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Ephesians 6:12
 

Shortly after Christmas 2002, the headlines of the St. Petersburg Times read, "Virus or not, Bushes depart on cruise ship." I don't suppose the former President's vacation plans would have captured the public's attention, at least not as much as they did, if it had not been for the recent virus outbreaks on cruise ships. According to the Center for Disease control, there were 21 investigations of acute gastroenteritis aboard seventeen different cruise ships between January 1, 2002 and December 2, 2002. Of the 21 outbreaks, they don't know the cause of nine of them, three were associated with bacterial agents and nine with noroviruses.

During the same time period, there have been 26 land-based outbreaks of the disease associated with noroviruses. A person contracts the disease whether on land or sea in the same way, contact with an infected surface. To prevent the disease, the CDC says to follow "basic hygienic practices, such as frequent and thorough hand washing and avoiding contact with other passengers when ill..."

(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

I remember seeing news footage of workers in biohazard suits scrubbing down infected ships to thoroughly sanitize them. My immediate impression was the suits were overkill. I know the virus is bad, and that the cruise lines wanted to protect their passengers, but still, the drama surrounding the extreme measures they were taking was, in my opinion, more for the cameras than for the ship-they need to get the message out that they were taking the disease seriously and were using every possible means to solve the problem.

But then again, maybe the measures weren't extreme. Passengers who plunk down their hard earned money want to know that they aren't walking into a ticking time bomb. They want to be safe from dangers they can see and dangers they can't see.

There is a world we can see and a world we can't see with our eyes. In many ways, stealth dangers offer greater peril than those that are clearly visible. We intensify their danger when we deny their existence because we cannot see them. No, I'm not talking about microbiology and the kinds of issues that the Center for Disease Control deal with. I'm talking about the distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world.

Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

How seriously do you take this verse? Do you believe that our struggles are not all of this world, that there are forces that we cannot see that affect our lives? Do you believe in the spiritual realm?

If you don't, then I want to pray for you the prayer of Elisha found in 2 Kings 6:15-17.

"Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?' [16] So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' [17] Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." (NASB)

I pray that the Lord will open all our eyes and let us see the Spiritual world that surrounds us. I pray that we will clearly see the forces of the evil one and that we will take them seriously. I know that for some, it is easy to rationalize passages of scripture that speak of evil spirits and say the people characterized as having evil spirits in the New Testament would be diagnosed today as having mental illness. I haven't done extensive research into every verse in the New Testament to give you opinion of how many of the verses could be interpreted that way and how many couldn't, but I do know it is impossible to interpret every verse in that fashion. Look at Mark 3:11 "And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, saying, 'You are the Son of God!'" (NASB) That response is not what you'd expect from people without all their faculties or who has a medical condition that negatively affects their minds, it is a response of someone with acute spiritual insight. Remember the teachings of James 2:19 that clearly states, "the demons also believe, and shudder." (NASB) The forces of evil know how Jesus is and they know their destiny. Remember in Matthew 8:29 when they cried out, "What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (NASB) 

1 Peter 5:8 warns us to be alert and on the watch against Satan. It says, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (NASB)

These verses show a very real dimension-one we cannot see, yet one that exists. A danger does not have to be visible to be real. Remember the sinking of the Titanic. It collided with a danger that was beneath the surface, invisible, but nonetheless real. The noroviruses that are wrecking havoc with the cruise lines today aren't visible to the naked eye, but that doesn't mean they aren't real.

Our text says, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12 NASB 

Paul goes on to tell us how to prepare for the spiritual battle in the following verses: "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. [14] Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, [15] and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; [16] in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. [17] And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [18] With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints," (Ephes. 6:13-18 NASB)

This is a battle that cannot be won with ideas, opinions and theories, we must put on truth, but the truth cannot just be something we believe, it must be something we live; we also must have on the breastplate of righteousness. The scripture demands and the times demand that we live holy lives before a holy God! In this battle, Satan will not just roll over and play dead, he will fight against us, so we must have the shield of faith. Equipped with the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Sprit, we are ready-with the final admonition, Paul tells us to be on the alert and pray for one another.

Tonight we will talk more about winning this spiritual battle, but for now, let me just assure you that this is a battle that we will win!

1 John 4:4 says, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (KJV) 

While we recognize that there are dark spiritual forces around us and that we are at war, we also affirm that those who are with us are greater than those who are against us. Rev. 12:7-9 says, "And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, [8] and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (NASB)

Open our eyes Lord, that we may see the forces that war against us and we will take the call to prepare for battle seriously. 

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