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Hearts and Minds Need Guarded

I am intrigued by the number of times being a soldier is referred to in the Bible. Just this morning, I read Ephesians 6:10-18. “Be strong in the Lord . . . Put on the full armor of God . . . stand against the devil’s schemes . . . our struggle is . . . against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And it goes on.
Just like you, I wish life was not this harsh. I am not saying I don’t want life to be competitive because I love competition. Athletic contests, overcoming personal limitations, closing a deal or acquiring a seemingly impossible opportunity are awesome experiences in life. I just wish it wasn’t so destructive. There are schemes in our world that are bent on ruining us, not just winning the race.
As a result, I have come to accept that in my pursuit of life, I need to dress for battle—everyday! As I read this morning, the thought that stuck was, “I need to protect my heart and my mind if I am going to win in life.” The breastplate of righteousness is designed to protect the heart (and vital organs) of the soldier from frontal attacks. The helmet of salvation is designed to protect the head from downward blows of a sword.
I think the reason this stuck out to me was because of how real it was for me this week. Just this week, I have had to protect my heart from the following:
• Two good friends of mine are struggling with serious illnesses. Neither of them have made much progress despite my constant prayers for them.
• I found out another good friend had a stroke. This has been a looming thing in my life ever since my dad had a stroke when he was 48. I am in better shape than my dad was at my age. I eat better than my dad did at my age. I generally take better care of myself than he did. Still, every time I come across one of my peers who has suffered a stroke, I have to fight back the fear that it could be me.
• I have had a very strenuous week. It has been good stuff but it has been a lot of stuff. My first pastor used to refer to times like this as “eating oatmeal out of an exhaust pipe.” In the strain, I found myself impatient, insensitive and intensely focused. It was hard to care about the people I care about this week.
Then I got to pondering about the thoughts I had to fight off this week because they just weren’t true.
• The financial challenges you deal with are evidence that God doesn’t really love you as much as you think he does.
• You will never be back in shape. Your goal of running 8 minute miles will never happen for you.
• The risks you are taking in your career right now are the beginning of disaster. Who do you think you are that God would come through for you?
• It is just too much. Between your career, your home, your personal interactions and your family responsibilities, there is just too much.
I recognize that all of these are lies in the scheme of a dark world to discourage me from accomplishing what I was put on earth to do. Knowing that, however, doesn’t make them go away. I have to fight against them and beat them down so they don’t become the definition of my journey. My heart and my mind need to be guarded. Just as a solder puts on armor to guard himself and a football player puts on shoulder pads and a helmet to keep him safe in the contest, I need the breastplate to righteousness and the helmet of salvation.
Oh Jesus, flood my life with the right thoughts and the right decisions so I can win the contest before me.

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