Do you ever have days when you walk by a mirror and check your back to see if there’s a big red target painted on it? When the best way to describe what’s happening with you is to picture an old time shooting gallery, and you’re one of those little tin ducks, waiting to get plunked by a pellet? Call it the day when everybody’s out to get you, the day everything you try to accomplish gets shot down, the day you feel attacked.
Now most of the time nobody’s really out to get you, even if it feels that way. But some days there’s another explanation worth considering: you are being targeted, not by a human foe, but by…principalities…powers…the rulers of the darkness of this age…spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. There are unseen enemies who have you in their sights, ready to squeeze the trigger and take you down. They are foes in the war you cannot see, fighting a battle you can win only with the armor of God.
Tonight I want to talk to you about how to turn the target into a shield—the shield of faith, a sure defense against the attacks of Satan, a powerful piece of protection pictured in Ephesians 6:16.
One of the reasons the ancient Roman army was unstoppable was their shields. It measured 2 ft wide by 4 ft. high and was made of 2 layers of wood, glued together and covered first with linen, then with leather. At both the top and bottom were iron bars which not only strengthened the shield, but made it possible to connect with the shields of fellow soldiers. In battle it was almost impossible for enemy armies to penetrate this Roman wall of shields. Paul compares our faith to this invincible shield, and tells us first to
1. Take up the shield of faith.
In a world where nearly everything can be weighed, explained, quantified, subjected to psychological analysis and scientific control I persist in making the center of my life a God whom no eye hath seen, nor ear heard, whose will no one can probe.-Eugene Peterson
Faith is not something that comes natural or easy for many of us. It’s much easier to
believe what we see, what we touch or feel. Walking by faith often feels like walking blind.
But faith does not believe without evidence. Faith means believing what you know to be true, even when you’re tempted to doubt. Faith is clinging to the facts in the face of fear.
The first time I ever flew in an airplane I was totally terrified. I made Jennifer close all the windows. I put on my headphones, cranked up my music, and closed my eyes. But I couldn’t drown out the roar of the jet engine. I felt the motion of the plane speeding down the runway. I fought panic as I felt the wheels leave the ground. My brain flashed every reason why this huge metal cylinder could not stay in the air. Every movie and news story I’d ever heard about plane disasters filled my thoughts.
But gradually I eased up. I let Jennifer open the windows. I risked a quick glimpse outside. By the time we got to our destination, I was admiring the tiny landscape below us, watching as we got closer and closer to the ground. On our return trip, we hit rough turbulence, but it really didn’t bother me (much!) I finally became convinced I could trust that plane to get me where I was going.
Taking up the shield of faith means being convinced we can trust God is completely. I trust what He says in His Word. I trust Him to love me, provide for me and protect me. I trust Him to make all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.
What convinces me? He’s proven Himself.
He’s proven Himself in objective ways: the glory and complexity of creation are the fingerprints of a wise and powerful Creator. Human history is forever divided by the life and death of God Who became Man, the Savior of the world. The historical evidence for the Bible and resurrection of Jesus Christ is as strong as or stronger than any other event.
He’s proven Himself in personal ways. Because I believe the Gospel, I have the assurance in my mind and my heart my sins are forgiven. I pray for God to meet a need then stand astounded as He provides. Countless times when I need guidance God somehow gets me where I need to be. I read my Bible and I hear His voice speak to my heart. At these times, it’s easy to lift high the shield of faith and deflect every dart of the enemy.
But there are other times when it’s all I can do to take that heavy shield in my trembling hands. There are days I don’t feel forgiven, when my prayers seem unanswered, when I read the Bible out of duty and feel nothing, when I feel lost and abandoned. It’s those days, when taking up the shield of faith is hardest. Those days are also when it’s most important.
Faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. - C. S. Lewis
Taking the shield of faith means putting my trust for God into practice. I live like a forgiven child of God, even when I don’t feel like it. I keep praying, even when it doesn’t seem to do any good. I trust God to lead me when I feel lost, I keep reading His word, even when I feel alone.
The truth we believe translates into how we think, how we feel, how we live. If it doesn’t, our faith weakens, and we drop that shield, and invite the devil to attack and defeat us.
Your trust in God turns that target on your back into a shield that cannot be pierced.
Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped…
Taking up the shield of faith is the first line of protection. But the second line is we must:
2. Beware the fiery darts of deceit.
Roman soldiers not only knew their own weapons—they made it their business to know the
weapons of their enemies. Before a battle, they soaked their shields in water to withstand fiery darts= arrows soaked in pitch, set on fire, then launched. Imagine running out to face your enemy and a wave of flaming arrows comes raining down on you.
