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Real change happens in relationships when real change happens in you. Jesus begins teaching this when the Pharisees ask Him which is the greatest commandment found in Matthew 22:36-39. Here, Jesus teaches that our interaction with others flows from our personal interaction with Him.
Difficulty in relationships actually begins with an internal battle we fight with God. The result of that battle for your own individual thoughts and actions then affects your interpersonal relationships. Thus, when you begin to think and act more as God instructs, you will find that your relationships correspondingly improve.
Paul writes of relationships as well. His conclusion is that all interpersonal conflict bases out of a spiritual battle you are warring yourself. To fight this battle, Paul outlines five pieces of armor and two weapons as he concludes his letter about relationships that he wrote to the Church of Ephesus. They are symbols of the internal fight that is happening in the spiritual realm.
The armor pieces are as follows.
- Belt of Truth
- Breastplate of Righteousness
- Shoes of Peace
- Shield of Faith
- Helmet of Salvation
The armor pieces represent individual, internal struggles of submission to God’s truth. We named them to reflect the internal fight we experience. Here they are.
- The Fight to Stay in Agreement
- The Fight to Do Less
- The Fight to Stand a Chance
- The Fight to Keep Your Promise
- The Fight to Change Your Mind
We have found that God is often more focused on us changing individually rather than our situation or the other person changing. Each of the pieces of armor require us to submit just a little bit more. These small incremental adjustments lead to growth in our own soul and by result, we behave more like Jesus would. Then, by submitting ourselves to righteousness we can impact our own relationships. More often though, the change we experience is sufficient alone by itself for us to enjoy a more fulfilling relationship with God.
Each of the fights are lifelong and tailored by God to each individual. Below is a description that begins to help us understand what God is trying to do.
The Fight To Stay In Agreement
God’s Word is truth and accordingly, this fight reflects the Belt of Truth. The first step to any growth in Christ is finding what HE has said in His Word about you or your current circumstance. The Fight to Stay in Agreement is the internal process of acknowledging that His Word is true despite what our physical situation may look like.
The Fight To Do Less
Our righteousness in Christ is built on His actions and nothing we do ourselves. Thus the Breastplate of Righteousness is worn based on his actions, not ours. Once you submit to God’s Word as truth, He will often give you an action to do. Be prepared. This action is often less than what we want to do (or think we need to do) ourselves. It requires obedience to God to only do what He asks you to do and nothing more.
The Fight To Stand A Chance
The Bible indicates that peace girds your feet. During this fight, you are continuing to act on your Fight to Do Less, but you are not seeing any significant change in yourself or the situation. This is frustrating and can drive you to quit. Peace with God acts as a stabilizing force in the battle of your mind. Relying on this peace when your actions look fruitless helps you stay submitted to God and His direction.
The Fight To Keep Your Promise
The Bible teaches you that God gives you a Shield of Faith. During the Fight to Keep Your Promise, you will start to see growth in yourself. But still, you will feel like quitting. This is the time to maintain the promise made in salvation to keep Jesus as your Lord and stay obedient. It is also that time when the enemy will want to convince you that you are not worthy of God moving in your situation. Don’t believe the enemy! Fight to keep that promise in your life.
The Fight To Change Your Mind
Finally, the Bible teaches of the Helmet of Salvation. This is when the change that God had intended all along begins to take root in your life and you see real change in how you think. Your actions are different even when others have not changed. You are happy to walk with God irrespective of what you see in other people. Also, good news! This is the time when you do often see a change in the relationships that started you on this journey.
As you walk though each of these fights with the Holy Spirit, you will grow in your relationship with God. It is the lifelong process that God has for His people to enjoy fulfilling relationships both with Him and with others.
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