In our lives we will always be confronted with a situation that will challenge our faith and belief in God and His promises. When that happens, a doubt will always rise up to oppose our faith. It’s then that we’ll have a choice … will I believe my doubts or will I believe God and His promises. Can I tell you that nothing pleases God more than our belief in Him. May we be a people caught in the act of believing God. May we be accused of being a people just naive enough to believe that God can do anything … that He can rise up to any challenge … that He can comfort any hurt … that He can meet any need … that He can bring peace to any heart … that no matter the circumstance, the situation, the obstacle … may our faith be anchored in a God who still likes to show off His power. There are far too many people today telling God what He can’t do. Let’s not be counted among them.
I’ve been writing about the armor of God over the past 2 weeks. This post will talk about the “shield of faith.” The ESV translates Ephesians 6:16 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith.” Why? Because there is always going to be a flaming arrow from the enemy trying to sneak it’s way in and set our lives on fire. (Moore) Now, something to remember about faith … we don’t put faith in our faith. We put faith in our God. Because even a little bit of faith in an unstoppable God can move mountains. So, don’t make the mistake of putting faith in your faith. Put your faith in God.
I know for me, there is no shortage of attacks on my trust in God. And, I think this is true for all of us … whether you are a follower of Jesus or not. We live in a broken world and in this broken world, there is always a circumstance looking to shake my faith. A circumstance or a situation that requires faith will always be opposed by a feeling other than faith. There will always be something, a doubt or a fear, that tries to make God appear smaller than He really is or less capable than He is or not who He is. Always. I guarantee it. And, when that happens, I am always faced with a choice, and what I choose to believe will make all the difference in the world.
I think one of the greatest examples of this found in the Bible is the Old Testament story of Joshua. Here is part of his story:
“After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, ‘Moses my serve is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am given them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you – from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’” (Joshua 1:1 – 9)
Moses was a leader for the nation of Israel for 40 years. He’s one of the greatest leaders of people who has ever lived. And, for 40 years Joshua was at his side. For 40 years this guy Joshua had been groomed to take over for Moses. He was always with Moses. He was always watching, always learning, always being given greater and greater responsibilities. And, now the time had finally come for him to step up and make something happen. Everything that had happened in his life had brought him to this place … every failure and every success … every win and every loss … every victory and every defeat had forged in him and refined in him and developed in him a passion to lead the people God had entrusted to him. All of his training brought him to this moment. But, remember … Joshua was a human as you and I. Imagine being in his position … following one of the greatest leaders ever … In charge of millions of people … heading out not just to take possession of a land, but to take it by force. He had a lot of battles ahead of him. And, I’m speculating a bit, but I’m pretty sure he was feeling what any of us would feel stepping in to a situation like that. He probably felt small compared to the task ahead of him. He probably felt a little sorry he had volunteered. He probably felt inadequate and unsure of himself. Every insecurity he ever had … every voice of fear he ever listened too was probably screaming at him: Who am I to do this? Am I qualified? What if I screw it up? Again, any situation that requires faith will always be confronted with a feeling other than faith. And, so with those voices and feelings screaming at Joshua, God comes to him and says, “Joshua, no one will be able to stand against you because “I will be with you.”
What I love about this story is that God never says to Joshua that he can do it because of his abilities … he can do it because he’s such a great person … he can do it because he’s such a good leader … he can do it because of his personality or because he makes a lot of money or because he has a degree in this or that. God never says anything of the sort. God says to Joshua, “You can do this because I will be with you.” And, in that context, God then says this … “Be strong and courageous for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous … do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Courage, for the follower of Jesus, doesn’t come because we believe in ourselves. Courage for the follower of Jesus doesn’t come because we believe in our abilities. Courage for the follower of Jesus comes because we believe in our God!
Joshua’s faith was not in His faith. His faith was not in his sword. His faith was not in his abilities. His faith was in His God. And, because of His faith in God, he was willing to go in to the battle and face the flaming darts because His faith was in a God bigger than any arrow coming his way.
Many times we don’t want to arrows. We want God to remove all the obstacles to our faith in Him. Make it easy, God. Make it easy for me to believe. Take away the obstacles and the temptations and the doubts … all the flaming arrows. Take them away. But, what pleases God the most is to see you placing your faith in Him when everything in your life is screaming out to believe something else! (Moore) God did not give us a spirit of fear, but don’t mistake that for never being afraid. Hard things do happen. Scary things do happen. Don’t mistake a Spirit-filled life for a carefree life.
I heard Beth Moore share this story and I thought it was incredibly appropriate for this post. After the siege of Dyrachium, there was a Roman commander named Sceva and after this huge battle, he wanted to help Julius Caesar see what great courage the men of the army had shown as they went in to battle for him. So, they did this: they took their shields and pulled out all of the arrows or arrows heads that their shields had stopped. The story goes on to say that Sceva alone counted no less than 220 darts sticking into his shield. And so what they did is they pulled out all of the arrows from the shields and they laid them in front of Caesar as a sign of saying, “We will follow you in to battle anywhere.” Caesar was so overwhelmed by this display of loyalty, that he rewarded his commanders with a double portion of pay and gave them all promotions in the army.
Having a shield of faith with no arrows in it is not the point. The point is that we do! (Moore) That means we're in the battle, taking the hits, getting involved, and raising our shield of faith because we are trusting in our God. One day we will get to lay those arrows at His feet and say "I will follow You anywhere" and He will be pleased because of our faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6). We can take the hit and stay in the battle because we put our faith in our God. Hold up your shield and trust Him. Faith is not just something we believe, but Someone we believe in. Our faith in Him impacts what we do and how we live. You can step in to the battle because God is with you … God is able … God is for you … He is on your side.