Finding Strength: Faith
Feb 14th 2021
Several weeks ago I mentioned that I like some of the Marvel Superheroes, like Iron Man, because he has a really neat suit of armour that allows him to fly, has its own built-in intelligence, and seems almost indestructible. I also like another superhero… Captain America. He is strong, he is generally an all-around nice guy, and he has a really strong shield that he uses to protect himself. It is so strong that you pretty much can’t destroy it. That shield is used to defend himself from the attacks of his enemies, but he also uses it to go on the offense and take his enemies out.
Do you know that we have a shield that can defend us against the attacks from our enemy, but can also be used to help us push our enemy back on the offensive as well?
I Invite you to turn to Eph 6:16, and as you do, just a reminder where we are at. We are in a series together (that will take us to Easter) about putting on the strength, the protection, and the armor of God so that we can face the challenges of this life that seek to bring us down spiritually.
There are four things though that we need to understand that are crucial as we talk about putting this armor on:
1) The same grace that restores us to God through Jesus puts us into conflict with Satan. Our enemy does not like it that we are following Jesus and are in a restored relationship with God. So he will do whatever he can to stop us from having that closeness.
2) It is in the routine of life that we face the challenges from our enemy. It isn’t always some big, easy to spot attack. It is in the routine things where our guards are down and we aren’t expecting it.
3) You can’t get by on your own strength and being strong enough. We do not have it in us to be able to win this battle.
4) The Armor we are told to put on isn’t decorative, it is foundational. We need this armor to be able to properly live as a follower of Jesus and engage in the spiritual battle that comes as a result. The armor, because of who it belongs to, and because of who puts it on us, is a tool of victory.
With that in mind, I ask you the following question:
Are you leaving yourself open to attack or are you walking in, fully dressed for battle?
1) Every soldier needs a shield
Paul mentions a shield here because it was a very important part of a soldier’s armour and uniform. When you think of a shield, chances are you are thinking of a round metallic shield worn on the arm. And while that was a shield that they would have used, there was another shield that this was referring to.
This shield measured 4ft X 2.5ft. It was the size of a small door, and covered much of the soldier’s body. It was made of two layers of laminated wood and overlaid with canvas and leather. It would have been quite thick.
It was useful, because of it’s thickness and strength in protecting against a javelin strike, or the blow of a sword. It was also was a good defense against flaming arrow attacks. Sometimes from the walls of a city / fortress, flaming arrows would get shot at them. So not only would they have arrows coming at them, but flame balls too. These shields could be raised overhead and would catch the arrows. As well, shields were often soaked in water so that when these flaming arrows were shot, they would be extinguished upon contact.
The shield was a great defense tool. There is something called the “phalanx formation” where soldiers would all huddle together and build a surrounding wall of shields on all sides around them and above them and would be able to put their spears and swords through the gaps to fight off any enemies. With that in mind, they also used an offense tactic called “tertudo” or tortoise where they would, in that huddle slowly move forward. They were protected against arrows overhead, of enemies coming at them, and they could, in this large fortified, armoured mass, push forward against their foes.
A shield was an important part of the armour. Every soldier needed a shield.
2) Our protection is a person
Like I mentioned before (the whole premise of this series) we are in a battle, and are under spiritual attack as followers of Jesus. As we engage in this battle, we have a shield to protect us. Our shield is a person. Our shield is trusting in God through Jesus Christ.
Do you notice a recurring theme in all the messages in this series? While each piece of armour is different and has a different function, the foundation of them is all the same. They all the pieces of armour all come back to one thing: faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ.
This is not a novel concept. This is how God views Himself. See Ps 3:3, 18:2, 33:20, Prov 30:5. God is our shield. Jesus Christ is our shield. And it is faith in Him that puts Him between us and our enemy.
When we think about trust and faith, it is important to note that this isn’t a blind faith. It isn’t a gamble where you are closing your eyes and putting your trust in a protection that you are not sure you know even is there. It isn’t an unknowing faith that does not come through relationship. When we think about the faith that protects, we need to agree that this is a committed, intentional, informed, and conscious faith that is based on a first hand growing knowledge, love, and relationship with God. It comes out of you first trusting in Jesus as your Lord and growing from that.
