The Evil Day
Preached on Sunday, October 24, 2010, by
The Rev. S. Randall Toms, Ph. D.,
At St. Paul’s Reformed Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:10-13)
When young people go into certain branches of military service, one of the first things they are subjected to is a period of intense basic training. During this time, they are conditioned mentally and physically for the task that is ahead of them. They may be trained in methods of hand to hand combat. They are taught how to work as a unit and take various positions on the battlefield. They are given the proper equipment: clothing, helmets, knives, and guns. They are taught the proper use of this equipment. They are taught how to shoot, how to advance against enemy troops, and how to hold a position. They must be subjected to this kind of training because there may come a day when they will be called upon to fight, to defend themselves, to gain important ground in a battle. Soldiers need intense training because there may come a time when their lives and the lives of others will be depend on how skillfully they were trained, and how dedicated they were to implementing all that they had been taught.
Although some churches don’t like the military metaphors of Scripture, the Bible often describes the Christian life in terms of warfare. The Christian is a soldier who is engaged in a fierce battle. Just like a soldier who carries guns, knives, and other equipment, the Christian soldier must be well-equipped for battle with spiritual forces, described in our epistle reading for today as principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. The Christian must be prepared to fight, because, in the words of the Apostle Paul, the evil day is going to come. The evil day would be equivalent to the time of fierce battle encountered by a soldier. It is the time of testing when the forces of evil are marshaled against us. The Christian must have the whole armor of God if he is going to survive this onslaught, so the Apostle Paul says, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
What is this evil day that the apostle Paul speaks of? In a certain sense, the times in which we live are evil days, because the times in which we live are morally evil. Every day that we live is an evil day because we are constantly surrounded by danger: spiritual, and sometimes, even physical danger. We are especially living in days of great moral and spiritual evil. You remember that Paul admonished these same Ephesians in chapter 5, verses 15 and 16, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” If the days were evil 2,000 years ago, what can we say about the days in which we live now? In Scripture, certain periods of time, entire generations are spoken of as evil. Remember how our Lord described his own generation: “This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet” (Luke 11:29). John the Baptist described them as a “generation of vipers” (Matt. 3:7). Jesus described them as a “faithless and perverse generation” (Matt. 17:17). On the day of Pentecost, Peter admonished his hearer s to save themselves “from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). In Gal. 1:4, the Apostle Paul described Jesus as the one “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” In that sense then, every day is an evil day. Certainly, all that was true of the generation in which our Lord and Paul lived is true of our day. We live in a faithless, perverse, untoward, and evil generation. Every day, the world, the flesh, and the devil are seeking to lure us into sin, faithlessness, disobedience, and rebellion against God. We are surrounded by so many temptations, temptations that come to us from both within and without. We are constantly being challenged by those who would try to undermine our faith. We encounter those who are skeptics, those who mock our faith, and those who cause us to question what we have been taught as the truth of God’s holy word. There are so many different false religions. Even within Christianity itself, there is so much false teaching, and so many heresies arise day by day. There are so many false philosophies of life that we are called upon to embrace as being that one, true way of life that will be the source of peace and happiness. We are tempted to leave the strait and narrow path of life and embrace the philosophies of hedonism and materialism. No wonder then that Paul says we must “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” We cannot stand; we cannot win this battle in our own strength. Far more spiritual people than you and I have been overcome by the great temptations that we face. The evil days in which we live have lured many Christians into sin, so we must be constantly on guard, ready to do battle in the power of the Lord against the many enticements that this present evil age throws at us. In this sense, every day is an evil day, because every day we are surrounded by evil.
Sometimes, certain periods of life can be described as evil days, not because the times are characterized by moral evil, but evil in the sense of being full of trials and troubles that we must face. You remember when Jacob appeared before Pharaoh, he said, “ The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen. 47:9). When Jacob says that his days have been few and evil, he does not mean that he had led an evil life. He means that many trying, difficult things came to him in his sojourn in this world. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” The evil days mentioned there are times of trial and affliction, especially those that come to us when we get into the period of old age. Many of the days become evil in the sense of all the physical pain we have to face, as well as the emotional pain of seeing many of our friends and loved ones pass away. Remember how our Lord said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34). When our Lord speaks about the evil in this verse, he is talking about the various kinds of trials and tribulations that we face day by day. Each day has its share of difficulty, it’s time of testing.
