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O God, Our Help in Ages Past
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Faith That Overcomes the World
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Faith Is the Victory
Pastor Jeffrey Khoo
A Testimony of the YAF Retreat
by Joycelyn Chng
Praise the Lord for a most blessed and fruitful Young Adults Fellowship Retreat 2016. It was held from 5 to 7 December, at the Resort Lautan Biru, Mersing. We are glad that our Pastor could minister God’s Word to us as the Retreat Speaker.
A total of 27 of us, including two young children, gathered early on Monday morning by the Sea of Galilee in FEBC. After we sang the first stanza of the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, Pastor committed the journey to the Lord in prayer. Indeed, the Lord was faithful to grant us safety and protection as we made the journey up to Mersing for a spiritual retreat. All of us (in a mini-bus and three cars) reached the resort safely, in time for lunch.
The theme of the retreat was “Put on the Whole Armour of God.” We were treated to an in-depth study of Ephesians 6:10–18 over five messages. Pastor himself shared with us at the end of the retreat that this was a passage he was thoroughly familiar with, having studied and exegeted these verses during his days as a student in Bible College and in Seminary. Nonetheless, the Lord had taught him more things as he did a fresh study of this passage in preparation for this retreat. Likewise, this was our experience, as message after message, the richness of God’s Word was made apparent in the exposition of the various verses.
We were challenged through the preaching of God’s Word to put on the whole armour of God, that we may hold our ground—with our heels dug into the ground as it were—so that we will not get pushed back by the many strategies and schemes of the devil to defeat us. At the same time, we were encouraged that the Lord is our Commander in Chief. Unlike some commanders who would direct battlefield operations from behind the scenes and in the comforts of air-conditioned rooms, the Lord goes before us, leading us in the spiritual battle, and fights with us. The Israeli army officers learned this ethos well, for they tell their men in the battlefield, “Follow me”. A better understanding of engaging in spiritual warfare was gained through the explanations of how the different pieces of the armour protect the various parts of the body.
Besides being fed the Word of God, we also had ample opportunities for blessed fellowship with one another. During the three discussion sessions that we had, we were able to listen to our fellow brethren’s burdens and struggles, as well as encourage and exhort one another in our Christian life. We also had sweet fellowship with one another amidst much laughter during the Bible quiz conducted in the afternoon of the second day.
God’s sovereign hand was evidently guiding us each step of the way in this retreat, even in the little details such as the buying of beverages and snacks for breakfast and teatime. In another instance, the game of captain’s ball which was originally planned for the first afternoon, ended up being played in the coolness of the second night due to the rain that God sent. This later prompted one brother to suggest having games in the night for future retreats! Indeed, Pastor had reminded us right at the beginning of his first message: We as God’s children do experience God through His working in our lives and we ought not to be ashamed to say so.
We thank God too for His faithfulness in bringing us all back safely, even helping an Indonesian sister who was held back at the Singapore customs to be cleared eventually. May the Lord help us to remember the spiritual lessons we have learned in this retreat. Let us “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11). Amen.
Synopsis of Messages
(1) The Whole Armour of God
The command to put on the whole armour of God (Eph 6:10–13), is a command for believers to exercise our human responsibility as we engage in a spiritual warfare here on earth. However, before we can even put on the whole armour of God, we are commanded to “be strong in the Lord” (Eph 6:10). In the army, the full battle order is heavy, and one must be fit and strong to put on the whole equipment and not be weighed down. Spiritually speaking, we must also be fit and strong to put on the whole armour of God. We must always be strong only “in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” The Lord is the one building us up. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:1–5).
It is necessary to put on the whole armour of God if we are to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11). This is because we wrestle against powerful spirit beings (Eph 6:12). We must be alert to the fact that the devil goes after us using many methods. He sizes us up individually and knows our weak points to seduce and tempt us.
(2) Belt and Breastplate
The first piece of armour is the Belt of Truth, which is to be girt about our loins (Eph 6:14a). The loins is that part of the body which includes the lower back, hips and upper thighs, and is the seat of one’s strength (Job 40:16). This tells us that we must be biblically and spiritually fit. Moreover, the one whose robe is belted at the waist is the one who is operationally ready and mobile. Therefore, while we ought to be strong enough to hold our ground (“stand therefore”), we must also be ready to move, even to flee, eg, “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Tim 2:22).