Our protection is a person. Our shield is trusting in God through Jesus Christ.
3) Our shield completely protects
Remember what I said about “phalanx formation” and “testudo”? This is important to remember as we think about how God shelters us, how Jesus protects us.
We have flaming arrows, we have darts dipped in combustible, flammable material that have been set ablaze that the enemy is shooting at us. And at times, it may feel like we are walking in a rainstorm of flaming arrows falling down or coming at us.
Yet if we allow Him to, if we get out of the way and stop trying to defend ourselves on our own and take what God is offering, God longs to completely protect our hearts and minds, by His Spirit, through Jesus Christ. He longs to completely surround us (like the shields in the formation) so that the flaming darts of the enemy don’t get through. He wants to completely guard our hearts from the emotional attacks, our minds from the mind games. He wants to completely protect us in His presence so that as the attack is going on, and we experience the attack all around us, the enemy can not destroy.
He wants to surround us and help us to walk in the victory over the enemy that He has already won. He also wants to surround us in His protection so that we can, in Him move forward and push back against the enemy and take back the ground the enemy has tried to steal. As our complete shield, He wants to help us on the defensive, but also on the offensive (as we walk forward, guarded by the shield of faith, walking with the shoes of the Gospel of Peace – remember that from last week?).
The image of the flaming arrow reminds me why we need to walk in His complete protection. Arrows pierce and flames engulf. You see, the enemy wants to shoot his arrow at you and wound your heart, and keep you from walking with God. He wants to knock you down. But beyond that, the enemy wants your mind to be fully engulfed with whatever distraction or desire that he can grip your mind with so that you are too distracted to follow Christ.
We are our own worst enemies at times. In our own feelings of strength and independence, we place ourselves outside of the daily protection of God by not submitting our hearts and minds daily to Him. When we walk in this independence, we walk in a place where we are inviting ourselves to get hit by the attack.
The good news is though that even when we do this, even when we walk in this independence and find ourselves wounded in the war, Jesus, in His love always invites us back into His complete protection. He continues to forgive us, heal us, and protect us. Our shield completely protects.
Are you leaving yourself open to attack or are you walking in, fully dressed for battle?
Are you prepared for the flaming arrows?
What are some of the flaming arrows today that the enemy fires at us in an attempt to knock us down? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here goes some things that not only have the ability to wound us, but also engulf our minds: Doubt, Fear, Bitterness, Discontentment, Materialism / Consumerism, Temptation / Compromise, Narcissism, Inadequacy, Insecurities.
One more thing: Where do the flaming arrows come from? The big picture is obviously Satan and his legion of demons, but let’s think small picture. When we think of the flaming arrows flying, we think of them coming from the enemy forces on the wall in front of us, shooting them towards us and those flaming arrows raining down on us. But do you know where one of the biggest places the enemy likes to shoot the flaming arrows from is?
The enemy likes to find the gaps in the armour that we have created, and shoot one arrow of division, strife, and conflict in. And then he watches as we turn on each other and engage in a fight of friendly fire. The reason why he does this is because it is one of the most effective ways to stop a church from moving. “Some of the most lethal arrows come from within our own camp”, our own side. Sometimes, our tongues become those flaming darts (see James 3). With what we say, we can inflict a lot of damage.
The good news is that when we walk wearing the shield of faith, we rob the enemy of the chance to stir up conflict, division, and bitterness among us. When we are walking with the shield of faith on, surrounded in the presence of Jesus, we do not shoot our own. But instead, we walk together in unity, harmony, and love, focused together on following Jesus. And in the bigger picture, when we walk wearing the shield of faith, we can stand in the face of the enemy and his attacks, and say what David did before he fought Goliath in 1 Sam 17:45.
Let’s walk in that boldness, with the shield of faith protecting us, knowing that He is fighting for us, He is protecting us, and He has already won.