Don’t Be An Elephant, Girl! Pick Up Your Shield!
“Why can’t I get over this?”
“What is wrong with me that I keep struggling with the same thing over and over again. Am I an idiot or something?!?!”
“This will never cease being a temptation in my life. I might as well just resign to the fact that I will always be this way.”
“God. WHY won’t you take this away from me!? Do you enjoy watching me struggle? I have asked you to help me; and yet, when temptation rears its ugly head, I fall into it every time. …what is wrong with me?”
Have you ever felt this way before? Thought about that sin in your life that is constantly derailing you from ever enjoying the Christian walk and asked those questions? If we’re honest with ourselves (And let’s just be honest…I mean, it’s the Internet…if you can’t be honest here where can you be!?!), every single one of us has asked one of those questions at some point. We’re faced with THAT SIN (you know the one), whether it’s the meanest tongue in town, a weakness for all things relational (flirting, boys, or emotional and physical purity), or maybe it’s deceit, and you lie so often you don’t even recognize the truth anymore.
“My flesh is weak.”
“Satan is just too crafty.”
“X made me do it.”
We get into a bind, sin won the battle again; we gave in and now live in defeat. The natural thing for us to do is start to justify our actions by playing the age-old blame game. Taking our cues from the first couple of sinners in Genesis 3: “It was the woman you gave me.” “It was the serpent” It was my flesh. I can’t help who I am.
And yet Scripture which provide us with all we need for life and godliness, also provides us with a perfect solution to our sin problem. The ultimate trump card, if you will: our faith! Sounds simplistic and too easy, I know. But hear me out! Ephesians 6:16 states it rather point-blankly: “In ALL circumstances, take up the shield of FAITH, with which YOU can extinguish ALL the flaming darts of the evil one.” (emphasis added) It’s in this passage where Paul lays out for the church what our spiritual armament should consist of: there’s the helmet of salvation (Can’t start with out that!), then there’s the breastplate of righteousness guarding our most valuable commodity to life: our heart. There’s the belt of truth that holds everything together and the feet of readiness which are prepared for action. There’s the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and right in the middle of it all Paul describes our most potent defense: the shield of Faith.
WHEN should you use the shield of faith?
When we break Eph. 6:16 down bit by bit, the first thing we notice is “when” Paul suggests we utilize the shield of faith: “in ALL circumstances.” First, this suggests consistency. When we are consistently using something, we are more apt to continue to use it in the future. This truth can be seen in many things: our cell phones, that route from home to work, the perfect recipe to deliver that wow-factor. When we are consistently using something, we are more apt to continue to use it in the future, and if we’re using our faith as our defense against Satan’s attacks, we’re more apt to continue to use it. On the flip-side, if our faith continually buckles under the temptation of sin, the more prone it is to go down the next time.
Second, this suggests habitual alertness and expectancy. Paul makes no bones about it: We are in a spiritual warfare. To be aware of this is to be alert, to be ready. To be unaware or unconcerned is to be ignorant of what the Word of Truth is telling you: You are at war! What would happen if a solider woke up tomorrow and decided he was going to live life like nothing major was happening and ignore all the bad guys with guns? What do you think would happen to him? What would happen to his fellow soldiers fighting along side of him? It sounds like a silly illustration, I mean…who in their right mind would do that? How could you ignore angry Taliban with machine guns?? And yet, how many of us live day by day with no recollection that we are at war? We have a very crafty and strategic enemy and he wants us dead and/or out of commission.
HOW do you use the shield of faith?
How are we to handle the flaming darts of the evil one? In Luke 22:32, Peter was on the brink of denying Christ, and Christ knew it. He knew Peter would be faced with the temptation of fearing man and He wanted Peter to succeed. He didn’t tell him how to kick Satan where it hurt or to avoid the situation all together. Christ simply addressed the one area that helps us fight the flaming darts of the evil one, and said to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your FAITH may not fail.”
