(The following is an excerpt from the message that was preached on December 27, 2020.)
Text: Ephesians 6:16
If you’ve been watching the news, you probably know that the coronavirus is not going away, and that in many places such as Japan, Europe and the UK, the virus is spreading more than it has before. Every day it seems that new record numbers are being reported.
There are many people in the media, politicians and reporters, who have been using the language of warfare. “We’re in a battle against this virus. We are fighting to stop it spreading. We are doing all that we can to protect ourselves from this attack.”
And then we’re told that our protection, and our defense against the pandemic, is face masks, hand soap, social distancing, opening windows, and so on.
Because of these things, our daily life has changed dramatically compared to 12 months ago. Our world has changed. Many people are saying that this is the ‘new normal’. This daily struggle against the virus is new, and from now on it will be normal for us.
However, even though the coronavirus may be new, being a state of battle is not new for Christians. In fact, it is the normal experience of everyone who is following Christ.
In a spiritual sense, we’ve been in a constant battle since the day we decided to follow Jesus. When a person decides to trust Jesus and follow the Lord, it’s not the end of the battle. In some ways, it’s only the beginning. We are in a constant daily battle. There is no doubt about that. The question is: do we realize it? It’s possible to be in a battle and not know it. Do we realize that we are in a battle, and are we taking steps to protect ourselves against the enemy?
Just as the coronavirus is real, so too is the Christian’s enemy. The coronavirus actually exists – you can put it under a microscope, look at it, and study it. And our enemy is real. You remember how Jesus was led into the wilderness and he was tempted. Well, it wasn’t just some vague feeling or some of his own thoughts that were tempting him. It was the devil. It was an actual, real spiritual being who was right next to him and was speaking to him. The devil.
He’s mentioned right here in Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
There is a devil. And he is at war with you and I. And that is why God has given us armor, his own armor, to protect us and keep us safe.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Today, we’re going to look at the shield of faith in verse 16.
Now, in Roman times, there were at least two kinds of shields. This type is called a Parma shield. It was quite small and didn’t protect the soldier so much. However, the word Paul uses does not refer to this type of shield. Rather, he refers to this shield, which the Romans called a Scutum.
It was a much larger shield, about 1.2 meters by 75 centimeters. People in these times where much smaller than they are today, so this would have protected their entire bodies. The shield had two layers of wood, glued together, and it was covered with linen and then leather. It was also edged with iron above and below. The reason it was bound in leather was so that it wouldn’t catch on fire. You see, the enemy would often get arrows dipped in pitch, and they would set the arrows on fire and shoot them. So, the arrows would pierce whatever they hit, stick there, and then set it on fire.
When the shield was covered in leather and edged in iron, the fire had no effect. Taking up a shield of faith means having faith in God. Believing and trusting in God. And so, when you feel under attack, you can say, “Right now, my faith is weak. I have doubts. Is everything really going to work out OK? I feel so stressed and I feel so weak, and it’s so hard for me to believe that God will look after me right now.
“But that’s OK. Because even though my faith is weak, God is strong. God’s love and protection does not depend on my faith. It does not depend on how strong I believe. Instead, it depends on God’s promises. God, who said that never will he leave me, never will he forsake me. God, who said that he will always be with me, and that he will work out everything for my good. So even if my faith is shaking and my emotional state is unstable, God is a rock. And he is my shield.”
A flaming arrow that comes out of nowhere. These thoughts often just hit you when you’re not expecting it. Many Christians think that these thoughts come from their own mind. “Oh man, I am such a terrible sinful person. I can’t believe I thought that.” But that is not true. It is your own sinful mind that listens to the temptation, and decides to just take that money which someone left on a desk. But the temptation itself, the actual original thought, is a flaming arrow from the evil one. It didn’t originate inside you. Just like when Jesus was in the wilderness, the thought to turn stones into bread just didn't suddenly come to him from nowhere. It was spoken by the evil one.
The new year, 2021, is just about to start. Right now, and the beginning of the new year, let’s make a commitment to take up the shield of faith all year. As we said, it’s all about believing and trusting in God. But you can’t believe in or trust someone whom you don’t know.
The more you know someone, the deeper knowledge you have of a person, the more faith you will have in them. There is nothing more important than knowing God more.
Pastor Michael is always keen to for us to make New Year resolutions. You may have a list of things you want to do, or goals you want to achieve, during next year. At the very top of that list, your highest priority of things to do next year and actually for the rest of your life, should be to know God more.
Know Him more, strengthen your faith, and be strong in his mighty power.