But many Bible scholars believe that the evil day that is spoken of in Ephesians 6:13 is that time in life when we face certain crisis situations. It is true that we face spiritual conflict every day, but you all know that there are times when we must face the most difficult periods of trial and testing. There are those times in life when it seems that the damn breaks, and the evil, the trouble, comes pouring in like a flood. It is the kind of evil day that psalmist spoke of when he said, “The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” Every day has its share of trouble, but there are some days that are filled with so much trial, we would call it a day of trouble. The Lord even invites us in Psalm 50:15, “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
These days of trouble can take many different forms. They can be days of persecution. When the prophet Jeremiah was being persecuted, he described it as an evil day: “ Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil. Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction” (Jer. 17:17-18). During times of persecution, when people are mocking us and criticizing us for our faith, it is sometimes difficult to stand for the truth. The day of evil may be a day when you are exposed to a certain kind of temptation. You might have thought that you were incapable of committing this kind of sin, but it seems that Satan and all the forces of hell have decided that they are going lure you into this sin. You cannot get the temptation out of your mind. You know that you shouldn’t fall into this sin and a fierce battle is raging in your heart and mind. Then, there are those times when great trouble comes into our families. Sometimes there is an unfaithful husband or wife that causes great heartache, and those can be called days of evil, days when we think we cannot stand the brokenness of heart, the depression of mind and spirit that follows in the wake of such difficulties. Occasionally, children rebel against their parents, even appearing to reject the faith that we have taught them. What an evil day that is! We become so concerned about them, we have such concerns for both their physical and spiritual safety, and we just don’t know if we are going to be able to endure that period of testing. Then, there are those evil days of sickness that come our way. There are those times when we are in so much pain, that we look to heaven and say that we cannot endure this. Then, there comes that time when we face the death of loved ones and our own deaths. The fear and heartbreak caused by death cause many people to be shaken in their faith to the very foundation. Make no mistake about it, our spiritual enemies make use of such times to cause us to question the goodness and mercy of God. During such periods, our spiritual enemies will cause us to question even the existence of God. What an evil day that is, when we are tempted to abandon the faith itself!
These evil days that I have described will come to you in some form at various periods of your life. What can you do during such a time? How will you ever be able to survive? Scripture tells us that we are not defenseless. Just like that soldier that has been prepared to face that evil day, you can be prepared to face that evil day. The soldier is prepared so that when the battle begins to rage, when shots are being fired all around, when bombs are dropping, when the temptation would be to panic and run in fear, his training takes over. He knows what to do in such situations. He knows what is expected of him, he does his duty as a good soldier, and, in the end, in spite of all the danger, he stands. Just like that soldier, you are to be trained, you are to be given all the equipment that you need to stand when the fierce day of spiritual battle comes your way. In our Epistle reading for today, Paul mentions all the armor that is given to you, so that you can stand in the evil day. I don’t have time to go into lengthy descriptions of each piece of armor, but no doubt, you have heard countless sermons on these various parts already. But you have all the armor you need. You have truth, salvation, righteousness, peace, faith, the word of God, and the weapon of prayer. We have the whole armor of God, every piece essential, but this armor is able to help us stand in the evil day.
All this armor that you need is available to you. Think upon the Church as the armory of God. You remember that in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian goes to the palace Beautiful, which represents the Church. While Christian is in the palace Beautiful, we are told, “The next day they took him, and had him into Christian the armory, where they shew’d him all manner of furniture, which the Lord had provided for pilgrims, as sword, shield, helmet, breastplate, all-prayer, and shoes that would not wear out. And there was here enough of these to hand out as many men for the service of their Lord, as there be stars in heaven for multitude.” The Church is the armory of God where we are outfitted for the spiritual battles ahead. Just as certain military installations are designated as places where soldiers go to receive their basic training, the Church is the place where you come to be trained, and where you are going to receive the armor you need to stand in the evil day. In these days, people say that you don’t need the Church. The truth is that the Church is essential if you are going to have any hope of standing in these fierce battles. It is the Church that teaches you the truth; it is the Church that preaches the gospel to you so that you can have peace, salvation, righteousness, and faith. It is the Church that teaches you how to use the word of God as a weapon in your spiritual warfare. It is the Church that teaches you to pray and surrounds you with prayer so that you can survive these evil days. When you leave this place on Sunday mornings, you should feel as though you have put your armor on, and now, you are ready for the battles that lie ahead.
The spiritual warfare that is described for us in this text is no child’s play. The battles we fight day by day, and especially in those days of great trouble, are far fiercer and are far more important and significant than the great military campaigns in history. The battles we fight concern our own souls and the souls of others. We fight these battles in the effort to win the world for our Lord Jesus Christ, that his kingdom would come, that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In our efforts to subdue the kingdoms of this world to the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, we meet fierce opposition, but we can stand. As Paul puts it in this passage, “And having done all to stand.”Think of the imagery. All the powers of hell are trying to advance against us. We, at the same time, are marching. We meet in a terrific clash, day by day, and in all the great crises of life. But we have the advantage. We are not fighting in our own strength. We are fighting in the strength of the Lord and the power of his might. We have put on the armor that he has given to us. And when the dust of battle settles, you should see the Christian, standing firm–he has not given up an inch of ground. Someone has said that in all this description of the armor, there is nothing for your back. We do not retreat, we do not yield ground. We stand the onslaught, and we advance. Yes, it is true, that the evil day will come, evil days with the force of hell behind it, but the Christian has put on the whole armor or God, and in the end, the Christian stands. Amen.