Scripture is clear. As God-fearing believers, as Christians, we do battle every day in the spiritual realm, "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:11-12)
To do battle, how should we arm ourselves? The Apostle Paul tells us to put on the Armor of God, which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
A Quiver on Top of Your Armor
I would like to suggest that we also fling a quiver over our armored shoulder to help us as we walk the Christian walk in our daily lives.
A quiver gives an archer easy and quick assess to his or her arrows in one place. Quivers typically hold between 25-30 arrows on average. The term dates back to around the 14th century.
What are the arrows you and I can store in our quiver to help us in our daily battles, many of which, while perhaps grounded in the spiritual realm, manifest themselves in our relationships, our daily work, and our service to God in community?
Let's load our quivers with the spiritual disciplines, many of which enhance the effectiveness of the Armor of God we seek to wear.
The Spiritual Disciplines
The spiritual disciplines are not meant to be legalistic rules, but tools that bring us closer to God. The spiritual disciplines are a central part of helping believers with their Christian walk.
There are different lists of these disciplines. I will refer to the disciplines discussed in Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. These include meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
"Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. Bodily fitness has limited value, but spiritual fitness is of unlimited value, for it holds promise both for this present life and for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
Meditation. Mediating from the Christian standpoint is reflecting on what our minds have taken in and our souls have grasped. We have truly meditated when we slowly read, prayerfully and humbly relying on what God has revealed to us in his Word.
"Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." (Psalm 119:97)
Prayer. Having a prayerful presence enlightens and affects the world around us. Talking to God throughout our day is talking to the most loving friend you or I will ever have.
"Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Be alert and sober minded when you pray. (1 Peter 4:7)
Fasting. Fasting can take many forms. The important point in fasting is that we focus on God, turning our attention to him, away from our earthly needs. It's a magnifying glass that pinpoints our love for God.
"And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." (Matthew 6:16)
Studying. Studying the Word takes us deeper into the meaning of what we are reading, taking into consideration the literary and historical context of the Old and New Testaments. God's Word is deposited into our mental banks.
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Service. In serving God by serving our fellow human beings, especially God's hurting people, we are following in the footsteps of the greatest servant who ever lived, Jesus Christ.
"When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, '…If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet'"(John 13:12)
Celebration. As God-fearing people, and especially as Christians, we have much about which to celebrate. As an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems says, "Let me count the ways." In fact, that's a good exercise to do now and then. Take out a sheet of paper and count the reasons for celebration and the ways in which you can celebrate alone or with your church community.
"And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened." (Acts 4:21)
Gratitude. We should start and end each day thanking God for all he has done for us, especially going to the Cross for us. We should make it a habit, because it's easy to forget to show our appreciation amidst all our busyness.
The more we develop an attitude of gratitude for the gift of salvation and life God has given us, the truer perspective of ourselves will be. A grateful heart is a humble heart.
Henri Nouwen writes, “Gratitude goes beyond the 'mine' and 'thine' and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
Worship. Remembering to keep holy the Sabbath Day is a directive straight from the Word of God. Unfortunately, many of us only equate worship with attending a regular church service. In fact, we can worship the Almighty throughout our day, recognizing Jesus as our Sabbath rest and the Holy Spirit as our link to the mind of God.
"Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD…" (Exodus 16:23)
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." (Hebrews 13:15)
Obedience and Submission. As the hymn, Trust and Obey, written by John Henry Sammis says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Because of who God is, because of his character, we can trust that simply walking in obedience to him will bring us blessing, joy, and supernatural security, even in the hardest of times.
It's also important to find healthy and helpful ways to submit to others in service. "…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:21)
Simplicity. We are bombarded with advertising that tells us we need to have stuff to be happy, to be satisfied with who we are. But God doesn't want us to live a life tied to the stuff we accumulate or our need to get things done. He wants us to live a life focused on him and what he expects of us.
"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Confession. Whether your preference is going to confession as part of your Catholic faith, or going before the Lord directly, or both, acknowledging your sins and repenting, confessing what you have done or failed to do, is the cement that holds together your relationship with the God who went to the Cross for you.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Guidance. God gives us guidance through his Word, through what goes on around us, including other people, and the Holy Spirit, who gives us access to the mind of God. He also guides groups of people who seek the will of God.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Proverbs 3:3-6)
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13)
There are other disciplines that have been suggested to enhance the depth and longevity of the Christian walk, including community, silence, listening, and solitude.
Morgan Scott Peck, an American psychiatrist and best-selling author who wrote the book The Road Less Traveled, has this to say:
"There are many people who... want, and believe it is possible, to skip over the discipline, to find an easy shortcut to discipline. Often they attempt to attain it by simply imitating the superficialities of saints... Some even believe that by such imitation they have really become saints and prophets, and are unable to acknowledge that they are still children and face the painful fact that they must start at the beginning and go through the middle."