The loins is also the seat of courage (Job 38:3; 40:7; Jer 1:17). Thus we must build up our courage and be strong in our spirit, no matter what our enemies may say or do. But there can be spiritual strength and courage only when we are fighting on the basis of truth, which speaks of the contents of the Word of God, ie sound doctrines. When we fight for the doctrines of God and not those of men nor of devils, we can be sure of victory (2 Cor 13:8).
The second piece of armour is the Breastplate of Righteousness (Eph 6:14b). It protects one’s chest, which is that area where the vital organs such as the heart and bowels are located. The heart and bowels speak of our motives and emotions. This tells us that we ought to fight rightly and righteously, with the right attitude and methods.
(3) Boots and Shield
This third piece of armour, the Gospel Boots (Eph 6:15), indicates that we must have evangelistic feet, even the feet of missions. Simply put, we ought to “put the GO into the GOSPEL” (Matt 28:18–20; Acts 1:8). But in order to do so, we must be prepared (2 Tim 4:2). In doing missions, we go with something worthwhile, and not just anything such as good intentions or social deeds. Therefore, we do not go with an empty mind, but are equipped with the knowledge of the gospel. There must be substance to our work and this means we must know the content of the full gospel—the cross, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:1–4).
The Shield of Faith, a predominantly defensive weapon, is the fourth piece of armour (Eph 6:16). A Roman shield, measuring 4 feet long and 3 feet wide, offers protection for the soldier against fiery arrows with tips lit up in flames. They seek to pierce and burn. The “fiery darts of the wicked” are described as fiery to symbolise lustful temptations. This is not surprising considering how the devil is known as “the tempter” (1 Thess 3:5). In addition, the adjective also describes the destructiveness of the tongue (Jas 3:5). This comes in the form of false accusations, lies, misrepresentations, slanders etc, and no wonder, for the devil is also a murderer and a liar (John 8:44). It is then the Shield of Faith—the objective faith (fundamental doctrines of Scripture) and the subjective faith (faithfulness and loyalty to God)—which will protect us from the lustful temptations and destructive lies of the devil.
(4) Helmet and Sword
The fifth piece is the Helmet of Salvation (Eph 6:17a). The helmet protects the brain, which implies one’s mind and thoughts. The mind is important in the Christian religion as it is not a religion based on superstition. Christianity is an intelligent religion. Once we are saved, we automatically become students of God’s Word (2 Tim 2:2, 15). In studying God’s Word, we must make sure that we have biblical presuppositions, and that God is in the equation. Our mind must be transformed (Rom 12:1–2), and filled with lovely and good thoughts, as well as thoughts of our privileged status as God’s children.
The sixth and most versatile weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, “which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17b), as it is both offensive and defensive. Without God’s Word, all the other weapons will be useless. Without the Word, we would not know what is truth, righteousness, gospel, faith, salvation etc. It is also important that we know how to use this “sharp two-edged sword” (Rev 1:16, Heb 4:12). Just as Jesus quoted Scripture to overcome the temptation of the devil (Matt 4:1–11), so must we know the Word, believe in it, apply and use it well in our spiritual warfare.
(5) Praying and Watching
Prayer, being a means of grace and spiritual strength, is of utmost importance in this spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. To be “praying always” (Eph 6:18a) is to have a prayerful spirit, always being on prayer mode. When we are prayerful, we are dependent on the Lord for victory and success. This shows our humility before God. It must also be done in the Spirit for the Holy Spirit is our Counsellor who prays separately for us and on our behalf (Rom 8:26–27).
We are also to be spiritually watchful and vigilant, for the devil is constantly “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). Watching and praying go hand in hand (Matt 26:41). As we pray, God will sanctify our hearts and minds to cause us to think rightly and build up our spiritual stamina (Luke 18:1). Finally, that supplication is to be made “for all saints” reminds us that we do not fight this spiritual battle alone, and that is why we ought to pray for one another.
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