I have some questions for you this morning and I would like for you to answer yes or no, please.
Would you agree that God is all-powerful? All-knowing? All-loving? Would you agree that Jesus is alive? Is He part of the Trinity? And the Trinity is God, 3 in 1, Father, Spirit, Son? Would you agree that the Bible is completely true? It is the Inspired word of God? Its words are powerful and will not come back void?
If all of that is true, then can you prove it scientifically? Would it be fair to say, then, that you believe all of these things on faith? Would it be fair to say then that you believe these things because that is what the Bible teaches and you believe the Bible on faith?
When Roman soldiers were training to go into combat (actually, all soldiers do this but our passage refers to Roman soldiers) they would prepare for battle by practicing what might happen if they were attacked. The leader would line them up and say something like, “If your opponent thrusts his sword at you straight on you should step aside and then counter with your sword. If he swings his sword over his head at you then bring up your shield to defend yourself.” And they would practice that in slow motion in a safe place all to prepare themselves for the real thing when the enemy would really be trying to kill them.
That is basically what we are doing this morning. We are told in the Bible that Satan is prowling around looking to see who he can kill and so all of us are in the faith training course. Now we just have to be ready for when he attacks for real. Just like the enemy of the Roman soldier would not go in slow motion, announcing what he is about to do and allowing the other to be ready, so, too, does Satan not attack in slow motion announcing his intentions.
He doesn’t come to you and say, “Um excuse me but I just wanted you to believe that God is not all-powerful.” What he does do, though, is to place doubts in your mind when things happen in your life.
When you get a bad report from your doctor, Satan is right there to make you question God’s love. When you check your bank account and everything has hit at once, Satan is there to say, “Well, you obviously aren’t going to be tithing this week.” When your favorite sin comes tempting, Satan will say, “Go ahead. It’s not that big of a deal and besides, nobody will know.”
Turn to our passage this morning in Ephesians 6:10-18 and we will talk more about how to be ready when Satan attacks. Like all good combat warriors, Satan attacks with speed, surprise and violence of action so we have to be ready for him at all times.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
We will be concentrating on verse 16 this week. This is our 5th week to be studying the armor of God and we have seen in previous weeks how we are to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the importance of having our feet shod with peace. This week we will be looking at the shield of faith.
I’m sure Paul is writing this at least with the memory of being chained to a Roman soldier. He may even be looking at one as he writes it, we don’t know. But Paul has had enough face to face time with soldiers to know well what they wore and how they dressed. In this verse he talks about the shield. The shield to which he alludes here is not the small dress shield used in parades but the big shield used in real battle. It was almost as big as a door but had a handle on the inside the soldier could grab easily.
It wasn’t enough for the soldier to have on the body armor of the day. For intense battles he needed the protection of the shield. So also should the Christian not only be wearing truth and righteousness with peace but for the intense Satanic battles, we need to hold up the shield of faith. But what does that mean? What does it look like for us today?
This is not necessarily the saving faith that is often talked about but the Greek word means the faith that is a deeply held belief or conviction. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
I read the story of the little boy who fell over the side of the cliff and was sitting on a small outcrop of rock. The firemen came to get him and dropped a rope over the edge and told him to grab the loop and they would pull him up. He refused until finally his father called down to him and told him he would pull him up by the rope. The little boy immediately grabbed the rope and was pulled to safety. The little boy couldn’t see his dad but had faith in him and him alone.
So far, as we have looked at this armor, I have tried to positively motivate us into putting on each piece. Today I want to look at 3 things that happen if we don’t pick up the shield of faith. There may be more but for today there are 3 things that suffer from Satan’s flaming arrows that could have been extinguished had we picked up the shield of faith.
The first thing Satan’s arrows attack is your peace and joy. Next, they attack your witness and lastly they attack your relationship.
A few years ago I decided I was going to do a Bible study and figure out the secret to getting and keeping joy and peace. I dug deep, doing word studies and looking at the original Greek or Hebrew words in a concordance and was surprised by what I found. I found that peace and joy have nothing to do with circumstances or stuff but are only found through…wait for it…that dreaded “O” word…obedience.
You see it in the Old Testament in the life and writings of David and you see it in the New Testament in the life and writings of Paul as well as others. Think of Daniel in the lion’s den, Esther before the king, Peter in prison, Jesus Himself as the boat he was in was about to sink. What do they all have in common? Peace and joy through obedience.
The next time you see a dog sitting in a front yard with no fence, I want you to think about this. That is the perfect picture of peace through obedience. If that dog was to run off he would have to stay in the back fence but because he is obedient to stay in the yard he can go anywhere at any time. So many think obedience is not getting to do all the fun things we want but with God it is freedom! It means that God wants what is best and because we are obedient we can have the joy and peace of a dog sitting in the sun even when difficult times come.
