Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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9 The fight of faith

Ephesians 6:16 “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Ephesians 6:11 tells us to put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. We are reminded in verse 12 that we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Today I want to focus on the fourth piece of God’s armor, the shield of faith. When Paul painted the picture of a shield he was referring to the one a roman soldier would carry. This was a large four and a half feet long by two and a half feet wide rectangular shield, constructed of wood and edged with iron. The large size provided considerable protection for the body of each individual soldier and fulfilled a strategic role by becoming a giant portable wall. Individual shields could be locked together to form a wall that would help keep the line from breaking in an attack or forcing the enemy forward in a uniformed advance. We often picture this fight against the enemy as a solo one where we are found fighting alone. Yet in Philippians 1:27 Paul reminds us that the fight of faith involves standing united in faith against the fiery attacks of the enemy: “27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” Jesus said even the gates of hell would not stand against His church, Matthew 16:16-19. One of the most deadly and destructive weapons of ancient combat were arrows but they were rendered useless by soldiers with shields. So in an effort to remove the effectiveness of the shield these projectiles were dipped in tar and set alight. When they hit the protective wall of shields they would ignite and burn away the defense causing panic. Satan often wars against the church by firing flaming arrows of malignancy designed to spread and destroy. These fiery arrows are shot at the heart, mind, and body, piercing our thoughts, situations, and desires with the temptation to sin. Satan shoots his fiery darts of deception, delusion, dissatisfaction, depression, diversion, doubt, disappointment, discouragement, and delay trying to spread distrust and despair in the ranks of God’s people. His relentless bombarding with these flaming projectiles should awaken us to the scheming craftiness of our enemy. He desires not only to hurt us but to preoccupy and distract us with his fiery eruptions, causing us to discard our defense. In ancient times when fiery arrows embedded themselves into shields and began to burn a frightened soldier would be tempted to throw down his burning shield. This would leave himself, and those around him, unprotected from arrows and spears and the result was death and defeat. Such a deadly weapon needed a formidable defense and this is where the power of the shield comes in. Not only is it a big shield it was covered with layers of leather that could be soaked in water to extinguish the fiery pitch of any burning arrows. Before the battle soldiers would soak their shields in water. The shield of faith will extinguish the fire because it is soaked with the water of God’s word, we are not standing behind our own effort but His word. Satan’s arrows are designed to wear us down and destroy our relationship with Jesus, to cause us to panic and throw away the best protection we have. When we take the time to stop and review our walk with the Lord there can be no denying the realities of life, we are under a fiery attack. Sin is difficult to overcome it has a disastrous effect on our relationship with Jesus and sometimes seems to be a potentially overwhelming force. This can wear us down and cause us to doubt until we come back to our faith, the basic Gospel message, John 3:17 “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”. Today you may be under a fiery attack but in Jesus you can live a faithful life because the One who provides the shield is faithful. The power of the shield is found in a God who is faithful even when we prove ourselves to be totally unfaithful. God:

•             Provided His Son as a payment.

•             Punished our sins in Christ so that we could be right in His sight.

•             Purchased our freedom and made us eligible for the gift of eternal life

When it comes to our protection, God has done everything, Psalm 91:4 says: “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart”. Our faith is in our Father, He is our shield and when we see the power of our protection we realize that faith will prevail. Situations will arise which cause us to question our faith we will be targeted and struck by the flaming arrows of the evil one. Yet we don’t need to start panicking, instead we just need to have faith in the shield of God. The power and peace come as we trust that our eternal life is not dependent or hindered by the way we perform. Our place in heaven is secure, even when we mess up in this life, you are covered with the feathery wings of the Father, gathered, protected and loved. You are the precious possession of the Prince of Peace, the One who snatched you out of the clutches of evil and presented you with eternal life. The shield of faith stands firm on the foundation of the everlasting love of Jesus Christ. Have there been times, now or in your past, when you feel yourself being crushed by the guilt of your own short-comings? Maybe because of a secret sin you seem to repeat, or because you see no growth in your life, or because you question God’s love for you. There are times when we get so bogged down in the glue of guilt but Christ says stop and stand behind the shield of reality. Christianity is not about meeting a certain criteria it’s all about having faith in a living Savior. Yes we must strive to be like Christ to conform to His character, but all along grace is still the priority of the day. Grace means that God looks at you through the eyes of Jesus and the flames of self-imposed guilt can be extinguished only through Christ. Maybe there have been times now or in the past when you feel that your faith will fail, that life is too difficult to bear. Perhaps you are having trouble coming to terms with the death of a loved one. Or you find yourself faltering under a financial burden. Or your marriage is more mess than magic. Maybe you are in the midst of watching your children disobey and turn from the Lord. In the tribulation and trauma Jesus says “Hold up the shield, stop and look at the reality”. As bearers of the shield of faith we can know that temptations will never stop being a part of our life, but we can also be certain that these temptations do not have to rule our response to God. When we trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ we can stand secure in Christ every time the evil one tries to make us hesitant and hold back in our relationship with Jesus. We can stand secure when we fall because of His faithfulness. As warriors in the battlefield we stand secure because the battle is Christ’s and the victory is Christ’s. We have, We can, and We will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. The shield of faith will not let us down because the shield of faith stands secure on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.