On this Father’s Day I wanted to preach with the men of our congregation in mind, but I also wanted God to give me a word that we all need to hear. I was pleased to listen to a sermon by Pastor Nichole Stewart who serves as the worship pastor at Maranatha Fellowship. Her message on faith gave me some thoughts about faith that I wanted to develop and share with you today. This will be a two-part message with part two following next week.
1 Timothy 6:12-“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Ephesians 6:10-16 10 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.
What I want you to hear this morning, what I want you to take away in addition to what the Spirit of God will speak to you as an individual is this: The Fight of Faith is a fight worth fighting, and it can be won! The Apostle Paul actually commanded Timothy, his protégé, to fight the Good Fight of Faith and to keep the command to keep fighting until Jesus Christ returned. The Fight of Faith is a life-long pursuit. It isn’t a one-time decision or a casual way of life. It is a militant, vigilant, purposeful way of living that isn’t focused on the things we can see, taste, touch, and smell.
I Timothy 6 details that it isn’t a way of life that is tied to material wealth or the here and now. Faith and not wealth or any earthly experience is to be our focus. The command Paul gave Timothy was that he should live in the light of eternity. It is living for that which will last. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Paul wanted Timothy to know that holding on to his faith, sharing his faith, and exercising his faith was to be the priority of his life. As we move over to Ephesians 6 we hear Paul say something that has become a common phrase in our current culture: “The struggle is real.” Tell your neighbor, “The struggle is real.” Paul said in Ephesians 6:12-“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.”
We are engaged in a struggle, a conflict, a battle, and it is real. I think Satan is engaged in this world in two strategic ways: He tries to feed the fleshly desires of unbelievers to keep them in bondage to sin. He seems to have plenty of help with that agenda through the pleasure industry, the drug and alcohol industry, the “adult entertainment” industry, the movie and television industry, etc. And He tries to bring doubt into the minds and lives of believers to get them to walk away from God.
You will remember that Adam and Eve were believers. They were people who were in fellowship with God. No one had to teach them that they were people created in the image of God. There is no way that Adam would have bought the bunk of evolution. There is no way he would have doubted for one minute that God fashioned and formed him and then turned around and formed Eve.
I mean, the first thing Adam saw when he came to life or woke up from the creation experience was God standing over him. Can you imagine the exchange that took place in that moment? “Hi Adam. Welcome to Creation.” “Who are you?” Adam might have said. “God, your Creator” could have likely been the reply. Don’t you imagine there was some dialogue? There had to have been conversation because you don’t go from zero conversation to having a conversation about your life’s purpose which was to care for Creation without some kind of introduction!
Adam then underwent surgery and Eve was formed from him. Don’t you think he would have known he had had surgery when he woke up? Anyone here ever have a part of your body removed? Couldn’t you tell the next day that something had happened to you? When he came to the first time God was standing over him. When he came to the second time, after surgery, Eve was standing beside him. The only explanation for their existence was God. I mean, monkeys and man were both created on the sixth day. There was no time for anything to evolve.
Adam and Eve were God’s people, and they knew that God had a plan for their lives that included an intimate relationship with Him. And in light of that, what did Satan do? He tried to get them to doubt God’s loving purposes for their lives. He tried to get them to doubt God’s Words about His expectations for their lives. They took the bait and sinned. The penalty was steep. Round one of the battle went to Satan that day. Aren’t you glad it wasn’t a one and done fight?
Our focus has to be on faith and on doing the things that please God. Paul warned Timothy that much would compete for his attention. When we pursue the things of the world, it could be a sign of doubt in our lives. It could be a sign that Satan has gained a foothold in our lives. Do you know a foothold can become a chokehold in an instant, and you could find yourselves in the boxing ring with Satan with you flat on your back in a hurry?
Do we really trust God to provide for us or do we chase the “Almighty Dollar?” Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:6-10 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
It is a tragic scenario when people wander from the faith. When Satan can get us to believe that we need to be our own source or that God hasn’t done enough for us or that our focus should be on the things of this world whether it is wealth or some other kind of worldly pursuit, our faith is compromised. Paul used the love of money to describe someone who let something take the place of God in their lives. He could have used many different examples, but when that happens, not matter what the “thing” is, we have put ourselves in a compromising spiritual condition. Rather than fighting the fight of faith as a champion we will be trying to battle from a position of weakness and doubt.
We must fight to focus on our faith and the things of God.
There is a reason we are compared to sheep! We far too easily wander. We are prone to wander. Fight to stay in the Word. Fight to stay in church. Fight to make time for prayer. Fight to believe God to meet your needs. Fight to live His way. It will be worth it. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Eternity is at stake! While we focus on our faith we recognize the struggle is real. We need to become enemy savvy. We need to understand how standing in faith and speaking in faith and how exercising faith can help us fight off the devil who is trying to get us to wander. Look again at 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.
