"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one ...".
This week I have been calling the shield of faith "battlefield belief" because it is faith applied in response to the attacks of the enemy. The shield of faith is not a feeling. It is an action of obedience that is driven by a knowledge of who God is and what the Word of God teaches. The principle of faith as action, not feeling, itself is a battle for many Christians.
Here is a brief story that illustrates the nature of faith.
A highwire artist asked a group of people if they believed he could walk across a deep chasm on a tightrope. They hesitated, but then said "probably." The acrobat then proceeded to walk briskly across the chasm on the tightrope, and then back again, with no problem. Impressed, the crowd applauded.
The acrobat then asked the crowd, "Do you believe I could carry a person on my back as I walk across the chasm on the tightrope?" The group was again hesitant, but eventually said, "We aren't sure." The acrobat asked his assistant to climb onto his back, and proceeded to walk briskly across the chasm on the tightrope, and back again, with his assistant on his back. No problem. Very impressed, the crowd applauded with great enthusiasm.
The acrobat turned to a gentleman in the crowd who was applauding energetically and asked him, "Do you believe I could carry you on my back across the chasm on the tightrope?" Caught up in the excitement, the man said, "Sure!" The acrobat said, "Great. Climb onto my back." The man stopped applauding as his enthusiasm quickly faded. The crowd fell silent and stared at the man, waiting to see what he would do. The man moved slightly away from the acrobat and said, "I believe you can do it, but I just don't feel comfortable taking that risk."
The acrobat turned to the crowd and asked, "Does anyone here believe I can carry you on my back across the chasm on the tightrope?" At first, no one responded. Then a young man stepped forward and said, "I do." The acrobat said, "Great. Climb onto my back." The young man did so, and the acrobat proceeded to walk briskly across the chasm on the tightrope, and back again, with the young man on his back. No problem. Once again the crowd applauded, this time with even greater enthusiasm.
The crowd was full of spectators. Not doers ... spectators. When asked, "Do you believe the acrobat can carry a person across the chasm on a tightrope?" they all said yes, and said it with enthusiasm and apparent confidence. After all, they saw the acrobat do it twice. When asked, "Do you believe he can carry you across the chasm on a tightrope?" They all said yes. But when asked to climb on the acrobat's back and have him carry them on the tightrope across the chasm, they hesitated. They doubted. And said no. Why the hesitation and doubt in the face of personal commitment? Because they had "Sunday belief," not "battlefield belief."
The exception was the young man. He believed, and he acted on his faith.
The shield of faith is not a feeling. It is an action. The enemy will fire arrows of temptation and doubt and discouragement and fear at you, and you will feel those arrows. You will feel the lure of temptation. You will feel uncertainty and doubt. You will feel hopelessness and discouragement. You will feel the anxiety, worry, and fear. It is precisely at those points of attack that you must employ the shield of faith.
When the enemy attacks with doubt, the shield of faith says, "I trust who God is."
When the enemy attacks with discouragement, the shield of faith says, "I trust what God is doing and I will not lose heart."
When the enemy attacks with difficulties, the shield of faith says, "Adversity makes me stronger. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
When the enemy attacks with fear and anxiety, the shield of faith says, "God loves me and sent his Son to die for me. He has claimed me for his own, and I belong to him. I trust him with my life."
When the enemy attacks you with impure thoughts and temptations, the shield of faith says, "The Lord calls me to holiness and righteousness. I reject those thoughts and that temptation. I embrace God's standards."
These are the attacks you will experience. This is the battle you must fight and win. The shield of faith is essential.
Paul wrote these words to Timothy, the young pastor at the church in Ephesus: "But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
May it be so with us.