Wake Up and Suit Up

Linda Evans Shepherd Urges Believers to Don the Full Armor of God

By Stephanie Rische

Today is a war day.

That might not be the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, but according to author and ministry leader Linda Evans Shepherd, it’s a reality we need to embrace if we’re going to effectively live out the calling God has given us. “More often than not, we just want to rest in past victories,” Linda explained. “Or we’re lulled into a false sense of security, thinking there’s no longer a battle raging today. We need to remember that we have to be prepared for battle on all occasions.”


Linda has learned from experience how
important it is to put on the full armor of God
as the Bible exhorts in Ephesians.
Photo courtesy Scott Campbell Photography.

 

Linda pointed to a familiar passage to emphasize the spiritual fight we’re in:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11–12, NIV).

In the midst of our day-to-day routines of going to work, caring for our families, and even serving in church, it’s easy to forget that we’re fighting a real battle against a real enemy. And while it may be sobering to think about being engaged in daily spiritual warfare, there’s good news: we’re not in this alone. Christ is at work in us and through us. “The armor of God is really an allegory for putting on Christ,” Linda said. “All these weapons — the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and so on — are what we receive when we are found in Christ.”

The armor of God is not something we mix and match; we need the whole armor of God. “The problem is that we understand some of the armor we’ve been given, but we fail to put the rest to use,” Linda said. “If you didn’t have the truth, how would you stand up to the enemy’s lies? And if you didn’t have the shield of faith, how would you protect yourself from attacks? We can’t afford to lose even one of these pieces of God’s armor. We need to put on the entire armor of God every day.”

It All Started in a Little Church in Texas
The idea of spiritual battle isn’t new to Linda Evans Shepherd, but she has come a long way in her understanding of how to be prepared for it. The first time she recognized spiritual attacks was when she was 19 serving as a summer missionary in Texas. “They bused my partner and me all over the great state of Texas to conduct vacation Bible schools,” she said. “We noticed that we always faced more hindrances during the weeks when the Lord moved in the most powerful ways. So when things went wrong, we began to laugh it off, believing that God was going to move that week.” Linda continued, “I’ve been in full-time ministry for several decades now. I can’t always tell why warfare happens, but I don’t laugh it off anymore. I know now that I can actually fight it . . . and fight to win.”

Linda’s spiritual journey started almost a decade earlier, in the context of a Christian home and a strong church community. “I was a hardened 10-year-old when I came to the Lord,” she said with a hint of a smile in her voice. “I knew I needed to come to the Lord, and I wanted to. But I couldn’t push past my pride. I refused to talk to the pastor or walk down the aisle every time my church played one more round of I Surrender All.”

That summer, at vacation Bible school, the teacher gave Linda a card where she could check if she had accepted Jesus. She checked no. The next question asked if she wanted to know Jesus. She checked yes. “The pastor came to our house with a visiting evangelist and led me to the Lord,” Linda said. “That night I pushed past my pride and went forward at church. It was like a dam had burst in me; I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. And that little girl wept in front of the whole church.”

That moment was just the beginning for Linda. “Ever since, it’s been a divine love affair between the Lord and me,” she explained. “He has been with me through a lot — through the traumatic automobile accident in which our daughter Laura was severely injured when she was just 18 months old, through the year she spent a year in a coma, and through the decades I spent caring for her.”


Linda and daughter Laura before the car
accident in which Laura was severely injured.

 

To Linda’s surprise, God brought something good out of her daughter’s tragedy. “Two years after my daughter’s accident, the Lord called me to write,” Linda said. “That was something I could do as a caregiver.” She still had a ministry, even though she could no longer travel around the state to do it.

An Insider’s Tips to the Enemy’s Battle Plan
The apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians some 2,000 years ago, but the message that we need to be prepared for spiritual battle is as relevant as ever. “If you’re paying attention to the media and movies and culture, we are starting to see more and more openly demonic influences,” Linda said. “And yet somehow we as a church have been lulled into thinking this is all make-believe. We need to wake up and suit up.”

