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psalm-18-30Ephesians 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.

Silent Prayer

I Timothy 6:12 tells us to fight the good fight of the faith.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us to extinguish the flaming arrows, the fiery darts of the evil one, with the Shield of Faith.

I explained in part one of this message that an ancient Roman shield would have been prepared daily in anticipation that a battle could happen at any time.  Soldiers were always ready for battle.  So, too, our faith should always be prepared and active in anticipation of an attack from Satan.  The Roman soldiers’ shields were soaked in water to keep them wet enough to extinguish an arrow that would have been set on fire.  They would also have been anointed with oil daily to keep the layers of animal hide that covered the shield from getting dry and cracked which would have given a big opening for a fiery dart.

Last week we also talked about the Dart of Doubt and the need to combat doubt with the Word of God.  We need to believe in faith that God’s Word is true and that it stands as a protective covering over our lives.  We also spoke of the Dart of Discouragement.  When Satan wants to whisper things to us to get us to slow down or derail or quit altogether we need to hold onto our Shield of Faith.  Satan sends discouragement to us to get us to wander from and walk away from the faith.  We need to believe in faith that when we are in Christ He is with us to help us accomplish what we need to finish in this life.

This morning we are going to talk about three more darts, three more tactics of Satan so that we can get our shields up to defeat him as he attacks.

The Dart of Difficulty-One thing I love about Jesus, among many things, is that He isn’t misleading.  He never said, “Follow me, and I will make your life easy.”  He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you something you aren’t yet, fishers of men.  I will transform you from the inside out so that you learn to think and live like Me and so that you adopt My mission.”  Is there anyone here who thinks that becoming something you have never been before is easy?  Isn’t it difficult to undergo transformation?  Jesus also never promised that we would be exempt from the trials of life either.  In fact, He was just up front and told His followers that “in this world they would have trouble.” (John 16:33) There is no “bait and switch” in our relationship with Jesus.  He told us up front that life as a Christ-follower would be tough.

The truth is, life is tough whether we follow Jesus or not.  What happens when we follow Him, however, is that the end of our story, the end of our trial is guaranteed to be different! The beauty of our difficulties as Christians is that they are tied to the victory of Jesus Christ.  In John 16:33 when Jesus told the disciples they would have trials, He also said, but don’t worry because “I have overcome the world.”  In other words, Christ has secured the victory for us in every situation.  If you are dealing with physical challenges, if you are in Christ, your victory is secured.  If you are dealing with relational stresses, if you are in Christ, your victory is secured.  If you are dealing with financial burdens, if you are in Christ, your victory is secured.

Thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph (II Cor. 2:14).

Every dart Satan throws is an attempt to distract us.  He wants our minds distracted.  He wants us focused on the difficulty we are dealing with and not the triumph that is promised.  He wants to find a way to mess with us and gain entrance into our lives.  He wants to keep us from advancing the Kingdom of God.  He is fighting us because he opposes the mission we are on!

Do you know, however, that more people have come to Christ as a result of times of persecution and difficulty than any other time?  When the church at large has dealt with hardship and crises and persecution the Kingdom has advanced like wildfire.  You know what that tells me?  If you will wield the Shield of Faith some of the best opportunities you will have to witness and win people to Christ will be during times of difficulty. 

You fight fire with faith when you keep your eyes on Jesus during moments of trouble.  You fight fire with faith when you talk about and lift up Jesus even when you are being squeezed.  You fight fire with faith when you claim victory in the midst of the battle.

Listen to the words of Paul just two chapters after he says that God always causes us to triumph:  2 Corinthians 4:8-15 (NIV) 8  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” WITH THAT SAME SPIRIT OF FAITH we also believe and therefore speak, 14  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

The Shield of Faith, the spirit of faith in the victory that is being achieved even in times of trouble is what will see us through and is what will bring God glory.  Did you catch what Paul said?  Even though they were facing difficulty after difficulty after difficulty (ever feel like that?  Like you can’t catch a break?  You can’t recover from one tough situation before the “other shoe drops?) even though they were facing all of those tough challenges, they kept their shields up.  With the Spirit of Faith, the Shield of Faith, they kept believing and they kept speaking, verse 13 because, verse 14, they knew that they knew that they knew that the victory of Jesus would be their victory and verse 15, that the difficulties they were facing would somehow benefit other people and bring God glory!

