Mrs. Lubbers is a wife and mother in the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois.
Far, far away in the country of Denmark there is a wonderful playground for children. This playground is a “junk playground.” All kinds of scraps are brought here and children are encouraged to build things out of pieces of wood and other odds and ends with their own tools. A child such as you may go to this playground any time and begin building a cabin or a fort or an airplane or a boat. There is no limit to the things you can do here if you use the available junk and your imagination.
Even though you may never get to Denmark and play and climb and build in this playground, you can enjoy play almost anywhere. In your own home, your back yard, and in the city parks and playgrounds. I have seen you boys and girls on your ruggedly-built jungle gym sets. These play structures, too, let you “climb mountains,” “cross rivers,” or “travel through space”—all without leaving your own back yard. I watch you at school as you jump and skip and twirl and balance dangerously on monkey bars and swing sets. Children and play go together like kites and windy days. You bubble over with energy and eagerness when you play. And it seems as if you don’t need fancy, expensive toys to have fun either. A few scraps of lumber, some old tiles, a couple of crates or old boxes, and your imagination, and you are busy for a good long time.
And it is good that you children play. It is healthy. It will help you develop into strong young people. No one should take playtime away from you or discourage your playtime activities. Even the Apostle Paul recognized this when he said in I Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
But, boys and girls, this world is not just one big playground. Even though you are very young, you must soon find out, and perhaps already know, that the world in which you live is a battleground and you are a soldier on it. Even the name of this magazine, Standard Bearer, tells you that there is a war going on now and there has been ever since Satan, that wicked serpent, tricked Adam and Eve into disobeying God. Do you know what a standard bearer is? He is the person who carries the army’s flag, letting everyone know for what country his army is fighting.
Perhaps many of you have seen pictures of the war which the United States fought against Iraq. Maybe you have even been somewhat frightened by the exploding bombs and the rat-a-tat-tat of rapid gunfire. If you are like me, you probably don’t like the gas masks which even little children were required to wear during attacks by the enemy, making everyone look like a giant anteater. You don’t like war and the confusion and unhappiness which go with it.
However, the battlefield on which you live is not one where you fight a war against the evil man, Saddam Hussein, or any other monstrously wicked person. No, the enemy with whom you are at war on this earth is a spiritual, invisible enemy. He has been fighting Gods people for a long, long time; so he is experienced and very crafty. And because you can’t see him even as you fight him, he is exceedingly dangerous. In addition, he has a huge army of fallen angels, all invisible, too, who fight fiercely any time and anywhere at his command.
This great enemy is Satan. Do you remember how he started the war with God’s people in the Garden of Eden? Can you recall how Satan vexed Job, taking away all his wealth, his children, and finally even his health? Surely you know how Satan tried to kill the baby Jesus when Herod sent his troops into Bethlehem to kill all the young children two years old and younger. Do you remember how he even tempted Jesus three times in the wilderness? And Satan was at the cross, too, trying to prevent Jesus from dying for the sins of His people. He reared up his ugly head to try to devour Jesus once and for all, but Jesus crushed his head. Nevertheless, until Jesus returns once again, Satan and his army are out to wound you—to make you sin, and even to kill you—to drag you down into hell with them, if that were possible.
Because you have such a clever enemy to fight against, God knows that you need superhuman strength for this battle. So He has prepared divine armor and weapons with which you must wage war (Ephesians 6:11-18). As young children you must already be putting on this armor, even though it seems heavy and awkward. You may not say, “Well, I’ll wait until I’m a little older and then when I need it I’ll pick up a good stout stick somewhere along the road.” Any attempt like this will mean certain death for you. You must be equipped with the whole armor of God. Now! This is your only hope against Satan’s tricks and traps.
To be a Christian soldier, you must first put on the girdle or belt of truth. To ward off this enemy, Satan, you children must know and believe the truth about God. Do you listen to your parents and ministers and school teachers as they teach you the truth about God? Knowing God will give you strength when the enemy attacks you.
In fighting Satan you must cover your body from the neck to the thighs, front and back, with an armor of righteousness. This righteousness is the obedience and suffering of your Savior, Jesus Christ. It comes to you from God by faith. When Jesus is your righteousness, you have a sure defense against all the thrusts of Satan. He won’t even be able to stab you in the back.
Young Christian soldiers, you must have boots for this battle, good sturdy combat boots. Have you ever seen a real soldier’s boots? Oh, how he cares for his boots. He painstakingly works soft oils and creams into every crevice of the leather. He spit-polishes those boots. For they not only protect his feet and legs from injuries, but those boots often mean his swift getaway over rugged and rocky ground. So, your feet, young foot soldier, must be covered with the swiftness which the Gospel of Peace gives, allowing you to pass unhurt over the battlefield and assuring your victory in this spiritual conflict.
You will need a shield in this battle with Satan. You will need a protection about the size of a door to cover completely your body in this dreadful war. Satan launches sharp and fiery darts at you which burn and kill. The shield of faith which believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God repels all the attacks of the devil. Boys and girls, begin already now to call on Christ for help!
Your head must be protected by the very best “hard-hat” available, the hope of salvation. The helmet is also the most ornamental part of your armor. You are adorned with God’s salvation and protected by it. You can hold up your head with confidence and joy knowing that Jesus Christ has died for you. Satan will never crush your head, just as he was not able to crush Christ’s head, because you are fitted with the royal helmet of salvation.
So far, all your armor parts have been provided by God to defend yourself and resist the attacks of Satan. Now, your commander, Jesus Christ, gives the order to use an offensive weapon—something to fight with. You are instructed to use a sword to fight Satan and his hosts. You must go on the attack and thrust through your enemy. Some of you children have read stories aboutExcalibur, the wonderful sword of King Arthur. When he was just a little boy called “Wart,” Arthur pulled the sword out of the stone and ever after used it to slay his enemies. It was a magical sword. The sword which God gives you is not a magical sword, but a powerful sword. It is the very Word of God which the Spirit gives. No one can stand up to this sword and defy it. Not even Satan. When you wield this sword, even though as young children you wield it unsteadily, the great enemy Satan lies bleeding and mortally wounded. He never could stand up to the Word of God and he never will be able to. That powerful Word of God, the Bible, is sharper than any earthly two-edged sword. Boys and girls, do you already make time to read the Bible? Do you listen carefully as it is explained and preached to you? Are you trying more and more to understand God’s Word? The Word of God is the great dragon-slayer.
This is the armor and weapon which every Christian soldier carries to war with him. Can you remember each of them? But you must also have courage and strength for the battle, so the Apostle Paul tells you, and me, to fight by prayer. Call upon God as your most important battle exercise. Prayer will make you strong. Prayer will make you brave.