Linda believes that one way the enemy makes his attack is through the bridges we build to evil. “We open doors that invite evil in,” she said. “Let’s say you’re sitting in front of the TV looking for something mindless. That allows the enemy to put his ideas in front of you. When you open that door, you become more vulnerable to attack, whether it’s because you’re being lulled into a mindset that isn’t of Christ or because you begin to accept sin into your life after seeing it demonstrated on TV so many times.”

So once we recognize the war that is raging all around us, how do we fight to win? Linda put it simply: “It takes the truth to set us free.” One of the main ways the enemy fights us is by blinding us to the truth. If we know what is true and hold tight to it, the enemy will be powerless against us. “The truth starts with what Christ did for us on the Cross, but it continues with Christ in us. If we understand that Christ is in us, the enemy will never win the battle.”

Now more than ever, the stakes are high. “As parents and grandparents and friends and family members, it’s up to us to fight for our loved ones. We aren’t just fighting for ourselves; we’re fighting for the next generation. We need to be ready to fight — and win.”


Linda and her husband Paul have been married
for more than 30 years.

 

The Real Meaning of Victory
If we’re engaged in battle, that implies there will be a winner and a loser — a side that experiences victory and a side that experiences defeat. So what does victory look like, from a spiritual perspective?

In God’s economy, victory doesn’t necessarily mean we never experience loss or heartache, or that life turns out exactly the way we hope. It does mean that in the long term, God transforms even our heartbreak into something redemptive. Linda has experienced this bittersweet kind of victory firsthand.

The day after Linda’s daughter Laura’s 30th birthday, after decades of disability and medical challenges, she lost the fight for her life. “That moment was incredibly sad, but it was also beautiful,” Linda said. “In the past, we’d always told her that she couldn’t die yet because it wasn’t her turn to go. But the day came last July when it was clearly her time, and we gave her permission. ‘Today it’s your turn,’ I told her. ‘Jesus is so excited you’re coming. Your Pawpaw can’t wait to see you.’” Linda pauses, the emotion heavy in her voice. “We lost her, but we didn’t lose the battle. In the midst of my grief, the Lord reminded me that long ago I had given her life to him. Today Laura is no longer disabled; she is totally healed. And even better, she is with the Lord. The enemy did not win.”


Laura passed away the day after her 30th birthday
and is now with Jesus.

 

And that’s what true victory looks like — not that our prayers are always answered the way we want them to — but that God is at work even in the difficult parts of our stories. “The Lord uses our stories for good, even when it’s painful,” Linda said. “By this point in my life I’ve learned that you can’t escape the rougher sides of earthly life and the heartbreak of living on this planet. I know I’m not the only one who has hurts and disappointments, so I’m determined to use my struggles to reach out and encourage others who are hurting.”

This sounds precisely like what Paul had in mind when he penned these words: “Put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

Helpful Resources from Linda Evans Shepherd
RightToTheHeart.com: This site ministers to millions of people who cry out for help on the Internet with tools like the “God Test,” an interactive website that has brought nearly 300,000 people to the Lord, and www.ThinkingAboutSuicide.com, which provides resources for people who feel depressed and alone.

LeadingHearts.com: This free magazine is designed to encourage Christian women who lead hearts, whether at home, at work, in their communities, or at church. It includes insights from top Christian authors and communicators who know what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership role.

Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA): This organization is for Christian women authors and speakers. Many women in these roles are often ministering out of the overflow of their hearts and aren’t connected with organizations. This group offers prayer support as well as training and encouragement.

Winning Your Daily Spiritual Battles: Linda’s most recent book (Revell, 2016) tackles spiritual warfare. God created us with purpose and potential, so why are we fighting the same old battles instead of living the life He intends? He has provided all the weapons we need to succeed in every area of life. This book explains how to use them. For more information about Linda’s ministry, visit www.GotToPray.com.

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