Faith … or Fear?
What exactly is faith? The writer of Hebrews defines it this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).” This is the definition offered at the beginning of the great faith chapter in Hebrews 11. Faith is assurance of what is hoped for—something that is not yet seen. Faith often looks into the future to something that is yet to come. But faith is based on the character and promises of God himself. This faith is not passive … it is ACTIVE! The Greek word us here and in Ephesians 6 is Pistis. It refers to an active faith as we trust God.
Where is God calling you to live by faith? The tension of the Christian faith is this: we know, in our heads, we should live by faith but often we are paralyzed by fear. So many of us, right now, are sitting, waiting, closing our eyes hoping whatever trial we are facing will end. I want to invite you to ask: what if God has you in your current situation to learn how to truly trust him with everything? What if he wants to show you what it really means to live BY FAITH?!
Take Up The Shield
We read this in Ephesians 6 v 16: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (Ephesians 6:16, ESV)” The shield of faith is a crucial weapon against our enemy. Paul gives us three, very clear, implications of the shield. First, WHEN do we use it? Look at the phrase, “In all circumstances …” We are to use this weapon all the time. There should never be a day when we wake up and leave the shield of faith at our bedside. Too many of us go about our day forgetting to bring the shield with us. Use it all the time. Second, HOW do we use it? Notice the phrase “Take Up …” You may remember in the opening section of Ephesians 6:10-14, Paul urges us to “put on” the armor of God—like clothes. “Take up” is in the active voice. This not armor to be put on it is a weapon to be grasped. When you get out of bed in the morning—immediately grab the shield of faith! Before you talk to your spouse—grab the shield of faith! The enemy is always lurking. Third, what is the RESULT of using it? You will have the ability to “extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one.” When you take up the Shield of Faith, you have the ability to stop Satan in his tracks. That is power!
Expect The Darts
You need the Shield of Faith for this reason: Allegiance to Jesus breeds opposition. You have to expect the flaming darts of the evil one in your life. However, some of us thought that once we became a Christian all our problems would go away. We thought: “I won’t have problems with money—all my needs will be met exactly when I think I need them.” Or, “My family will never get in a fight!” Regarding our identity, we thought, “I will be confident all the time.” The reality is this: once you decide to really live for Jesus, your life will get harder because you are now a threat to Satan. Remember, he doesn’t want you advancing towards the walls of his city with the Shield of Faith raised. Satan is going to fight back harder! How? He’ll attack your reputation. He’ll attack your relationships. He’ll attack your resilience to follow Jesus. We need to be prepared for these fiery darts with the Shield of Faith.
Oddly, though, sometimes we don’t use the shield. Why? We don’t use the shield because we don’t expect the darts. They will come when we least expect it – and they sting. Let me give an illustration. A few weeks ago I was in my yard trimming a bush. I have this new battery powered trimmer, which I think is awesome. I trimmed the top. I trimmed the sides. Then I attempted to trim the bottom of the bush. I cut further into the bush when all of a sudden I saw a flash of yellow, heard a buzz, and felt a pain on my arm. In an unexpected moment, I received my first bee sting in quite some time. Why? I hadn’t noticed until after that there was a nest in the ground. I didn’t see the bees even though they were there all along!
Some of us know what it is like to be stung in life. A bee sting is painful an itchy at best. For some of us it can be deadly. So are the darts—they sting! If we are susceptible, they might kill us. Satan is attempting to sting us with his fiery darts. Some of us have been stung so bad it is disorienting. You walked through a divorce. You lost a job you loved. You experienced a painful break up. You kids walked away from the faith and will not talk to you anymore. You know what it feels like to be stung! And if the venom goes in deep enough you may even blame God and walk away from the faith. That’s why you need the shield! You need to expect the darts.
Look Up In Faith
When you expect the darts, you start to look up in faith. What is faith? Faith is all about looking; it is about where you fix your gaze. When trouble comes, when the storms of life rage, where do you look for help and hope? The thing you look to reveals where you truly place your trust. Review back at the definition of faith in Hebrews 11: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).”
Faith is the “conviction of things not seen.” You have to keep looking even if you cannot see it! We receive assurance when we look in the right place. Where are you looking? Often, looking up is not our first inclination. Rather, we look DOWN. In other words, we look to ourselves for help. “I have faith in my own abilities.” Others don’t look down, they look OUT. Some of us do not trust ourselves for help—we place our faith in those around us. However, as many have experienced, our friends and our family fail us. They make lousy saviors. Where are you looking? Hebrews 11:1 teaches us not to look DOWN, or to look OUT, but to look UP! We need to look up to the OBJECT of our hope—God himself and our true savior Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ comes from a personal experience with him, which forces our eyes to look UP to find our help. Christian, this is a threat to our enemy.
Satan wants to get you looking in the wrong place for assurance, which will lead to doubt. Satan doesn’t want you to look UP. He wants you to look down and out. Satan wants you down and out. You will not find assurance, help and hope when you look to yourself or others—it is only found in Jesus Christ! Too many of us are looking in the wrong place for assurance. We are placing our faith in the wrong god. Where are you looking?