Butterfly, Botanist, Or Bee?

“TAKE . . . THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD” (EPH. 6:17).

Your attitude toward Scripture will determine your effectiveness in spiritual battle.

I remember enjoying the observations of a perceptive man who was gazing at a beautiful garden. First he saw a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. It spent a few seconds on the edge of each, but derived no particular benefit from any of them.

Next he saw a botanist with large notebook and microscope in hand. As the botanist carefully observed each flower and plant, he made copious entries in his book. But after hours of meticulous study, most of what he learned was shut up in his book. Very little remained in his mind.

Then came a little bee. When it entered a flower, it emerged laden with pollen. It had left the hive that morning empty, but would return full.

When it comes to Bible study, some people are like butterflys, going from one favorite verse to another, one seminar to another, or one book to another. They’re very busy and expend much energy but have little to show for their efforts. They remain unchanged in any significant way because they never really delve into the Word wholeheartedly. They’re content to simply flutter around the edges.

Others, like the botanist, may study in great depth but never apply it to their lives. I know of entire commentaries written by unbelievers. In some cases their grasp of Scripture is exceptional, but they know nothing of true love for God and obedience to biblical truth. What a tragedy! But you don’t have to be a biblical scholar to make that mistake. You need only to fail to apply what you learn to your life.

Rather, strive to be like the bee, spending time in the Word—reading, studying, taking notes, then emerging fuller than when you began. Your mind will be filled with wisdom and biblical insights. Your life will be sweeter and purer because the Word has done its work (1 Cor. 2:13).

Are you a butterfly, a botanist, or a bee?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the opportunities He gives you to study His Word. Take full advantage of them.

For Further Study

According to James 1:22-25, what’s the difference between someone who merely hears the Word and someone who obeys it?



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Learning From Christ’s Example

“TAKE . . . THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD” (EPH. 6:17).

To wield the sword of the Spirit is to apply specific Biblical principles to specific situations.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of skillful and precise use of the sword of the Spirit. Following His baptism, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread'” (Matt. 4:1-3).

Satan was challenging Christ’s trust in His heavenly Father’s power and provisions. God had just announced that Jesus was His Son (Matt. 3:17). Would He now abandon Jesus to starve in the wilderness? Satan urged Jesus to take matters into His own hands and supply for His own needs. After all, Satan implied, doesn’t the Son of God deserve better than this?

Jesus might have acted on His own authority or demanded that God give Him what He deserved. Instead, He demonstrated His trust in God and rebuked Satan for his evil intents: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'” (v. 4). That’s a specific verse applied to a specific situation. Jesus responded the same way to Satan’s other temptations (vv. 7, 10).

Scripture gives many general principles for Christian living, but the sword of the Spirit is a precise weapon. We must learn to apply the appropriate biblical principles to any given situation. That’s what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. . . . Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:9, 11).

Do you know where to go in the Bible to defend yourself against sorrow, discouragement, apathy, lust, or pride? If not, you’re attempting to do spiritual battle unarmed.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His precious Word and the study resources that are available to Bible students today.
  • Renew your commitment to daily systematic Bible study.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:97-105. Is that your attitude toward Scripture?



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Taking The Offensive

“TAKE . . . THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD” (EPH. 6:17).

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That’s your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We’ve seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords: the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated “sword” in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier’s side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against the heroes of the faith.

“The sword of the Spirit” isn’t a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implications is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing and through it convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12-13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.
  • Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you’ll face today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 1:22—2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Dealing With Despair

“Take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17).

Your helmet of salvation protects you from discouragement and despair.

We’ve seen how Satan attacks believers with his two-edged sword of doubt and discouragement. But he doesn’t stop there. He tries to take you beyond discouragement to despair by robbing you of hope. Unless you’re careful, his attacks will be successful when you’re battle-weary.

The prophet Elijah is an illustration of that truth. The highlight of his ministry came atop Mount Carmel, where he slew 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Yet immediately after that great victory, he fled for his life because Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 19:1- 3).

He ran from Mount Carmel into the wilderness of Beersheba, where he “sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers'” (v. 4). He went on to moan, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (v. 10).

Elijah lost hope because he failed to see his circumstances through the eyes of faith; he was attempting to fight the battle on his own. He allowed himself to become emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent, and became overwhelmed with self-pity. He felt utterly alone.

But God hadn’t abandoned Elijah. He was still in control and His people were numerous (v. 18). But Elijah had, in effect, removed his helmet of salvation and received a near-fatal blow to his confidence in God’s blessing on his life.

There may be times when, like Elijah, you lose your confidence and doubt God’s faithfulness. At such times, putting on the helmet of salvation means taking your eyes off your circumstances and trusting in God’s promises. You may not always sense His presence or understand what He’s doing, but be assured He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5) and His purposes will always be accomplished (Rom. 8:28).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His unchanging character and irrevocable promises.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 40:29-31 and Galatians 6:9.

  • What promises are given in those passages?
  • In what specific ways do they apply to your life?



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Conquering Doubt

“TAKE THE HELMET OF SALVATION” (EPH. 6:17).

The key to conquering doubt is to focus on the preserving power of God.

Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you’ve sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, “Surely you’re not a Christian. Why would God save you anyway? You don’t deserve His mercy. You’re not good enough. How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!” Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than God’s power.

All too often we’re quick to acknowledge God’s power to save us but slow to understand His power to keep us. To complicate matters, many Christians believe they can lose their salvation, so they live in constant fear of falling away from the faith. Still others have never learned what Scripture teaches about their security in Christ. They’re so intent on pleasing God through their own efforts that they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works- righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn’t determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10) but they don’t save you or keep you saved. That’s God’s work.

Jude said, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (v. 24). “Able” in that verse translates a Greek word that speaks of power. “Keep” literally means “to secure in the midst of an attack.” “Stumbling” refers to falling into sin. Together they say that God is powerful enough to prevent you from stumbling into sin and falling away from Him—no matter how intense Satan’s attacks might be. He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you’re immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). So always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God’s power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for continually cleansing your sin.

For Further Study

Memorize Jude 24-25 and recite it often as a reminder of God’s power and majesty.



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.