Paul says, “In addition to all of this…” What is the “all of this” to which he was referring? He was referring to various pieces of the armor a soldier would wear. He talked about belts, breastplates, helmets, swords, shoes that would provide added protection against an attack. But what was the Shield of Faith? It was the first line of defense. If you have a Shield in front of the rest of the armor, what does the Shield become? The shield becomes double protection. The Shield is your protection in front of the rest of the protection. What I want you to hear this morning is that faith is double protection for your life as a Christian! Is there anyone here who couldn’t use double protection over your life?
Have you ever played laser tag? It is pretty hilarious to watch me try to play it, but I have done it several times. You put on this breastplate thing that straps over your body. When the game begins your opponents try to shoot your breastplate in strategic places. When they manage to get their laser in the right spot and hit you, you will hear, “Shield is down.” When your shield is down you don’t have any laser power of your own to retaliate, so you have to run to this charging station to get your power back. When you do, you hear a computerized voice say, “Shield is up.” You can get back into the game and try to take on your opponent when your shield is up.
Listen, I am afraid we have too many Christians whose shields are down in this game of life. They don’t have the power they need to extinguish the fiery darts of Satan. Perhaps you are one of them and you need to get to the charging station in order to get powered up to defeat your enemy.
How does the Shield of Faith have power to extinguish Satan’s fire? For a better understanding we need to understand more about the shield that Paul was talking about. The shield a soldier wore in that day was designed to be linked together with other soldiers so that they could stand together. Isn’t that a cool picture of the Body of Christ? Together we stand holding up the Shield of Faith in order to protect each other. Shields were actually door-shaped, and they were big enough that a soldier could protect his whole body behind it. As soldiers stood together in combat they would create a wall of defense where others standing behind them could launch fiery darts of attack.
So how were the shields able to quench or extinguish the fiery darts? First of all shields were made of two layers of wood and then were covered with six layers of animal hide. Now, I am about to use a word that I detest, but it is the only word I can use to describe how the shield was able to extinguish the fiery darts. I hope no one is offended by it. I’m not sure I can actually say it out loud, so I will have Christine put it on the screen in a second. In order to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy, the shield had to be . . . MOIST. (JI know, I cringe at the word, too!) So, dry shields would become cracked and fiery darts could easily set them on fire. So the soldiers would dip their shields in water before they went to fight, and then they would rub then with oil. Oil would be carefully rubbed into each layer to make sure it was properly MOIST and ready for the battle. In fact, the anointing with oil of the shield was not just a right before battle thing, but an everyday thing.
When I think of water, I think of cleansing, being right with God by having our sins forgiven. I think of the Word of God as we are saturated to know and believe the Word of God which grows our faith. Both are Scriptural images. Scripture also teaches that anointing oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Listen, we cannot do this battle without the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit from the inside out. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us faith to believe God in all situations, and we need to ask for a Holy Spirit anointing and covering every day as we head into the battle.
It dawned on me that when you allow yourself to be anointed with oil and allow someone to pray for you, you are taking up the Shield of Faith. James chapter five is the chapter about anointing people and praying for them, and what does it say in verse 15? “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.”
Listen, too many Christians today may be trying to do battle with a dry shield. They aren’t saturated in the water of the Word. They aren’t anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the devil. Do you remember when Jesus went into the desert and went toe to toe with the devil, He did so IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. (Luke 4) When the Bible tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit it isn’t a one-time filling, but an every day, ongoing anointing to enable us to keep our shields MOIST and ready for battle.
God is telling us not just to use our shields this morning, but to prepare our shields so that they have the maximum ability to extinguish the fiery darts of Satan. Is your faith dry this morning, or are you ready for combat? Is your shield prepared?
So, in this struggle, in this fight, Satan has flaming arrows that he is sending our way. Paul says our Shield of Faith helps us extinguish those arrows. What are those flaming arrows? We have already talked about one of them: The Dart of Doubt. Satan wants you to doubt God’s Word. That is always his first tactic. It was true in the Garden of Eden, and it is true today. Satan wants you to think that Abundant Life is a fairy tale, and that God’s way of living will ruin your fun and limit your freedom. He wants you to believe that God’s way is too hard and you could never fight the fight for a lifetime and take hold of eternal life. He wants you to believe that God doesn’t hear your prayers, that He doesn’t see your individual need in the midst of a sea of people, and that He won’t provide for you, heal you, support you, or walk beside you. He wants you to believe that God has given up on you. And maybe some of you here this morning need to hold up the Shield of Faith and exercise your belief in the Words of Scripture. Here are some Scriptures you can believe and as you do you are holding up the Shield of Faith that will quench the fiery dart of doubt.
