Written By: R.A. Goodnight
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:16
A BATTLE WITH FAITH
By the time I was twenty-one, I strayed to a path that led me far from God. I couldn’t tell you how long it had been since I had been to a church, read the bible or said a prayer. I was addicted to multiple drugs and had a heavy smoking habit. I had no job, no way to feed myself, and no way to pay for next month’s rent. To make matters worse, at the end of the previous month, my roommate told me he was moving in with his girlfriend. I would have to figure out how to pay for the apartment on my own. As it got closer to the end of the month, I knew I was going to be evicted. Negativity and darkness grew in my mind. The depression, intensified by withdrawals, was so severe that I would run a razor blade across my body believing it kept my mind focused. I carry those scars on my arm to this day.
This path wasn’t what I wanted. It never was. I kept asking myself how I had become so bad and so lost. But there was nothing in my power I felt I could do about it. It became frightening, as I did not know how to fight what was happening in my mind. I felt alone and helpless.
One afternoon that mental battle reached an apex. I told myself I strayed too far and there was no way back. There would be no forgiveness, because I knew better, yet chose to do bad things. I began to tell myself there was no help, that I had been forgotten. I started to give in to the idea that there was no reason to fight as I would not be able to change. But amid the mental chaos and darkness, there was another thought that echoed in my mind.
“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him.”
I couldn’t remember exactly why I knew that. But it had that ring of truth and provided a calming effect on my mind. It made me ask myself – if He wouldn’t forget the works I had once done, then how could He forget me? Even though I had turned from Him, I wanted to believe that He was still there. After all those years and a mountain of sin on my shoulders, I had retained a grain of faith. Though small, it was powerful enough to defend me against the attack my mind was under.
With my feeble faith, I fell to my knees in the middle of an empty apartment. Through tears I said my first prayer in years. I apologized for what I had done and admitted that I needed help. If it was true that I was not forgotten, I begged Him to please send someone to help me. No sooner than the word ‘amen’ left my lips, there was a knock on my front door…
I would rank faith as the most important piece of our armor next to our swords. Understanding what faith is and its importance in our relationship with God will help us understand how it can be used as a shield.
Let’s start with the question – what is faith? Faith has been defined by many as belief, or confidence. It is the conviction that what we say we believe in is true and real. To illustrate, you turn on your TV and see a weatherman reporting on a hurricane approaching. He is describing the incoming storm as a category 4 and that you should expect heavy rains and strong winds. He is warning everyone to get out of the path of this storm while time remains. You step outside and look to the horizon, but you cannot see any storm. Does this mean that the hurricane is not really coming? On the contrary, you have confidence the hurricane is approaching because of what the weather report said. Similarly, Paul said this when speaking about faith, “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1). It is through our faith that we believe in God. As our faith grows, we then come to believe truths about God. We can have confidence in such truths as:
- He loves us – 1 John 4:16
- We are individually important to Him – Matt. 10:29-31
- He will never leave us or forsake us – Duet. 31:6
- That He wants us to succeed – Jer. 29:11
Armed with confidence, we can use those truths to defend against lies, fear or worry that my come into our lives – the “flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Another common arrow is doubt, the opposite of faith. The writer James warns us that “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). Without faith we run the risk of being tossed about by believing anything or being paralyzed by fear. This will cause us to doubt ourselves and even God himself.
There is an event in the Bible that helps us see firsthand what doubt and fear can do to the strongest of Christ’s followers. In Matthew 14, we read the familiar scriptures of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk across the water to Jesus. Peter became afraid, taking his eyes off of Jesus, and began to sink. Jesus asked him one simple question, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Peter’s lack of faith allowed fear to come in. Fear lead to doubt which led to trouble.
Because of the danger doubt can pose to a Christian, Paul admonishes us to “throw off…the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1). The sin he speaks of is a lack of faith which leads to the introduction of doubt. It can be one of the most fatal conditions for a Christian to experience. Our faith is what reassures us and convinces us to keep moving and to keep fighting, regardless of what our enemy may say about us. It shields us against doubt, fear and worry.
FAITH – ITS IMPORTANCE
This leads well into our next question – how important is faith? Faith acts as a great motivator in our lives. Once we come to believe something, that belief should result in an action. Let’s use the example of the hurricane from earlier. Our confidence that the hurricane is coming causes us to act – to pack up our family and to get out of the way of the storm. If we don’t believe the hurricane is coming, why act? Applying this to our lives, God is a God of action. He expects his people to be people of action (Matt. 25:14-30). It will be impossible for us to be active in God if we do not first have faith in God and who He is. This would include the spiritual defense of our families and ourselves. How important and powerful this makes even the smallest of faiths (Luke 17:6).
Paul helps us understand the connection between faith and action in Hebrews 11. He mentions many examples:
- Abel sacrificed
- Noah preached
- Abraham went
- Sarah gave birth
Abel’s faith made his sacrifice acceptable to God. Noah spent many years building the ark. Do you think doubt ever entered his mind? Perhaps, but his faith overcame his doubt. Sarah thought she was too old to give birth to a son, but her faith gave her confidence until she realized the promise. It convinced her that what God promised was true. It was their faith that led to their actions.
Accordingly, Paul states in the same chapter, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). We must have faith in order to stand firm and to do in God. Our faith is what keeps us strong, secure and ready for action.
FAITH – A FAMILY AFFAIR
Our individual faith as men, as husbands and as fathers is essential. Seeing how effective the faith of a single individual can be, imagine the defense we can muster if our entire family was a faith filled army.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he likely had in mind the armor that a Roman foot soldier would employ. A shield was a mainstay of that armor. Roman soldiers were proficient in the use of their shields, both individually and as a group. When their enemy would start firing arrows at them, the soldiers would close ranks and join their shields together. The soldiers on the outside of the formation would form walls with their shields. The soldiers in the middle of the formation would raise their shields above their heads to protect the rest against airborne attacks. This formation (called the testudo formation) was formidable and difficult to defeat.
Similarly, the combined faith of all members of our family can be difficult to penetrate. As family heads, part of our responsibility is to help our families grow in their faith of God. How can we help our families grow in their faith? Some common ways would be:
Pray together as a family. As you pray as a family, you will experience God answering your prayers together and your family’s trust and confidence in God will grow. Trust replaces doubt.
Have a family study schedule together. It doesn’t have to be a formal reading of bible verses. Make it fun. Play a Bible-based game that teaches them events in the Bible or tell them stories. Let them see how other people’s faith kept them strong. Tailor your study habits to your children’s age and interests.
Do not give up the habit of meeting together with our extended family. Regular attendance at worship is important to keep our faith strong. Remember, others faith can act as a protection for us as well.
…when I opened the door, a man was standing there. He was involved in a door to door ministry in the apartment complex, bringing the good news to people in the community. Interestingly, the man that was standing there knew me. We had not seen each other or spoken for several years. But he knew who I was. He knew where I came from. He knew the works that I had once done in God.
I believe that seeing a familiar face, having a friend stand beside me, was part of God’s plan to help me. It strengthened me for the battles that had not yet begun – to overcome addiction and rebuild my life. This person’s knowledge of my past allowed him to help me break free from my present and step into my future.
All of this began with a small amount of faith. That faith helped battle thoughts. That battle resulted in a prayer. That prayer, offered through faith, changed the direction of my life.
Take up your shields men! Do not doubt or fear. Strike with your swords and defend with your faith. †
What battles has your shield of faith or your swords of the spirit helped you fight? I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories.