I’m blessed with an incredible view as I write this article: the last remnants of foliage, illuminated by an early morning sun, seen through the windows of the visitor center at William O’Brien State Park. This is one of my favorite nearby places for a day hike, and since it’s just about 45 minutes from our home, I’m able to get up here often enough to experience it in all seasons. After these leaves fall and eventually the snow does, too, the cross country ski trails will open up. After what can seem a long wait, the meadows will green up and the air will be filled with birdsong. Eventually, long summer days will allow for extended adventures and overnight camping around a fire.
Depending on the season, my checklist for these day trips will vary. Notably absent today are my skis, poles and wool hat. Forgetting insect repellant in the early summer could make for a miserable outing. Some items are constants, however: weather-appropriate clothing, ample water, a day pack, a trail map, snacks and maybe lunch, and a simple first-aid kit constitute the basic necessities.
We find in Scripture several important checklists. On a recent October Sunday, we studied the Apostle Paul’s wardrobe checklist found in Colossians 3. Paul reminds us to dress ourselves daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. In so doing, we’ll be prepared to present these Christ-like qualities to a world that’s full of heartlessness, busyness, self-centeredness, harshness and impatient exasperation. We’ll find ourselves ready to bless people with the love of Jesus as we clothe ourselves, as Paul instructs us in Romans 13, with the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Our Community Bible Experience readings through the New Testament have recently presented us with another of Paul’s checklists, this one found in the book of Ephesians. Here, Paul outlines a plan for battle readiness:
“Therefore 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:13-17, NIV
This military language seems a stark contrast to the more “gentle” wardrobe checklist of Colossians 3. However, just ahead of this description of battle preparedness, Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christians don’t arm themselves for battle against people, but rather against those spiritual powers opposed to people everywhere. Just as compassion, kindness and gentleness are intended to bless others and to point them to the love of Christ, the items on the Ephesians checklist prepare the believer to bring the gospel into a world that so desperately needs the freedom and power only it can provide. In spite of the warlike imagery employed by Paul, he reminds his readers that all of this protective gear is designed to allow us to accomplish our mission of bringing the gospel of peace. If we truly engage this mission, yes, we will find ourselves under attack. Paul, however, assures us that our belt, breastplate, shoes, shield and helmet will not fail us, and that the sword with which God’s Spirit arms us, the very Word of God, will be all we need for the battles ahead.
Truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and the Word of God: Paul’s checklist for success in the mission God’s given us. As a family of believers and community of faith here at Redeemer Covenant Church, let us prepare ourselves daily with these mission essentials. God has incredible adventures prepared for us in the seasons ahead, and offers all we need to be fully equipped and ready.