Over the past three months we have been exploring the vital subject of "faith." Few issues are more important for us to understand.
Faith is the key that opens the door to our spiritual victory and enables us to walk triumphantly with Jesus. Only true faith can overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. (1 John 5:4) To "overcome" means to be able to conquer our sin, our self, our circumstances and our trials through the power of faith. Overcoming faith simply means putting off anything "that is not of faith" and putting on Christ. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
The way God implements this kind of overcoming faith is by removing everything in our lives that hinders and prevents our trusting Him completely. Even if the world collapses around us, God wants us to still stay faithful and able to cry, "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You."
Overcoming faith enables us to maintain an abandonment to God even in times of suffering. Even though the earth should change, and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, overcomers know they are being held by God. Overcoming faith places its hope and its expectation in God and God alone. (Psalm 46:2)
An Example: EddieRickenbacker
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, is well known in military circles for his daring exploits as a World War I flying ace. What is not known about him is an incident in World War II that led to his public declaration of faith.
In October 1942 he was on a special mission for the Secretary of War. As he was leaving California in a B17 to deliver a secret message to General Douglas MacArthur, the plane's tire blew out. Repairs were made, but what no one knew is that the accident had disturbed the plane's sensitive navigational instruments. Unbeknownst to anyone, the "damaged" plane took off for the long trip to Canton Island where MacArthur was stationed. When they approached the place where the island was supposed to be, there was no island and no land, only miles and miles of blue ocean. The aircraft circled, trying to find where they were to land, but finally ran out of fuel and the plane crashed.
All eight men aboard the plane climbed into three small life rafts. They roped themselves together, but had no food or water. They survived for eight full days with nothing but a few oranges and Rickenbacker's copy of the New Testament.
Every morning and evening, he insisted upon reading a few chapters and praying. At first, many objected. But as the days went on and the hardships became intolerable, they asked him to pray and read more.
On the eighth day, Rickenbacker was dazed and near death, but he felt something land on his head. Instinctively, he knew it was a sea gull. Very slowly he reached up and grabbed it. That "gift from God" began the chain of survival that would otherwise have been impossible. God had heard their heartfelt prayers and had answered them.
They divided the bird among them, used its innards for bait to catch fish, and those men survived for 16 more days until they were rescued. Eddie Rickenbacker was convinced God had heard his spirit-led prayers and had kept him alive so that he could serve Him for the rest of his life.1
The Shield of Faith
Every morning I prayerfully put on the "whole" armor of God. (Ephesians 6) But over the last couple of years, I have come to especially appreciate the Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16) as one of the more important pieces of armor. I know that all the pieces are essential, but I have found a special benefit in taking up the Shield of Faith.
This is the piece of armor that prevents Satan's arrows from piercing my heart and life. Whenever I neglect to pick up and "put on" my Shield, I immediately sense the mounting attack of the enemy.
If we love Jesus, if we want more of Him, we will be attacked. Satan's game plan is to do everything in his power to undermine our faith so that we drop our shields, leaving ourselves wide open for his arrows. Thus, when we lose faith in God and His promises, we will experience the sharp thrust of the enemy's killing sword.
When we learn to make faith choices, however, and trust in God no matter what is happening all around us, we hold up that Shield of Faith and it protects our hearts. Faith choices are non-feeling choices that give God the freedom to work in our lives. The wonderful thing about faith choices is that God, in His perfect timing and His perfect way, will eventually align our feelings with what we have chosen to believe and make us genuine.
Just as David believed, "The Lord is my strength and my shield," we, too, must believe. (Psalm 28:7) Note something very important: Faith seems to have two parts: First, that portion of faith that God places in our hearts when we are first saved.
As Ephesians 2:8 asserts, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
The Shield of Faith, the second aspect of faith, is only activated by our own personal choice, moment by moment, to trust and believe. In other words, we literally raise our shield only by making faith choices or non-feeling choices to believe what God's Word says. (Proverbs 30:3)
Even though this Shield of Faith belongs to every single believer, many have gone off to battle having left their shields at home.
An Example: Onslaught of the Enemy
For a variety of reasons, my new book Faith in the Night Seasons has become more precious to me than all the others I have written. I have not only lived the material in this book for the past seven years, but my heart and soul are in it. Thus the enemy has constantly been roaring around (as you can imagine) looking for holes in which to attack me.
December 1998 came only a few months after our son Chip died. The hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, getting ready for company, preparing the house and all the food, and my own fluctuating emotions, made for leanness in my own private time with the Lord. That, plus my being emotionally very fragile, all made it a very dangerous time for me. I should have had my armor on tighter, especially my Shield of Faith.
Right in the middle of this busy and vulnerable time, something extremely devastating happened that caused me to stop making faith choices and sent me straight into the pits. Obviously, I dropped my Shield of Faith.
What had happened caused me to have great insecurity about my own writing ability. And, of course, that was just the "hole" the enemy was waiting for. Because my shield was down, he found a perfect entrance and began to whisper things like, "Who do you think you are to write such a book as this?" "You're no theologian or scholar." "You have no professional training, who do you think you are?"
Then, of course, my mind raced to all the other contemporary writers who could do a much better job of writing than I, etc., At one point, I literally became "afraid" to write anymore. It was obvious that I had dropped my Shield of Faith and Satan's arrows had gone right to my heart.
