They awoke to the sound of explosions. Repelled by the Nigerian army, Boko Haram’s suicide bombers aimed for soft targets: the people of Ajilari Cross area in Maiduguri city, the capitol of Borno State, Nigeria. The aftermath of such an attack was horrendous; amidst “body parts on [homes]” and “people running helter-skelter,” as two survivors put it , emergency services and the Nigerian government took in the severely wounded– and there was no end to those who were severely frightened and confused.
Sadly, this was not the first suicide bombing that Maiduguri had experienced. It had been one in a long line of many suicide bombings, which started in mid-May. Since that initial spate of suicide bombings in May, over 300 men, women, and children in Maiduguri have fatally fallen at the hands of BH suicide bombers, with hundreds more injured. It has not been until recently that Nigeria’s army and government have become more diligent in protecting Maiduguri’s citizens, shooting down suicide bombers before they detonated their explosives in large crowds. While lowering the death toll, the amount of fear and instability in Maiduguri has stayed consistently high, with those in the city scared about when the next bomb will go off.
Though we’re still talking about a city that, for many reading, is a world away with its differences, the city of Maiduguri is like many of the cities we live in. With a population of over 600,000 people counted in 1991, and a growth rate of 12.0%, it is estimated that Maiduguri reached a population of over 1 million people in 2009 (source). Maiduguri is, as one can imagine, a city with compact, small homes and roads in historic Yerwa, newer developments dated to the 1970’s and fringe settlements farther from the inner city of Yerwa, and more rural, undeveloped land in the outermost parts of the city . While the city may be home to many different religions, islam is “the religion of most of the inhabitants of [Borno] state,” the state Maiduguri inhabits (source). This city is the biggest and most developed city in Borno state, while being the 7th largest city in Nigeria. But for being such a “fortified city,” this city is in major need of help, both spiritually and physically.
Every single person in this hugely populated city faces a battle– and it’s not just one of spent bullets. Whether knowingly or not, all people have a spiritual enemy– who, not unlike Boko Haram, is “looking for every opportunity to hit back” (source). This is why Paul soberly warns Christians to “put on the whole armor of God, that [one] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV). The fight is real, but it shouldn’t be overemphasized fanatically, as it sometimes is. Christ has sealed His children with His Holy Spirit, making it completely impossible to be “possessed” by an evil spirit, or the devil himself (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 John 4:4; John 14:16). If Christ’s Holy Spirit lives in and forever seals the Christian, there is no room for any other spirit to live in them.
While a Christian cannot be inhabited by an evil spirit, they can be harassed by one. Often times, the enemy will use tricky schemes to attack and harm unsuspecting Christians. It is important, therefore, to remind oneself and other Christians that 1) there is a real enemy, and 2) there a real God, who is not equal with the enemy, but completely in control over the enemy (as proven in Job 1:1-12). It is because of these two facts that Christians can engage in spiritual warfare, without becoming hysterical, afraid, or feeling insufficient (after all, Christians have been given a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind– not fear [ 2 Timothy 1:7]). The apostle Paul expounds on the spiritual protection Christians have in Ephesians 6:13-18.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”
The same book of Ephesians tells the Christian to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). What does this mean, exactly? It means that, as a Christian, one can put on a “new self” that glorifies and relies on Jesus Christ. Every facet of the Christian’s spiritual armor, therefore, exemplifies and relies completely upon Jesus Christ.
1) The belt of truth, which holds a place for a sword and holds the armor together, is Christ, as Jesus Himself is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). 2) The breastplate of righteousness protects the vital organs from attacks, especially the heart; this is of the utmost importance, as Christians are called to “Above all else, guard [their] hearts, for everything [one does] flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Thankfully, this breastplate is not made of a person’s own righteousness (our own righteous acts are like dirty rags [Isaiah 54:6]); instead, it is made of Christ’s righteousness, which is put on Christians when they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:8-9). 3) The shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace are the shoes one wears into battle, “being prepared to give an answer and reason for the hope we have” in the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The Gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). At the core, Jesus is the Gospel, or good news. 4) The shield of faith, as Paul describes, “extinguish[es] all the flaming darts of the evil one,” saving the Christian from unforeseen attacks. At the time Paul wrote this, Roman soldiers’ shields covered their entire bodies length-and-width wise, and when coupled together, created impenetrable walls. Faith in Christ and remembering His sovereign faithfulness makes the believer to stand firm against the enemy’s lies. 5) The helmet of salvation combats the enemy’s lies on a different level. satan is the father of lies– and as such, is constantly whispering lies into people’s minds. They are lies that, if left unchecked, leave people in deep bondage. Christ Himself is the helmet of salvation (Acts 4:10-12), and the defense against the enemy’s many lies; this is why Paul tells us one must “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6, ESV). While Paul is talking about bringing others to Christ by the Holy Spirit’s power in this passage, there is application for our own minds. In the words of John Piper, “if anything is out of sync with Paul’s teaching, we should let it be destroyed.” Ultimately, one can find if any thought or idea is “out of sync” with Paul’s teaching by asking the Holy Spirit to speak to them through His Word, the bible– also known as 6) the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Truly, “Paul’s teaching” in the Bible is truly God’s Word– God wrote it through men, by His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). The bible describes itself this way. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). With such an amazing weapon in a person’s spiritual arsenal, one cannot afford to not make regular use of it, by reading it and “meditat[ing] on it, day and night” (Joshua 1:8). What’s more, God’s Word proclaims that Jesus is the Word Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 14, ESV). In all, Christians must clothe themselves with Christ constantly if one ever wants victory over the enemy.
Maiduguri city, as big and prominent as it may be, is not immune from Boko Haram’s attacks. In fact, it is because of Maiduguri’s prominence that so many of Boko Haram’s attacks have been aimed there. If one is unaware of the enemy’s attacks (and therefore, unprepared), it can leave a whole city in ruins. This is why we must pray for Maiduguri and its people– because, underneath it all, the battle Maiduguri is facing from this radical islamic group is not just physical– it is deeply spiritual.
Do you know Jesus?
When writing about the “breastplate of righteousness,” the piece of armor that protects the heart, one thing becomes clear: only Jesus and His righteousness can truly protect and guard the heart.
When talking about the heart, the bible says something contrary to much of what today’s society thinks: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). Yet, despite our evil, sinful hearts, Jesus died for our sins– so that we would never have to go through this life, or the spiritual battle, alone.
Learn more about the God who wants to be not only our spiritual armor, but our Savior– and how He accomplished both– by clicking here.
Please pray for…
The people, particularly the churches, in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
The Nigerian army, and their fight against Boko Haram, physically.
The victims of each suicide bombing and attack, as well as their families.
The government, and President Buhari— that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and would be given wisdom in this fight.
The men of Boko Haram— that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, too.
Boko Haram’s captives— that we would not lose hope in finding them, and that President Buhari would be moved by Jesus to find the captives, including the Chibok girls. Read, sign, and share the petition to do this very thing, here.
 Source: Waziri, Muhammad. Spatial Pattern of Maiduguri City. Researchers’ Guide. No 123 Mangwarori Street, Sabon Titin Mandawari, Kano City, Kano State: ADAMU JOJI PUBLISHERS, 2009. Academia. 21 October 2015. Page 12.