Listen, when life is tough and you feel squeezed you need to believe and speak the victory!  We need to keep faith alive in our hearts by reading the Word, and we need to speak with faith over our circumstances.  I am not talking about a “name it and claim it” theology.  I believe that is deceptive and false teaching, but I believe you can speak any promise of God over your circumstance because they aren’t your words, but God’s.  God has already spoken about the victory we possess, and we can get our shields up when we proclaim His promises out loud in agreement with Him!

Yes, life is difficult.  What does the writer of Amazing Grace finish with in verse four?  Through many easy, thrills and chills I have already come?  No!  Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come!  Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home!  Faith helps us focus on the victory.  Faith helps us see the finish line.  Faith keeps us moving with forward momentum and keeps us from getting bogged down by our trials.

Maybe 2016 isn’t the summer to remember for you, but it is the summer to forget because of all of the difficulties you have faced!  Get your shield up and stay focused on the victory that is already yours in Christ Jesus.

The Dart of Division-In John 17:22 Jesus prayed that we would be one.  He was talking in that passage about His people, the church being one.  Satan’s motto is “Divide and conquer.”  He is at work not only in churches to try to create friction and disagreement and division, but he is also at work in families, in workplaces, and in friendships.  Satan wants to stir up drama in your life.  He wants to cut you off from people who can encourage, empower, and support you.  We have been learning about his tactics on Wednesday night.  He wants us to live hurt and offended by each other.  Don’t take the bait!  I loved it this week when I got a couple of messages from people who told me they didn’t take the bait.  Don’t let Satan throw the darts of division your way without putting your Shield of Faith up to defeat him.

John 10:10 tells us that Satan wants to steal from us, kill us in various ways, and destroy our lives.  Let’s just look for a minute at the relationship between husband and wife.  Satan will throw fiery darts at your marriage because part of stealing from you, part of killing you, and part of destroying you will involve your family relationships.  He desires to separate husbands and wives.  He wants you to adopt different agendas and to live separate lives.  He wants you to be on separate pages about parenting and finances and even how much you should really be involved in the life of the church.  He wants to cast doubt in your hearts and minds about your feelings for each other.  He wants you to start to be annoyed and impatient with one another. He wants to divide you by encouraging you to keep a record of wrongs, by trying to read into each other’s actions and attitudes.

Satan wants to mess with your communication and twists your words.  He wants you to start blaming each other for things and wants you to build walls with your spouse by adopting the attitude that you are right and your spouse is wrong.  Satan messes with the intimacy between you by introducing pornography into people’s lives, by getting people to become workaholics, by getting couples to turn to people outside of the marital relationship for emotional support which often leads to affairs, and the list goes on. Satan tries to get you hurt and offended to the point where you don’t even want to deal with the tension.  What happens, however, is every time you sweep something under the rug, the rug gets higher and higher and is filled with more and more bumps until someone in the relationship finally trips over the mountain of offenses.

Satan tries to create arguments between spouses and wants people to think their problems are insurmountable as a couple so that they eventually will separate and divorce.

Did you know that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of Christ and His church?  It is true.  Look at Ephesians 5:31-33 31  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be UNITED to his wife, and the two will become ONE flesh.” 32  This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The way a husband is supposed to lead and serve his family is supposed to be patterned after the way Jesus laid down His life for the church.  Husbands, how are you doing in that department?  The way a wife respects her husband’s leadership is supposed to be a picture of the way the church submits to and respects the agenda of Jesus.  Wives, how are we doing with our role?

Of course Satan will attack marriages.  He doesn’t like what they symbolize and stand for.  Christian marriages remind Satan of Jesus and His relationship with His church, and he can’t stand to be reminded that the victory has been won and that Jesus has bought the church with His own blood.  Every time Satan is reminded of what Jesus accomplished on the cross the devil is reminded of his ultimate doom for on the cross Jesus crushed Satan’s head, thwarted his plan, and sealed his fate forever in Hell!