And that drives Satan crazy to see you with joy and peace and so he does everything he can to ruin that. So when difficult times come, Satan draws back his bow and sends the flaming arrow of doubt, fear and worry right into your heart and kills your joy and peace. And the extra benefit to Satan is that rarely does your joy and peace die without taking out someone else’s. And Satan giggles his ever-loving head off.
It says right here that our battle is not against flesh and blood but Satan wants you to think it is. He wants you to worry all night about your kids and grandkids and then be mad because your spouse doesn’t! He wants you to feel guilty about what you did to that person 20 years ago. He wants you to doubt that your spouse is faithful.
Satan may not be able to kill you because God won’t let him but the next best thing to a dead child of God to Satan is a child who is preoccupied and distracted with his own circumstances because Satan knows that child has no witness and that is the next thing Satan’s arrows attack. They attack your witness. So, instead of being obedient and picking up our shield of faith that says, “I don’t know why I am having to go through this. I don’t deserve it. I don’t want it and it hurts…BUT…I trust God to protect and provide and to not put on me more than He and I can handle.” Instead of that we suffer with no peace or joy and no witness.
I want you to think now about how Satan’s schemes attack our witness. Satan would have you to think that because your spouse is not as loving as they used to be that it is ok to have an affair. He wants you to at least consider the idea that missing church every now and then is not any big deal and that God understands that you have had a long, hard week. He wants you to think that because everybody else at church is gossiping that it must be ok and besides, who is going to get hurt?
I want you to consider your own little pet sin or sins. Think for just a second about where you struggle and about what is going to happen when the news gets out that you are a gossip or a liar or a thief or a pervert or whatever it is that you do. What is going to happen when word gets out that you do those things? Nobody will ever know, huh? Do you realize that is exactly what every single person in the news right now was thinking? Nobody ever thinks they will get caught.
“Whew, when my wife finds out I’m cheating she’s gonna be mad.”
“I know I’ll get caught robbing this bank but I hope they put me in a nice cell.”
“When my daddy hears me cussing he’s gonna tan my hide!”
I think about those Secret Service agents who were in Colombia a couple of years ago who were busted with prostitutes after a night of partying. I guarantee you they thought there is no way anybody is ever going to find out. I’m 2000 miles away from anybody who even cares and so I will do whatever I want. Can you imagine being that man who comes home and has to face his young daughter who says, “Daddy, I saw you on the news. What’s a prostitute and why were you with her?”
Here’s a headline from just this past week. “Former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner wept on Friday as he pleaded guilty in federal court to sending sexually explicit messages to a teenage girl.” He had even been busted for doing that before but he still did it again, just knowing that he would never get caught.
Now I don’t know the spiritual condition of any of those men but I know that is right where Satan wants all of us. No peace, no joy, no witness and no relationship with God.
The Bible teaches us that once you ask Jesus into your heart you are always a child of God. Jesus says in John 10 that nobody can snatch you out of His hand (and that is another thing Satan wants you to worry about) but we can lose our close relationship with Him and we do when we sin. Sin brings a barrier between us and God.
You see it in the very first sin when Adam and Eve listened to Satan and ate the fruit. What happened? Instead of walking in the cool garden with God, they ran and hid and were ultimately banished from the garden. I have an idea that as they walked out of the garden that day they could hear the echo of laughter coming from that snake Satan.
You also see it the Bible when King Saul makes bad choices, when the Israelites disobey, when David goes through Bathsheeba-gate or when Peter denies Jesus before He is crucified. What do they have in common? No joy, no peace, no witness and no relationship with God.
How about in your own life? When Satan attacks you and says there is no way God is going to do what He said He is going to do and you believe him and then you do whatever it is that you do, then what happens? Your prayers bounce off the ceiling, your wisdom heads south, your security is threatened and you wind up tied up in knots in the backyard whining like a puppy.
The good news is that when that happens I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And our relationship is restored. Our joy and peace ease back in and our witness…well, sometimes it takes a while for our witness to be restored. With some people it may never come back. Just a little added bonus for the evil one; the deceiver, the father of lies.
For me, I don’t want to have to explain myself to y’all. I don’t want to have to look you in the face and tell you my excuse for not picking up my shield of faith. I don’t want to hear Satan laughing at me. I want to hear God laughing with me, saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant. I know it was difficult. I know Satan was sneaky but you did so well! Come in here to my rest, my peace, my joy, my relationship.”
Go back to Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” What do we hope for and are certain of even though we can’t see it or prove it? As Beth Moore said, we have faith that God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do. I am who God says I am. I can do all things through Christ and God’s word is alive and active in me!
That’s your shield of faith and it will protect you from all the flaming arrows of the evil one. But only if you are a true believer. That’s who Paul was writing to. This armor will not fit on somebody who doesn’t have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Just coming to church isn’t enough. Coming from a Christian family isn’t enough.
You have to repent - turn away from - your sins, ask God to forgive those sins and truly believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that nobody gets to the Father but through Him. Then when you do that your life will reflect that belief in your changed life, including your ability to pick up and use effectively the shield of faith. Do that today.