows, where we feel the whisper of His love-breath, sweet and always there if we listen for it. Unfortunately, the sin and hassles of life will harden the walls of our hearts. But we have the truth before us that He will always forgive, always be loving, always be there for us. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, when He died for us and exchanged His righteousness for our sins, we always can claim, and have access to, God’s righteousness. We confess and repent, He forgives. So the next time the devil accuses us of sin and tries to drive us down the tubes, we can stand because before God we are righteous. And there is nothing the devil can do about that. He was defeated by Jesus at the Cross. Keep Romans 8:1-2 in mind, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death“. The devil will try to condemn us because of our sins. Jesus says otherwise – I know who I want to listen to!

So we have an effigy of a Roman Soldier. And the belt and breastplate are glowing there like burnished gold, inducing a wobble into the devil’s tactics. Amazingly, there’s more – next thrilling instalment tomorrow.

Standing Firm

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:13‬ ‭NLT

Paul continues to develop his theme of standing firm in the face of enemy attacks. We don’t run away, because we have all the resources we need to just stand firm. The devil only has control over us if we allow him to. If we stand firm he has no other way of destroying us. You see, God has provided us with spiritual armour, items more than capable of protecting us.

But what does “standing firm” look like in these modern times? To take an example, our 21st Century pilgrim might be susceptible to worry. He or she might be a member of the “what if?” brigade, always thinking up scenarios about the world and local events around us, that are destructive and threatening. So our thoughts might run this morning to “what if  the food bill is greater than I have money for”? Note two things – the event being worried about hasn’t yet happened (it probably never will), and God promised that He would meet all our needs. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus”. Our faith is stronger that the worries we have, and we can stand firm on the Word of God, trusting Him for the solution to our dilemmas, no matter how problematic they might seem.

Notice too, that Paul said there would be a battle. In many ways, just living is a battle. We battle to earn a living. We battle with our sins. We battle in our relationships. We battle against the devil. But wait a minute! A Christian only needs to turn to God in the hour of need and the battle somehow becomes shared, or even taken from us. Romans 8:31 says, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” and verse 37 in the same chapter, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.“. And then we have Exodus 14;14, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm”. 

So there we have it. Standing firm is not a “nice to have” state that isn’t achievable by ordinary pilgrims. It’s a consequence of being sons and daughters of our wonderful Heavenly Father. We just call on our Heavenly Dad when the enemy appears over the hill, heading in our direction.

Armour

Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Well, Paul was quite explicit when he defined what we, as Christian pilgrims, are up against. As human beings, we automatically think in human terms, so anything defined as an “enemy” is something or someone situated in our physical and natural zone. The war in Ukraine is raging on as I write this blog today, and the combatants are obvious in human terms. But what Paul was saying was that there is a spiritual realm as well as our natural realm, and our real enemies are located there. An unseen world full of evil and powerful forces, which are a far greater threat to us than a military force equipped with tanks and guns.

In a recent Alpha video, there was a point when some young people were asked the question, “Do you believe in the devil?”  And the answers were revealing – one young person’s response was, “Not really”. And that is something Paul was writing about when he warned us about the “strategies of the devil”. Our enemy, the devil, is delighted if people don’t believe he exists, because then he can undertake his attacks unseen and unknown, fulfilling his aims of destroying God’s creation. 

So how does the devil manage to attack us, God’s people? One way is that he finds out our weaknesses and uses them to undermine and destroy our faith. As an example, if a Christian tends to be a worrier, the devil will bring up issues that cause more and more worry and anxiety, disrupting and weakening his or her faith in the process.

So why does the devil want to attack humans? Because he wants to be God and be in control of everything that belongs to God. That’s why he was originally kicked out of Heaven. And the problem that Christians give him is that they don’t want to be controlled by him. They want to follow God, not the devil. So the devil attacks them by distracting them, undermining them, leading them into sin through temptation, picking away at any weaknesses that he can find. And he has an army of demons, the evil spirits that Paul warned his Ephesians friends about, to help him. But the good news is that Jesus defeated the devil at Calvary. And because of that, we have all the resources and power we need to resist the attacks of the enemy. With the resources we have access to we can stand firm, resisting the devil’s attacks. James 4:7 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you“. We can resist him; we don’t have to fold and submit to the devil at the first attack by sinning. But sometimes we can fall into a trap and end up doing things we didn’t want to do. The old Apostle John wrote, “But if we confess our sins to [God], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”. (1 John 1:9) So cleansed and forgiven, we pick ourselves up and move on, the wiser from the experience, more able to avoid the trap the next time the devil comes along with another ploy to trip us up.