We fight fire with faith as we learn to think and act like believers in our marriages and other relationships.  The Bible has a lot to say about Christian marriage and parenting.  In I Corinthians 7:3-5 we read about the importance of cultivating sexual intimacy in a marriage so that when Satan shoots a fiery dart to suggest adultery that the dart is extinguished by the heart commitment we have for our spouse because of our intimacy and oneness.  Forgiveness is supposed to be quick and often to keep tension out of the relationship.  We aren’t to be disrespectful to one another or sarcastic and bitter.  We aren’t to put our needs ahead of the needs of our spouse.

We need to pray together.  We need to be in the Word on a regular basis.  We hold up the Shield of Faith in our marriages when we refuse to believe the worst, when we pray for God’s healing and strength over our relationships, when we strive to walk together in peace, and when we seek to live in harmony with each other as is God’s design.

When you don’t love and care for your spouse the way God wants you to, you are lowering your Shield.  We are supposed to love one another in such a way that our love offers a covering or protection for the people in our lives.  Does that characterize the love you have for your spouse?

We need to get the Shield of Faith up in our parenting.  We need to parent in faith and not fear.  We need to speak the Word over our children, to pray the Word over our children, and deposit it into their hearts.  We need to model what it means to live by faith and stop worrying ourselves to death.  Yes, another way Satan tries to kill us is to get us to worry to death.  We now have a 16-year-old driver, our first one.  I refuse, however, to live by fear and worry about her when she is on the road.  We have modeled good driving (except for the two deer that have jumped out in front it me J) and she has taken driver’s ed. She is prepared. We have prayed for her to be safe, and we have taught her to be careful and make good decisions.  So, in faith, we are releasing her to drive on her own.  (That doesn’t mean I will stop praying, now!)

You see, when we live in faith we can release people to grow and become what God intends.  When we parent out of fear we try to limit and control them.  Don’t hear what I am not saying!  Parents have to set limits for their children, but inside of those boundaries we need to release them to thrive and trust God to protect them.  And many of those boundaries need to be continually extending as they grow.

Satan wants to divide friendships.  Some of you had a best friend at one time that you are now not even speaking to.  Was your Shield up when things got bad between you?  Part of wielding our shield means we believe God’s Word that all things can be made new.  Marriages can be made new.  Relationships with our children can be made new.  Best friends who have suffered a broken friendship can be restored.  We certainly don’t live in faith if we believe there is a limit to what God can restore, right?

We need our Shield up in our relationships this morning.

The Dart of Deceitful Teaching The last dart we will talk about is the Dart of Deceitful teaching.  Please know that if the devil is talking he is lying. (John 8:44) He lies in overt and outlandish ways and he lies in subtle ways.  The trouble with the devil’s lies is that he works them into so many facets of life from education and politics to fashion and family life that when you hear the lies repeated so often in so many different ways it is easy to start to believe them.  We even hear lies from Satan from so-called Christian platforms.

Satan wants us to believe that God’s greatest desire for us is to be happy, and therefore we should do what makes us happy.  Think about that for a minute.  That is crazy, flawed logic.  As a parent it would be ludicrous for me to tell my kids to just do what makes them happy.  What makes them happy could be something that feels good in the moment but that has tragic, life-altering consequences when the moment is over.  That would be reckless and abusive parenting for me to tell my kids to just do what makes them happy.  God’s concern is first and foremost for our holiness, not our happiness, but let me tell you the way to true happiness, lasting happiness, is the way of holiness.  But holiness isn’t on the devil’s mind and he doesn’t want it on yours either.

The devil is a “wordsmith.”  He likes to get us to think that some choices are really just a matter of semantics.  He started with words like “evolution.”  Evolution.  It sounds like a smart word, an intelligent word, a scientific one.  The devil knew if he could get us to doubt intelligent design by a loving Creator he could alter people’s views of who God created them to be, confuse them, and get them to search for meaning and identity any way possible just so long as it wasn’t tied to being a man or a woman created in the image of God.  In New York City, the Commission on Human Rights has identified 24 different genders of people, and they don’t claim that is an exhaustive list.  New words such as:  bi-gendered, third sex, gender fluid, gender gifted are now supposed to serve as descriptions for people where once “male” and “female” were clear and accepted.  Now, if you disrespect (disagree with) one of the 24 new words for gender in New York City you can be fined.  This kind of self-declaration is deceptive.  It is false thinking and teaching from the pit of hell.  New words are being thought up all of the time to try to legitimize sinful behavior.  People no longer know who they are or why they’re here, and the addition of new vocabulary words isn’t helping the situation.  We keep redefining the boundaries making gods of ourselves rather than respecting the limitations that God has clearly set in His Word.