What is it about our faith that intimidates Satan so? I mean, Paul said that our faith extinguishes ALLthe darts of the evil one. That’s 100% of them. Not most, not a lot. ALL. Why? Is it because something inside of us is a formidable force with which to be reckoned? Is it because we’re stronger and more powerful than Satan? No, it’s because the source of our faith and the focus of our faith scares him. It’s because at the moment of salvation, God stripped Satan of all the power he could ever have over you, and then had a little victory dance parade through Christ. (Col 2:15) Honest! That’s what it says. It’s because “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) Christ HAS overcome him; Satan HAS BEEN stripped of all power over you – past tense, done.
How can the shield of faith help us see victory over sin?
1. Don’t exchange the truth of God for the promise of a lie. God’s Word has pages and pages, chapter after chapter, verse after verse, telling us how to live life victoriously for Christ, but so often, we take that truth and swap it for the promises of a lie. The lie says, “You can’t help who you are, and if you do it again, you’ll be happy.” But it’s a LIE. Truth says, “Happy is the person who trusts in You, Lord” (Ps. 84:12). The lie promises, “One more time won’t hurt anyone. Sin now, confess later and everyone is happy!” That’s a LIE. Truth says, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Ro. 6:1, 15). Truth also says, “For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” (2 Pt. 2:20). Instead of exchanging the truth for a lie, we must combat the lies with the Truth!
2. Know God because He’s the source and focus of an omnipotent faith. When I say know GodI don’t just mean in the educational sense of the word, like you have a knowledge of Him, who He is, His character. I mean, experientially know God! A child doesn’t completely know the oven is hot until she experiences the heat. Sure, she might understand that mom says the oven is hot, and she might see others avoid the oven when it is red, but until she actually experiences the pain from burning herself, she hasn’t fully understood just how very hot that oven can be. God is similar to this. Sure, you may know God; you may have a nominal relationship with Him, say your prayers at night, go to church, try to be as good as you can. But your faith is only as strong as your relationship with God, and if you barely know Him, faith IN Him will be a challenge. Get to know God by spending time in His Word. It isn’t your faith in CHURCH which intimidates Satan or thwarts his fiery arrows; it isn’t your faith in religion or religious activities which overcomes him; it’s faith in GOD which literally scares him to Hell. Know your God; Grow your faith! It’s that simple.
3. Don’t be an elephant! Forget what is behind and reach for what is ahead. Did you know that elephants are pretty brilliant animals? They never forget things making them highly trainable circus performers. Have you ever wondered why an elephant, as large and powerful as they are never run away from their master? They never leave, even though they’re not chained to anything or bound to anything. When they start to train an elephant, they always begin when they’re a baby, small…well…smaller. I mean, it’s still an elephant. When they’re in this small and weakened state of infancy, the baby elephants are chained by large heavy ring around their leg. They feel the weight of that chain and know that when they tug on it nothing happens; no freedom is found. They are still a captive. As the elephant grows, the heavy ring remains on their foot, however, the chain which held them captive is removed; they are free but don’t know it. They can’t forget that once they tried to break free and it didn’t work, so they must still be a prisoner, afterall, they still feel the weight of the ring but they are free….free to leave. But they can never forget their former bondage.
When Paul talks about his desire to know Christ there’s one important roadblock he addresses: “Forgetting what is behind and reaching for what is ahead, I press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Paul knew that our memory, our past can be our greatest downfall. He had one. He understood. And Paul knew if he really wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…he had to forget. As Christians, we so often think that we’re still living life with that big heavy ring on our foot, like we’re still carrying our load of sin, like we’re still a slave to it. But we’re not. If we’re saved, we aren’t just saved from Hell…we’re saved from a life enslaved to sin here on earth – we’re saved to walk in newness of life. “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:2-4)
So, the next time temptation comes around, remember: Don’t be an elephant, girl! Take up your shield and fight. Fight to the death!