Ephesians 6:10-17
Rev. C. Dan Brand

Today is Sept. 11, 2005, not THE 9/11 of 2001. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on that day? It seems that most people do remember. I recall that a minister friend of mine & I were putting shingles on a house.

In many ways, it seems that we are going through some of the same emotions today as we were 4 years ago. In the midst of the Hurricane Katrina crisis that presently exists there is a lot eyes around the world looking at the Christian community—to see how we handle crisis, but even more important, how are we meeting mission of creating more disciples of Jesus Christ.  “How do we go about creating Disciples for Jesus.”  What is the Christian Spiritual Excellence?

I’ve decided with the Lord’s help that I would do a six-week series on what is Spiritual Excellence. Today, we will focus on TRUTH.

The Apostle Paul provides a very good description of what Christians need to do to successfully withstand all the forces that would bring us down.  He calls it the armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Over the next six weeks, we will consider each of these pieces of equipment.  We have to, because if our search for spiritual excellence or becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, Paul’s message is that we need all of it—the WHOLE armor of God.  Paul’s assertion is that there is no evil in this world that is beyond the capacity of you or me to correct. Paul understood that—-probably better than we do.

So how do we cope with it, and in the process move toward spiritual excellence?  Paul says prepare yourself; put on the armor—because life is more battleground than playground.  If you don’t believe that, go contact any one of the survivors from the Hurricane. A number of folks fail to realize the truth that this country can experience tragedies and sometimes we don’t want to face the truth of how it really affects each of us. 

First, the belt—the “girdle” for you who have the King James Version will find the term—that which holds things together.  The belt of Truth. When I think about the word girded, girdle comes to mind. To my understanding, at that time the girdle was apart of the soldier’s uniform. Though it may seem like a small insignificant part, but it play an important role in the life of the soldier. It was the girdle that binds together or held in places the central parts of the soldier’s uniform. It wasn’t just used for that particular reason only, but it was used to hang the weapons upon.

If you were a bowman he would hang the girdle across the chest and hang the quiver, which supported the arrows from the girdle. If you were in the infantry he would secure the sheath, which contain the sword from it at the waistline. The soldier also wore robs, which aren’t mention in this text, as being apart of the armor. When they had to move quickly, they would tuck the hem of the rob into the girdle to keep from tripping on it.

You may have heard the term gird up the loins of your minds. This term stem from the tucking of the robs into the girded. But it has been transform to mean making or getting your mind ready for Christian service. In today’s life as we put on the whole armor of God, it’s essential that we miss not one piece. It’s ironic how such a small insignificant piece can have so much value to the soldier. It’s upon this girdle that the weapons are secure. It’s upon the girdle that the rob is tuck to make rapid advancement in the war. It’s the girdle that holds the components of the armor together. And is the Girdle that supports the strength areas of the soldier as we stand against the wiles of the devil.

Now, we might be tempted to shrug “Truth” off as something that goes without saying.  Little children are taught to be truthful as soon as they are old enough to understand.  We punish them when they lie to us.  WE tell them the story of the little boy who cried Wolf.  Our system of justice is based on “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  Why would Paul say something so obvious?

Part of the answer is that the truth is often difficult to come by.  The temptation is to echo the question Pontius Pilate posed to Jesus, “What is truth?” Sometimes it is hard to know.  As we often hear “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Sometimes people do not want the truth—it can be more of a challenge than they wish to have. Let me give you an example. A number of years ago, I was attending a chamber of commerce meeting in White Hall and the School Principal said in all seriousness and with great conviction, “We don’t have any problem with drugs in our school. We told our kids several years ago that if we caught them with drugs, they would be in big trouble, and we have never had any difficulty since.” We all looked at each other and burst out into laughter. Our kids had already told us how easy it was to get drugs in the school. No one in the room could believe that the school Principal could be so naïve He did not want the truth, because to know the truth would have forced him to take action.

Some people do not want the truth because it is too painful. There is an old saying that says, “If I knew myself, I would run away.” How many times have you seen the drama of the hospital waiting room played out between the doctor and the family of the dying patient—“Let’s not tell him just now.” The truth can sometimes deeply hurt.

A few years ago, a major Multinational company was looking for a new Marketing Director. After much advertising and many application, three candidates entered the final selection process. A mathematician, a statistician and a solicitor. The first to be invited in for the final interview was the mathematician and the Managing Director asked him a simple question: What is 2+2. The mathematician was surprised, thought about it for a bit, wondered if it might be a trick question and then simply answered 4. The Managing Director looked at the Board, shook his head and thanked him for coming, but he wasn’t the candidate they were looking for. 
The statistician was the next in and and the Managing Director asked him too the simple question: What is 2+2. He paused, thought about it for a bit and then replied that statistically it was a number between 3 and 5. The Managing Director smiled and Board were quite impressed. The candidate was thanked and ushered out. The last candidate, the solicitor was then invited in to the interview and the Managing Director asked him too the simple question: What is 2+2. Without batting an eyelid he replied: “What do you want it to be”. And was promptly hired on the spot. 

What do you want truth to be? This is a prevailing question today.

I’ve heard from many people that are watching the scenes from New Orleans and saying “I didn’t realize that there were so many poor blacks in New Orleans.”

The truth may be hard to come by, it can be challenging, and it can hurt. But search for spiritual excellence cannot avoid a prior commitment to the truth. That is what one of the six questions was about. Do we really see us as we are?  There is a statement in our Methodist Book of Discipline that says “ Truth is in order to (or comes before) goodness—we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.”

Until we know the truth, we cannot begin to act properly, intelligently, or faithfully.  The breastplate of righteousness without truth can make us bigots.  Without truth, the shoes of peace can make us wimps.  The shield of faith without the truth can make us foolhardy.  Without truth the helmet of salvation can turn us into idle dreamers.  Without truth, the sword of the Spirit can turn into nothing. Truth does precede goodness.

What then is this truth the Apostle Paul would have us use for a belt?  With all those rulers and authorities, powers and spiritual forces of evil out there, those huddled hungry children, those who cannot make a decent living honestly, those who lie ignored on beds of pain, and all the rest that is wrong in this frightened world, what is the belt of truth to help us hold things together?

One verse jumps into my mind: “For God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God loves us. Those are more than words of comfort; those are words that empower us to become disciples,  that get us through all the muck and misery that are part of us humans.

God is Good and He loves us. Does Love hold things together? You better believe it does. The belt of truth, that which holds it all together and empowers us for faithful and useful discipleship, God loves this world, and gave Jesus to redeem it, to die the death of the cross for it.  Not only you and me and the “other good folks” just like us, but those babies in the streets, the displaced kids making an attempt to learn in our schools, the aging poor confined to camps. “Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in his sight.”  That is the truth. Is it YOUR truth? That is the question. Your search for spiritual excellence starts with the truth.  It will keep you going with that truth—Jesus Christ! And one day, when you meet the Lord in glory, it will end in that truth.


Let us pray:

O God, we confess that a search for truth is rarely high on our spiritual agenda. We are grateful for those dedicated men and women who taught us the ultimate truth through the years. Help us to take that truth as a challenge to faithful discipleship. For we pray it in the name of the one who loved us and gave himself for us, your son, our Savior.