The devil attacks you and I with fiery darts of deceit. Speaking of the devil, Jesus says in
John 8:44 …there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
You see his skill at deception in the beginning, when he speaks as a serpent to Eve in
Genesis 3:4–5 4…You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
You won’t die from eating this fruit. And she doesn’t; at least not immediately. Adam and Eve live many years after the Fall, but they do die, just as God says they will. Their eyes are opened and they do know good and evil, but in the process, they corrupt all of creation. Satan never tells the truth, but he uses truth to boost his deception. You and I need to beware of 3 of his most malicious darts of deceit:
• The deceit of conceit. One of the easiest ways to take you down is to puff you up with
pride. He loves to distract you with his magic mirror that makes you look bigger, stronger, wiser, smarter than you really are. Gaze long enough on your image and you convince yourself you don’t need God.
Satan knows the bigger you see yourself, the smaller you see God. All those people who tell you believe in yourself, you can do anything you set your mind to do, nothing can defeat you are helping the devil set you up for a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
If the devil can get you to focus on yourself, to put your faith in you instead of God, your shield will shatter like a plate glass window in a hurricane. Too late you’ll see the real picture of you alone against Satan like a 4 year old with a water gun facing down a Sherman tank.
I’ve said it before and I say it again: the devil is not afraid of you. Only the shield of faith, your faith in God, can deliver you from the devil’s deceit.
• The deceit of compromise. Compromise is not always an ugly word, except for when
you’re dealing with the devil. Give him an inch, and he’ll take more than a mile—he’ll steal your soul.
The devil begins with an inch, urging you to compromise in small things. Begin with little white lies before you graduate to big black deceptions. Nobody will miss that small item you slip into your pocket at work, but sooner or later they catch up with the one embezzling funds from the company. It doesn’t hurt to look, as long as you don’t touch, but sooner or later that lust consumes you and you’re caught like a fish on a hook.
The classic example is the strong man named Samson. He’s called by God at birth to be a Nazrite, dedicated to God for life. His dedication is demonstrated by obeying 3 simple rules: he’s never to drink wine, never to be near a dead body, never to cut his hair. If you remember his story, you remember he compromises each of these. First he goes drinking at a party with his enemies. Then he eats honey from the carcass of a lion. And finally there’s that fatal haircut from the lovely, treacherous Delilah. Little by little, Samson compromised his calling, and ended up losing everything, including his life.
Every deal Satan makes is a cheat; every compromise he leads you one step closer to your defeat and your destruction. The only way to deal with the devil is to obey
James 4:7 …Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
• The deceit of condemnation. This is Satan’s most insidious attack because he
uses facts to make you believe a lie.
The facts are you and I are natural born sinners. Our past is littered with rebellion against God. Any of us who had the courage could stand and repeat all the ways we’ve dishonored the Lord, rejected His way and went our own way. None of us has the courage to tell it all.
But Satan does not mind heaping you a big helping of guilt. He fills your plate with the shame of sins you committed 20 years ago right alongside the sin you committed 20 minutes ago. He’ll pile your sins so high you’ll need sidebodies to keep it all on the plate. Then he’ll smile real big and say Now why don’t you take that plate and go have supper with your Father!
And you feel so humiliated you want to toss the plate and run far, far away. The fiery dart of condemnation hits its mark. Your shame threatens to alienate you from God.
It’s then you and I remember our Father loves us, not because of our sin, but in spite of our sin.
Psalm 103:10–12 10He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 12As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
We remember the Cross and the empty tomb, the promise of forgiveness and acceptance by faith in Christ. We walk not proudly, but boldly into our Father’s presence and find He’s prepared His own buffet of grace and mercy and joy and peace.
The most potent weapon in the devil’s arsenal is the fiery dart of deceit. Whether it’s the deceit of conceit, or of compromise, or of condemnation, you must never let down your guard. Our faith connects us to God’s strength, and extinguishes all the fiery darts of the evil one.
1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.
I didn’t see anybody walk in tonight with a target on your back, but you are a target. You’re a target for the devil because you’re a soldier of the Cross, loved and saved by the grace of God. Satan hates you because God loves you, and he is bent on bringing you down.
Which is why you must to take up the shield of faith, you must cling to your trust in God, you must believe His Word in spite of your feelings or your doubts. You can keep your faith in Him, because He is always faithful to you. If your faith is weak, and you feel like you’re about to fall, call out to the Lord, call on a brother or sister to pray, come right now and we will all pray with you and for you. Whatever you do, don’t let your guard down!
On a hill one chilly morning, he stands side by side with his comrades. They do not march out; they wait for the battle to come to them. And they have no doubt it will.
Their orders are simple: defend your position, stand your ground.
He remembers the captain, speaking just a few hours ago to the entire battalion: Your enemy has no mercy. They will fight you, and they will kill you if they can, any way they can. You must stand your ground. Your armor will protect you as long as your courage does not fail. Your victory is sure as long as you keep your shield up, and your feet on the ground.
His thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a fierce army marching closer and closer. He lifts up his shield, and prepares to make his stand.
You and I must take our stand against our enemy, an enemy who shows you no mercy, who will fight and defeat you and destroy you if he can. Your armor, including your shield of faith, will protect you as long as your courage does not fail. Your victory is sure as long as you keep your shield up and your feet on the ground.
Ephesians 6:16 …above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.