Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Are you putting on the full armor of God every day? Holy habits are the key.

The armor of God isn't like one solid piece of metal.

It's more like chain mail made from small acts over and over, holy habits that weave together to protect us from evil.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “I like to think of this spiritual armor not as a solid piece of metal molded to fit the body but more like chain mail. Chain mail consists of dozens of tiny pieces of steel fastened together to allow the user greater flexibility without losing protection. I say that because it has been my experience that there is not one great and grand thing we can do to arm ourselves spiritually. True spiritual power lies in numerous smaller acts woven together in a fabric of spiritual fortification that protects and shields from all evil” (“Be Strong in the Lord,” Ensign, July 2004).

Something that keeps coming to my mind is the ever-increasing importance of putting on the full the armor of God all the time. 

It reminds me of how Captain Moroni created protections for his cities like never before. Since Satan is upgrading his battle plans all the time, we must upgrade our battle plans too. Of course this includes things like getting internet filters and teaching doctrine. It also includes consistently doing the small and simple holy habits that invite in the Spirit. 

There is such a profound difference in how people respond to ANYTHING when they do have the Spirit fully with them, verses when they don't. 

A person's desires are different. A person sees others differently - as objects or as spirit sons and daughters of God. Our young kids get along with each other great when the Spirit is in our home and in their hearts, but when they don't have the Spirit they fight with each other over ridiculous things. A person has a different ability to withstand temptation when they're filled with the Spirit and have the full armor of God vs. when they don't. 

I think my favorite Book of Mormon example of this concept is Nephi vs. Laman and Lemuel with the broken bow incident. 

You could take any incident, really, and compare them. How Nephi responded to the broken bow made it obvious that he had the Spirit fully with him - he was  soft-hearted, proactive, and didn't give into the temptation to just sit there and whine and despair like most of the family was doing. He followed the prompting to turn to the Lord for help. And of course the Lord gave the help they all needed. 

On the other hand, Laman and Lemuel didn't have the Spirit with them, and their response shows it. They blamed. They wanted other people to take responsibility. They gave into the temptation to complain, whine, and get hopeless. 

The time to do the actions that invite the Spirit isn't in the heat of the moment, like when the bow breaks, or when a young person sees a bad ad on the internet, or when a child spills a jar of spaghetti sauce and Mom wants to yell. 

The time is beforehand, every day, as many times a day as is needed, to have the full armor of God on all the time. So when the fiery darts of Satan arrive, armor is in place. 

The angel told Nephi in his tree of life dream that only when people hold fast to the iron rod will they be protected from the fiery darts of the adversary. (See 1 Nephi 15:24). 

The shield of faith that quenches all the fiery darts of the adversary is faith in action - doing those holy habits that God commands us to do every single day. 

Like power praying. That's my term to describe praying on the knees, aloud, really connecting with God in a two-way conversation asking things like, "Is there anything else Thou would like to tell me?" and "Is there anything I need to repent of?" and "What would Thou have me pray for?" Those kinds of prayers are soooo different than the hurry-go-through-the-motions-so-I-can-get-back-on-Facebook prayer.  There is not much power or protection in that. It's not real armor. 

Same thing with scripture feasting. There is feasting, where God's words really nourish and change you and you're receiving personal revelation and writing it down as you study. And then there is the hurry-and-check-it-off-the-list experience. Not much power or protection there either. Not real armor. 

Other holy habits that put on the chain mail armor of God are the typical Sunday School answers: temple service, family history work, kindness, service, magnifying our callings, attending our meetings, loving others, and so on. 

The Spirit's presence is fragile and must be treated with care. 

I'm sure you've found in your family that at any moment the Spirit can leave and you must take quick action to invite Him back. Like if our kids start fighting, we need to stop and sing a hymn or primary song or play the gratitude game or compliment game, or say a family prayer to get the Spirit back. It's such a fragile thing. We have to really respect the Spirit's presence, and Honor His presence there, or if our actions do anything to push Him away, He leaves. Then we must eat humble pie and plead for Him to come back. But it's oh so worth it. As many times a day as it takes to keep the Spirit with us constantly, the protection, the gifts, the fruits of the Spirit are oh so worth it. And of course this includes having the full armor with us all the time, so when temptation comes, we're ready. 

This concept reminds me of people saying you grow spiritually from trials. 

Of course there is a truth to this. But really, the spiritual growth comes from the daily holy habits of connecting with God and nourishing our souls and filling up with the Spirit, so when a trial comes is when we show our true colors. If we didn't do that work ahead of time the trial can be absolutely debilitating, as they often are for people who didn't put on the armor of God first. 

Elder Neal Maxwell said, “Real disciples [withstand] the fiery darts of the adversary by holding aloft the quenching shield of faith with one hand, while holding to the iron rod with the other (see Ephesians 6:161 Nephi 15:24D&C 27:17). There should be no mistaking; it will take both hands!” (Ensign, May 1987). 

Here is a video that shows the importance of putting on, and keeping on, the full armor of God.  If the video below doesn't work, watch it here.

Here is a post where Elder Holland shares what lessons we learn from Moses about overcoming evil influences. 

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