By the middle of Christmas I was truly "down in the dumps." One morning, as I was doing my daily devotionals and putting on the Armor of God, I began to recognize exactly what was happening. I had dropped my Shield of Faith because I had stopped believing in God's promises to me. Back in November of 1997, after seven years of waiting, God commissioned me to write the book. He not only told me to write it, He also told me that He would be with me and that He would teach me exactly what to say and how to say it. (Exodus 4:12)
I also remembered a Scripture that He had given me back then, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." (Isaiah 59:19)
Because I had been in such an emotional state, I hadn't recognized what was happening. The slide downward is always so very subtle. Once I began to make faith choices again, to give my insecurities and fears over to the Lord even though I surely did not feel like it, I immediately raised my Shield of Faith and the enemy's arrows were stopped. Not only were they stopped, but God was faithful to keep the enemy at bay for the rest of the holidays and to restore the joy of my salvation. And the best part of all was that He blessed the fruit of my writing with His Wisdom, His Love and His comforting presence.
Name of Jesus, Word of God and Blood of Christ
Although the Bible assures us that the battle belongs to the Lord, the battle is only won if we make faith choices and hold our shields high in place. (1 Samuel 17:47) This way is the only way we can deflect the blows of the enemy. God will fight our battles for us, but we must constantly make those faith choices to shield ourselves from the onslaughts of the enemy. (1 Peter 5:8)
A few other things we can do to shield ourselves are:
1)Humble ourselves and cast ourselves upon the Lord in complete trust. (Isaiah 37:1)
2)Pray constantly. (2 Kings 19:14-16)
3)Run to the Word of God because it's our only hope.
4)Use our weapons of warfare (the Name of Jesus, the Word of God and the Blood of Christ).
An Example: Tasmania
Speaking of our weapons of warfare, I once traveled alone to Tasmania, Australia for a speaking engagement. It turned out to be a wonderful and blessed time of ministry, and I think the enemy was infuriated.
On my way home to the United States, I had to spend one night in Sydney, Australia for an early morning plane change the next day. I was so exhausted when I got to the hotel that I forgot to pray and anoint my room with oil. (I often do so when I am alone and in a new and strange environment.)
In the middle of the night, I was abruptly awakened out of a deep sleep and sensed or saw in my mind a demon touching me on my shoulder. As I quickly turned over to see it face to face, I began to scream out the Name of Jesus over and over and over again, until it finally vanished. I leapt out of bed, anointed my room with oil, pleaded the blood of Christ over everything, read the Word and went back to sleep without further interruption.
I have used the Name of Jesus hundreds of times: when I am afraid; when I don't know what to say or how to pray; when I'm overwhelmed with sorrow or sadness, etc. So I know by experience that the Name of Jesus is a powerful weapon.
When that Name is mentioned, all principalities and powers are scattered and vanquished. The apostle Paul emphatically states in Philippians 2:10 that "...at the Name of Jesus, every knee [shall] bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." Thus, we can use His Name to repel an onslaught of the enemy.
What Does Faith Do?
What exactly is the "work of faith" that is spoken about in 2 Thessalonians 1:11? The work of faith that Paul is referring to here, I believe, is simply choosing, moment by moment, to believe upon, trust in and walk out the promises of God. (John 6:29)
An active faith is made up of a series of moment-by-moment choices. Only by the work of faith can we fully embrace God's promises, even though we may never see them fulfilled in our lifetime.
I know this statement declares a difficult truth, but look at the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah. Hebrews 11:13 tells us that all of these saints "died in faith, not having received [God's] promises but having seen them afar off." In other words, they fully embraced God's promises even though they couldn't see them yet. Such belief is our work of faith.
One of the lessons that God is teaching me in my own life is that His promises are true, but they will be fulfilled in His timing and in His way. My work of faith is simply to believe and trust in His faithfulness to do so. God is in charge of the means, the manner and the way in which those promises will be answered, and I am learning to accept this fact by faith. I am learning how to "hide" the promises that God gave me on that mountain top seven years ago in my heart just as Mary did in Luke 2:19. "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."
As I keep my eyes totally focused on the Lord, He will show me when I can bring those promises out and say, "This was foretold me by the Lord, and now it's come to pass." This focus is my "work of faith."
Faith lightens our path and leads us from the realm of the visible to the realm of the Spirit. Hope turns our attention forward to what we do not possess. And Love centers our affection on God, so that we can live the rest of our lives to His commands and to His will.
"Trust in Me"
Dan Marks wrote a song called "Trust in Me." Listen to the words:
Though it's hard for you to understand
All the mysteries in My plan
And why things work out the way they do
Why there are rooms we must go through
You must always keep one thing in mind
I am working all the time
To bring about My perfect will
So I am asking you to still...
Trust in Me whatever may come
It's My job to see you through
Trust in Me
Whatever may come your way
There are times to laugh and times to cry
But as hard as things seem to be
You must leave them here with Me
See, all things are at My command
So just reach out your hand
Trust in Me whatever may come
It's My job to see you through
Trust in Me
Whatever may come your way."
* * *
To be continued next month: "Faith in the Dark Night." This article has been excerpted from Chuck and Nancy's new book Faith in the Night Seasons.