Paul was desperate to deliver his message in person but there he was, trapped in a prison cell. But if he hadn’t been incarcerated, we would have missed out on the helpful and instructive verses in his Epistle. We thank God for him, and, now forewarned, we pray for protection from our true enemies, the devil and his hordes, safe in the knowledge that the protection we need is there for the asking.

Finally

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
Ephesians 6:10

Paul is in the final section of his lengthy letter. He has meandered his way through a maze of thoughts and instructions, doing a Holy Spirit-inspired brain dump, tailor-made just for his friends in Ephesus. And he now wants to leave them with a model that they, and so many since, have found very helpful. He introduces this section with the encouragement to be strong in our faith, our strength coming from the Lord and the power that is available to us through Him. 

Paul wasn’t the only Bible writer advocating the strength of the Lord. Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand“. Another verse is in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid“? The strength we find in God is freely available, if only we ask.

But to our ubiquitous Christian pilgrim, what does “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” actually mean? And how will such an inspiring exhortation help us? In our life journey, we will be attacked on all sides from an enemy who wants to stop us in any way he can, from entering into God’s presence. And he does that through temptations, lies, leveraging our human proclivity for sin; in fact in any way where he can find a weakness. So this verse in Paul’s letter reminds us that in God we have all the power and strength to overcome the devil’s strategies and stay on the path mapped out for us. An admirable example of this was when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the devil even using passages of Scripture to try and trip Him up. But He stayed “strong in the Lord“. Jesus’ example of using Scripture is one we too can follow. So we need to read the Bible. There is an amazing wealth of strength and power in this Book. And as we become more and more familiar with the Scriptures, we will become more able to find the strength we need in the times of testing. Another powerful resource is the Holy Spirit Himself. Jesus said that He will be an Advocate, our Helper. God Himself standing alongside us, resourcing us when in need of power and strength.

So this “final word” really puts the icing on the cake of Paul’s letter. In the coming days we will look at the ways in which this power and strength can be distilled using the illustration of a Roman soldier’s armour and attire. An amazing resource for the pilgrim of today.

No Favourites

“Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and He has no favourites.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this verse we replace the words “Masters” with “Employers”, and “slaves” with “employees”. It then makes more sense in our society today. When we do this we receive a picture of the ideal workplace, of how it should be. Harmonious attitudes dictate an environment where, as far as possible, the business aims and goals of the owner are achieved. Thankfully today, our working environments are governed by laws and regulations, and the dangerous practices of previous years, with their long hours and disregard for worker health, are behind us. Though, having said that, my next door neighbour died prematurely through a cancerous lung condition called mesothelioma, probably gained when he was a carpenter working with asbestos. And the next village has a number of retired coal miners, their lives blighted by a variety of lung conditions. So we don’t have to return to Victorian days to see the effects of a poor working environment.

But life for the workers hasn’t always been bad. In the 18th and 19th Centuries there were several entrepreneurial philanthropists who employed people and tried to better their lot, in an otherwise savage society, in the process. Near where I live is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, called New Lanark. A textile mill established in the late 18th Century but now preserved so that visitors can get a glimpse of life in that period in history. But the outstanding feature is how the owners tried to provide work, food and education for people who otherwise would have been scratching a subsistence living. A fortunate work force well-treated, by the standards of their day, by their employers. 

Sadly there were many examples of workers being badly treated in history. And not just workers – life in general in previous times was often brutal and difficult. Life expectancy low. Infant mortality rates high. We need to remember those historical days as a reminder of what life was like and how it has shaped our societies today. Not days to be erased or periods of history to be cancelled, as some try to do.

So employers are encouraged to treat their employees well because everyone, regardless of their status in life, has the same God, the same Father, in Heaven. And Paul reminds us that God has no favourites. Just because one person is wealthier than another doesn’t imply that God blesses that person more than the other. One day we will all have to give an account for our lives, to God.