- For the Lord my God will be with me, wherever I go. Joshua 1:9
- God will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him. Isaiah 26:3
- God will never leave me or forsake me. Hebrews 13:5
- The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
- God cares for me. 1 Peter 5:7
- If I remain in Christ and His words remain in me, whatever I ask will be given to me. John 15:7
- The Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth. John 16:3
- The Holy Spirit will give me the right words when I need them. Mark 13:11
- In this world I will have trouble, but I don’t have to be afraid because Christ has overcome the world. John 16:33
- I have peace with God because I’ve been justified by faith in Jesus. Romans 5:1
- There is no condemnation on me because I am in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
- All things work together for my good. Romans 8:28
- Nothing will separate me from the love of Christ. Romans 8:35
- My labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
- God has created good works for me to walk in, today. Ephesians 2:10
- I am being transformed into Christ’s likeness. 2 Corinthians 3:17
- God is able to make all grace abound to me, so all my needs will be met. 2 Corinthians 9:8
- God won’t forsake me (the righteous in Christ) nor have my children become beggars. Psalm 37:25
- God’s grace will be sufficient for me in every situation. 2 Corinthians 12:9
- I have an inheritance in Christ that no one can take from me. Ephesians 1:14
- I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
- God will repay with trouble those who trouble me. 2 Thessalonians 1:6
- God has given me a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
- I have a crown of righteousness awaiting me. 2 Timothy 4:8
- God won’t lie to me, because God cannot lie. Titus 1:2
- Righteous praying is effective. It changes things. James 5:16
- No weapon that comes at me will prosper against me. Isaiah 54:17
- If I resist the devil, he will take a hike. James 4:7
So back up devil, back off devil, back out devil because I believe the Word in faith this morning. Anyone want to put their Shield of Faith up and overcome the dart of doubt?
Another fiery dart Satan likes to shoot at us is DISCOURAGEMENT
Nehemiah was a guy who took on a major re-building project. How many of you know it can be discouraging to even just try to remodel or rebuild a part of your home? Just ask the Kuhl/Kincaid family about trying to add on new parts and redo old parts of your home while you are living in it or ask Kelly Kraft about the time he tried to replace a toilet in the office house! Seriously, ask him. Good times.
Well, Nehemiah was trying to do more than a home rehab job. He was trying to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The walls were in shambles. The gates had been burned with fire. Things we are mess. The people who remained were vulnerable and impoverished.
As Jeremiah’s people got started on the rebuilding process the voices of discouragement started to speak. Nehemiah 4:1-3 1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing?
Listen, Satan will discourage you by telling you, you aren’t capable of doing the task because you don’t have what it takes. It is a fiery dart that must be dealt with in faith. They voices went on:
Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices?
Satan wants you to think you are unworthy before God. He sarcastically whispers, do you really think you are good enough for God? Do you really think He wants your worship? It is a fiery dart. Get your shield up! The voices continued:
Will they finish in a day?
Satan often discourages people by getting them to think what they are attempting can never happen. It will take too long, and it will be impossible. Time is nothing to God. He worked out His will in human history in the course of time, and He was never in a hurry. Satan wants you to think that your God-given dreams won’t ever happen. Don’t get discouraged if what you are waiting on is taking some time. God is faithful! Put your Shield up! The discouraging voices clamored on:
Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble–burned as they are?”
Satan wanted Jeremiah’s men to feel inadequate for the task. I mean, how could they get the stones into the shape they needed to be in for them to become useable for the walls? The stones were damaged. Why try to work with damaged goods?
Satan wants us to see the obstacles, the challenges. He wants us to get focused on the difficulties of life. Satan won’t admit that God can take broken pieces and put them together again better than they were before! Put up your Shield and march on, brothers and sisters!
3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building–if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”
Can you hear Satan’s sarcasm? “Why are you even trying Jeremiah? What you are doing is going to fail. You are nothing but a failure.”
The darts of doubt and discouragement. They are fiery. They can be explosive, but only if our shield is down; only if our shield is dry, cracked, and unprepared. This morning I wonder if there are some dads, some moms, some Christ-followers who would be willing to prepare for battle for their families, their futures, their loved ones and their friends. I wonder if there are some people who could refocus on eternity through taking up the Shield of Faith. I wonder if there are some people who would like to be anointed and empowered to be ready when the sarcasm of the deceiver is whispered in their ears. There is no greater fight worth fighting. It is time to fight fire with faith, and I guarantee you if you do, with God’s help, you WILL WIN!