Satan uses words like “reproductive freedom” to get us to think abortion is the way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy.  The multiple ways Satan has attacked the basic truths of the Christian faith is mind-boggling.  Things that used to be understood as absolute like the word “marriage” which has always meant a union between a man and a woman are now replaced with words like “tolerance” and “equality” which suggest that anyone opposed to anything but a biblical definition of marriage is archaic and filled with hate.  Satan has made the things of darkness sound wise, open-minded, and free when they are just the exact opposite.  The god of this age, Satan, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe as well as the minds of those who have been believers in the past.  (II Cor. 4:4)

Church, we have got to get our Shields up or we are vulnerable to the possibility of losing an entire generation to the devil’s lies.  We are in danger of losing an entire generation because they don’t know who God created them to be.

I Timothy 6:12 says, Fight the good fight of THE faith.”  Not just any faith, not just any belief, but THE faith, the Christian faith.  There are tenants that must not be compromised.  While the world would tell us there are many roads God it simply isn’t true.  Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one gets to the Father unless they go through Him.  (John 14:6) He alone is the door.  Despite what our hearts want to believe and proclaim when a beloved entertainer or sports figure dies, we aren’t all God’s children.  We aren’t all “in a better place” when we leave this life.  We are all God’s creation, but only those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and have placed their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord have been adopted by God to become His children and go to Heaven.

It isn’t just secular humanists who are pawns of Satan and are good at twisting words and concepts.  Many so-called Christian preachers have led God’s people astray through false teaching.  Many in the last thirty years have preached a Prosperity Gospel that has left people jaded and broke.  Jesus didn’t die to make us rich.  He died to save us from our sins.  There are biblical principles that can help us save well, spend well, invest well, and give well, but the basis for a relationship with God isn’t a financial one.  Jesus even warned of storing up treasures here on earth (Matt. 6:19-24).  We are told in the NT several places that we aren’t to seek to live according to this present age (I Cor. 7 and I John 2) that we aren’t to chase the things the world says matter, but we are to live for eternity.  Some preachers have encouraged people to seek after riches rather than God or to pursue God so that you can obtain riches.  That approach has nothing to do with the message of the Gospel of our Lord.

There have been famous preachers in the last decade who have denounced Hell as a real, literal place.  If Hell isn’t real why did Jesus warn people of a place where there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in Matthew 8:12?  Why did He say in Matthew 5:29 it was better to lose a body part than have your whole body thrown in Hell if it doesn’t exist?  Why did Jesus die to rescue us from eternal punishment in Hell if it doesn’t exist?

So-called Bible scholars, many in Christian colleges across the country, now question the validity and reliability of Scripture.  In their opinion, it is now one of many enlightening reads.  It has been twisted and perverted to support selfish, scandalous, sinful behavior.  I could go on, but you get the point.  We have to have our Shield of Faith up as we defend THE Christian Faith which is unique in its beliefs.  The only way we can walk in truth, hold up truth, and defend the truth is to know it.  We have to be students of the Word who are led by the Spirit of God to know and believe the truth.

The Shield of Faith.  It has to be prepared and utilized if we are going to extinguish the fiery darts of the devil.  God told Abraham in Genesis 15:1 that He would be Abraham’s shield and reward.  We read in Psalm 18:30:  As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

I said last week that the Roman shields were so big that a person’s whole body could be hidden behind one of them.  You and I can be completely covered, completely protected, if we will stay behind the Lord.  He is a shield for us.  When we step out from His protective covering through sinful behavior we are vulnerable to the fiery darts of the enemy.  In order to fight fire with faith, we need to be behind the Author and Perfector of our Faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).  We need to remain in Him.  We need Him to lead us into every battle.  He is our defender and protector.  When there is difficulty run to Jesus and stay focused on the victory.  When there is division run to Jesus and ask Him to lead the way for healing and reconciliation.  Ask Jesus to expose deceptive teaching and to help you walk in truth.  Hold up the Shield of Faith as you hold onto God Himself who is your Shield.


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