“Withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:16).
The Christian life is from beginning to end a life of faith. If a Christian loses faith he becomes as weak as a straw. Unsolved problems make life as dark as night. All the experiences that we have had with God avail us nothing when faith is gone. The foot is too weak to take a single step on the road of life. When faith is gone we discard the girdle of truth, lose the breastplate of righteousness, and the gospel of peace gives us no power.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Our faith is the victory that overcometh the world.
If we would hold fast to the invisible as though we saw it, we should have power no matter how weak we are; we should have courage no matter how fearful we become. Then we should walk with firm steps along life’s way.
* * *
The purpose of faith is not only to help us to cleave to the invisible; it permits us to experience God’s power. Abraham believed God’s promise, and a son was born to him. David dared to go into battle against Goliath because he believed in the God who had helped him before; he returned victorious.
If our confidence in the Word of God brought no fruit, faith would soon perish, and the Christian would have to withdraw from the battle. But the Kingdom of God is not like that. We are brought into it through the power of God, and we retire from the battle with victory. That gives us new courage to take another step forward. He who helped us in a previous difficulty will not desert us now. Experience strengthens faith.
‘Tis high and holy things I see When I have faith in Him. In sadness I can joyful be, My light grows never dim. God is my God! And heaven’s land I hold by faith within my hand, For Jesus lives in me.
Faith not only supports us when enemies arise; it opens for us the vistas of invisible values, and shows us that all of these are ours. This often happens to us when we are most helpless. So great is faith.
* * *
Satan is ill at ease when he sees this. He tries his level best to deprive the Christian of his shield. Therefore it becomes necessary for us not only to fight in faith, but to fight for our faith. Satan uses deceit to destroy the Christian’s faith. He does not come with a sword, but with flattering words. He makes the old question, “Has God really said?” sound so new and reasonable. Before we know it we are in the midst of doubt.
Are you certain that you have been rightly converted? Is your faith of the right kind? Just suppose that you are deceiving yourself! Perhaps it is best for you to give up your profession of faith now; you will never reach heaven anyway.
Thus Satan reasons when he wants to rob us of our faith.
He may also try this approach: Are you sure that you can depend on God’s Word? Did Jesus really rise? Is there anything to eternal life? Has anyone ever returned to tell us anything about the existence beyond the grave?
He loses his faith who at such times gives free reins to his reason and tries to find logical proofs. But he who is wise enough to bring also these questions to the Savior is privileged to see “greater things” and have his faith strengthened. So declares the Word of God, and so say those who in the day of trouble have sought refuge in His pavilion.
When our foes are near us, Then Thy word doth cheer us; Word of consolation, Message of salvation. When the storms are o’er us, And dark clouds before us, Then its light directeth And our way protecteth.
There is a great danger that we who are Christians are not as wide awake as we should be on this point. Our faith shrinks little by little without our knowing it. Jesus has told us that as the day of the Lord approaches faith will diminish on earth. “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke i8:8). It is our comfort at such times that
If my hand the hand Of Christ will ne’er release, I shall not sink in sand Or drown in stormy seas.
In reality it is not such a bad sign that we have to meet and struggle against doubt. He who loves the truth must seek certainty with regard to the genuineness of his faith. But he must seek the answer in the right place. There are many people who are never bothered by doubt. Everything is for them so self-evidently true. And with this undisturbed faith they sleep the sleep of death in the lap of Satan. The reason the devil does not disturb them is that they build their life upon faith rather than on Christ. But when they are to appear before God on judgment day with this home-made faith, they shall have to depart from God. Even though they knock on the door of heaven they will hear, “I know you not.”
When the hymn-writer, Brorson, sings of the Christian’s shield he emphasizes that to carry the shield is the same as to have Jesus. Thus he gives even the weakest Christian the greatest hope of victory. He says:
Up then, be clothed In God’s full armor right; Come thou,— though feeble — God’s Son for you will fight. Learn thou to carry The shield of faith; be bold! This is to harbor The Savior in one’s soul. Who then can harm us? We are within His fold.
While all this is true, we must not forget that it is faith itself which is the shield; the Scriptures literally declare so. We also know from our own experience that when the enemy shoots poisoned arrows into the soul, it is the inner confidence in God’s grace that supports and saves us. When faith is gone, we are defenseless; we become the easiest target for the hosts of Satan.
Such lack of faith halted the Israelites on their road to Canaan. At Kadesh-Barnea they had to turn around; they made no further progress for forty years.
If we examine our past we shall discover many a defeat in our Canaan-pilgrimage. We did not trust Him who promised us victory if we but confidently entered the battle. When we should have advanced with courage, we were stopped in our tracks for lack of faith. The enemies appeared larger to us than God’s promise.
“It is written,” was Christ’s weapon against Satan, and the latter had to depart. If we would enter our battles with the same weapon, we should be victorious more often than we are.
When Paul admonishes Timothy to keep himself from evil, he encourages him to follow after that which is good. This includes faith. If we could learn this secret, we should be more courageous warriors for Jesus Christ than we are.