Teaching Kids About Spiritual Warfare

Boy with cardboard shield, helmet, breastplate and sword with a cardboard castle behind him

Our extended family was packed into the living room of a rented vacation condo. We were gathered for worship, with participants of all ages contributing to the service. My niece Kelsey had dressed in a homemade warrior costume. She wielded a sword and shield and wore tinfoil-covered cardboard armor.

"Be strong in the Lord!" she declared, reciting that familiar passage from Ephesians 6. "Put on the whole armor of God!"

I watched my three children as they soaked in their cousin's presentation. Would they come to realize that this cardboard armor represented something much bigger — something able to protect them in the real spiritual battles of life?

It's clear we're still living in the "evil day" that the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6:13. And as parents, we want to raise children who can stand firm against this evil, to be strong against the deceptions and temptations of Satan. How can we help our children recognize that God provides the means to resist these attacks?

First, we need to clearly articulate that the battle is real. Satan's attacks take many forms, whether it's the temptation to cheat in school, struggles over sexual compromise, opportunities to resist or engage in bullying, confrontations with humanistic teaching or internal battles with depression and self-worth.

While the battle is real, our King has already defeated the Enemy. We rely on the Lord's strength to fight against Satan's deceptions. Ephesians 6:10-20 helps us understand the different ways that God equips us for this battle:

The belt of truth

In biblical times, the belt served as a sort of anchor, securing a soldier's armor in place. Our spiritual "belt of truth" refers to who we are and what we believe at our core — the larger worldview that binds together our beliefs and influences our decisions.

Our culture is filled with deceptive teachings and beliefs. Atheism. Materialism. Consumerism. We must see our homes as training grounds for truth. In our home, we've started "training games" to help our children strengthen their understanding of truth. While watching TV or movies, we play "Spot the Lie," rewarding our kids when they're able to detect a half-truth in the programming. The kids will say, "Having that car won't make you happy! This is wrong!" Or "This movie suggests that people are all basically good. That isn't what the Bible says!"

My husband and I also recently launched "Family Growth Nights" where we get together with other families to view movies and documentaries that fortify a Christian worldview. As a result, we've noticed our kids growing more confident in what they believe, developing an ability and a willingness to defend those beliefs.

The breastplate of righteousness

The breastplate was worn on the front, to protect a soldier's vital organs as he faced his enemy. Our spiritual breastplate — the righteousness that comes through Christ's sacrifice — protects our heart, which Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard "with all vigilance."

No one is righteous on his own. It is Christ, covering our heart, who enables us to respond to others in ways that reflect His righteousness. In our home, we try to help our kids understand the difference between giving in to self-serving temptations and living in Christ's righteousness.

At dinner, we often discuss hypothetical moral dilemmas with our children. We'll ask, "What would you do if you found a wallet filled with cash?" Or, "What if a good friend offered you the answers to tomorrow's history test?" These questions have led to some meaningful conversations about the different ways we can reflect the righteousness of our Savior.

The shoes of peace

Shoes are used for action, not passivity. We help children wear "shoes of peace" when we equip them to be ambassadors, helping them share the love of Jesus with others.

My husband and I enjoy creating opportunities for our family to serve together — raking lawns for neighbors, packing food for the hungry, opening our home, visiting the lonely. When we serve alongside our children, modeling Christ's love and explaining the gift of His salvation, we're helping our kids lace up their "combat boots." We're readying them for action against an enemy who would rather they remain complacent in their faith.

The shield of faith

A shield was a Roman soldier's main defense, intended to protect him from volleys of arrows. Likewise, our spiritual shield helps us to "extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:16).

Satan's big weapon is deception — he's always firing lies at us with the goal of making us forget how God is active in our lives. We resist these attacks through faith, "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).

To encourage deeper faith, help your kids remember what God has already done. In our home, we do this through our study of Scripture, focusing on the promises God has made and kept. We keep track of God's activity in response to prayer — remembering answered prayer leads to the confidence that God will act — creating a stronger shield against Satan's lies. We even keep a box of "Miracle Debris" around our house, a sort of scrapbook (but in a box) that contains physical reminders of times when God showed up in our lives in powerful ways.

The helmet of salvation

Just as a soldier's helmet protects his head, so our spiritual helmet protects our minds. There are so many deceitful voices trying to work their false messages into our children's minds. We must assure our kids of the truth of their salvation — that they have value because God's love compelled Him to come down and save us.

For example, we may remind our older daughter, as she struggles to reject lies about herself (such as "You're ugly and not valuable"), that she has been saved through Christ — that she is God's precious and loved daughter, bought at a high price! Or when our young son struggles at bedtime with fear of the dark, we pray for peace and courage, reminding him God is our strong tower in times of need.

The sword of the Spirit

A soldier's sword could deliver stinging blows to the enemy or defend against an attack. Our spiritual sword is God's Word. Jesus himself used God's Word when He fought off Satan's temptations in the wilderness.

Our children can rely on God's Word during times of testing — but only if they know it! In our home, we give out coupons for rewards — a later bedtime or more screen time — when they memorize portions of Scripture. And we write key Scripture verses on homemade place mats so we can memorize and review God's truth together at mealtimes.

By having God's Word "hidden" in their hearts, our kids will have the capacity to wield this mighty sword in times of need.

If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Thriving Familya marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. Get Thriving Family delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
This article appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "The Battle Is Real." Copyright © 2015 by Rachelle Wiggins. Used by permission.

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