Be Not Found Wanting…
When I was a new deacon preparing, as I recall, my first talk for sacrament meeting, my dear mother directed me to the story of Achilles from Greek mythology. Achilles is a central character of Homer’s Iliad, prominent figure in the Trojan war, and considered one of Greece’s greatest warriors. According to Greek mythology, Achilles derived his strength from his invulnerability provided as an infant by his mother Thetis. His mother had taken him down to the River Styx, whose waters were reported to confer invulnerability. Holding him tightly by his heel she dipped him in the water, thus coating him with an armor of invulnerability. As he grew to manhood he became a great warrior who could be conquered by none. He fought miraculously in battle after battle and seemingly could not be killed. But he did have an overlooked weakness, he was not fully protected. His mother had gripped so tightly his foot that it was never moistened of the protective waters of Styx. One day a lone poisonous arrow, a fiery dart, found its way to that spot on Achilles’ body that never touched the water, his heel, and he fell and died as any man.
Like the hero story so well developed by ancient Greeks, if we have exposed a spot of vulnerability, it will one day and inevitably be exploited and lead to our downfall, much as did the poisonous arrow penetrate Achilles’ heel in the ancient story told.
…if we have exposed a spot of vulnerability, it will one day and inevitably be exploited and lead to our downfall,…
The Lord confers upon us tools and gifts to reduce our vulnerability, if we but use them to strengthen and protect ourselves from the fiery darts of the adversary. We may take upon ourselves the whole armor of God and not be found helpless in our day of peril.
The Lord has counseled for our protection, “lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:15-18).
What should we do to withstand the temptations and endure buffetings of Satan’s fiery darts? We must fully clothe ourselves in our God given endowment of armor, and use each element to combine against darkness:
1. Truth (girt about our loins) — covers and protects our vitals from what can self-harm us most, dishonesty. When we speak only truth from an honest heart, integrity, the true measure of a man, prevails to protect and preserve who we are;
2. Breastplate of Righteousness — the life of the body beats forth from the breast, and all the other organs that surround the heart thrive for its support. Choosing the right provides shielding for the pure heart, and for the man who is pure;
3. Preparation of the Gospel of Peace (foot protection) — trodding rough ground is best done in boots, and without preparing to preach with knowledge in wisdom, we are like dancing around barefoot in sharp gravel. In order to teach and move through those who have ears to hear we must be prepared with answers, word and wisdom;
4. Shield of Faith — quenches all the fiery darts intended for us by our enemies. The adversary has his minions, and we must be prepared to block what is thrown, so we can continue in our tasks. It is by faith that we call upon the powers of heaven for our protection;
5. Helmet of Salvation — knowing that we are saved by His grace provides us with the knowledge that this is not all on us, but on He who saves us all. By protecting and projecting that God given knowledge all may know this is far greater than the sum of our parts. We may be weak, but we are not alone. We are saved in He who is perfect in strength;
6. Sword of the Spirit — it is not enough to take blows and block darts, we must wield the sword by the Spirit to know where it need be placed, where paths must be cleared, and what hard work need be done. We will likely not be required to use the sword of Laban as did Nephi, but by the Spirit, use it Nephi did;
7. God’s Word — is more than His teachings to share, but it is His perfect law by which we live. God’s word is the sword of His mouth, and without it we are utterly lost, dwindling in unbelief. It is ours to live and teach, crying repentance, not in hypocrisy, but in strict obedience. By so doing we are endowed by God with power.
We need the whole armor of God to see the day through. Having faith without knowing the law to live is like being in a fueled-up car with no road to drive, or on the seas with no stars to guide nor rudder to steer. Who knows where you will end up?
As President M. Russell Ballard taught, “There is not one great and grand thing we can do to arm ourselves spiritually. True spiritual power lies in numerous smaller acts woven together in a fabric of spiritual fortification that protects and shields from all evil” (Ensign, July 2004). We need the whole armor of God to see the day through. Having faith without knowing the law to live is like being in a fueled-up car with no road to drive, or on the seas with no stars to guide nor rudder to steer. Who knows where you will end up? The whole armor of God allows us to work in concert with Him having all the strengths, wisdom and protection that He offers. In the end, and throughout, we will end up at His side.
As Paul declared to the Ephesians, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:13). The word “whole” is imperative here. In Greek myth Thetis tried, but not paying enough attention to detail, left her son Achilles wanting in his hour (moment) of need. President N. Eldon Tanner explained, “Examine your armor. Is there an unguarded or unprotected place? Determine now to add whatever part is missing. No matter how antiquated or lacking in parts your armor may be, always remember that it is within your power to make the necessary adjustments to complete your armor. Through the great principle of repentance you can turn your life about and begin now clothing yourself with the armor of God through study, prayer, and a determination to serve God and keep his commandments” (General Conference, April 1979).
“Brethren, we all need to repent. We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote, and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God so we can engage in the most important work on earth.”President Russell M. Nelson
Putting on the whole armor of God is not something we should put off until tomorrow. We need to girt-up, armor-up, today, and not wait until the day is through or the battle is over. Today is the day of our repentance, and for the rest of our lives, if we are to be protected and guarded from poisonous darts and effective in wielding the sword of the Spirit. As President Russell M. Nelson so aptly put, “Brethren, we all need to repent. We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote, and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God so we can engage in the most important work on earth. It is time to ‘thrust in [our] sickles, and reap with all [our] might, mind, and strength’ (Doctrine and Covenants 33:7). The forces of evil have never raged more forcefully than they do today. As servants of the Lord, we cannot be asleep while this battle rages” (General Conference, April 2019).
We live in the greatest and last dispensation, the dispensation of the fullness of times. Nevertheless, these are troubled times, and this has been a year of challenges beyond what most of us expected. We need to have the armor of God wholly engaged in the work of our protection and in the building of God’s kingdom and establishment of Zion. Let us take upon ourselves the whole armor of God that we may be not found wanting in any moment of peril or hour of opportunity. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.