In the closing lines of his letter to the Ephesian Christians, Paul encourages us to arm ourselves as soldiers do, to put on “the full armor of God.”
Elsewhere he gives similar warnings: “There will be terrible times in the last days,” and again, “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
“Therefore,” says Paul, “put on the full 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, to stand.”
Paramedics, police officers and firefighters know that any hour on their jobs can involve 59 minutes of numbing boredom and 1 minute of sheer terror. But when the moment of sheer terror comes, they had better be prepared.
Something like this helps us understand Paul’s reference to “the day of evil.”
There may be periods of relative calm in our lives, when the guns have fallen silent, when a cease-fire seems to be in effect, when the kids are healthy, the bill collector has not called in a while, we are getting along with each other and life tastes sweet.
But “the day of evil” can come suddenly. In a single day, the house of Job’s life came crumbling down – flocks, herds, health, wealth, children – every visible earthly support kicked out from beneath him. For Joseph, it was a temptation to bed down the boss’ wife. For Moses it was facing down an entire empire in the name of God. For David, it was too much time on his hands and a woman named Bathsheba. For Peter, it was the pressure of a single moment in the courtyard. There are moments when we can smell the smoke of battle rising from the field of conflict, when we can feel the heat of Satan’s flaming arrows.
That’s not the time to check out God’s arsenal to see what’s available. A drowning man does not suddenly learn how to swim. A guy who cannot add or subtract does not become a CPA on April 15th.
The time for arming ourselves with God’s arsenal is now, before the day of evil comes, so that when it does come, we will be found still standing when the smoke clears.
So how is our personal devotional life these days? Our Bible reading? Our prayer life? Our attendance on worship, word and sacrament? You and I cannot live tomorrow before it gets here, but only living in the word of God each day will arm us to live tomorrow when it does get here.