Bible Reading: Hebrews 6:10-18; Matthew 16:13-19
If you’re an ’80s or ’90s kid, you’ll be familiar with the game called “Cops and Robbers” (a.k.a Police and Thief). Many versions of this game exist in my memory since we so often had to be innovative and improvise. For the millennials reading this, it’s a game in which kids form two teams; one as cops and the other as robbers. The game proceeds with the police always on the chase and the thieves always on the run – until one of the teams wins according to the pre-set rules. It’s funny how I used to think being a thief was cool in those days. You probably did too.
I think many Christians have a kind of “Police and Thief” mindset when it comes to the spiritual warfare we are engaged in. Many think that we are always on the defensive, being chased around or attacked by the devil and his allies. This kind of mindset can do two things to us:
First, we can begin to see ourselves as victims, always on the run from the devil’s onslaught and live afraid. This is a big lie meant to make us cave-in and stay timid.
Second, we can also become passive to the war, maintaining a deceptively neutral stance if it appears as if nothing is touching us personally. The danger with this is that we can become vulnerable to sneak attacks (which is one of the enemy’s go-to strategies) or become dull to the battle raging all around us.
Both of these scenarios make us ineffective in truly influencing the battle and enforcing the victory Christ has already won. Contrary to that mindset, Matthew 16:18 says “the gates of hell will not overcome” the Church Jesus is building. There are times when we have to defend against the things that come out of hell’s gates. However, I think our primary posture should be one of attacking the gates of hell in order to “destroy the works of the enemy” (1 John 3:8b). When you talk to that friend about Jesus, or intercede for that family in trouble or help that neighbour out of a spiritual or moral rut, you are taking the battle to the enemy’s territory and destroying his work.
When we put the devil on the run, he tends to fight back in order to get us off his back but God has equipped us well for any and every battle situation that may arise. I love the way the Bible introduces the piece of the armour of God we’ll be looking at today.
” In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Without neglecting the Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness and what we call the ‘Boots’ of the Gospel, we pick up the Shield of faith (faith also means conviction, persuasion). When the evil one fires arrows at us that are meant to wound us and set our lives on fire, we have a sturdy defence in the shield of faith.
In Sycamore Church’s School of Discipleship, we learn that faith is our response to God’s outstretched arm towards us. You can look at faith as the conviction that our new lives and new identity is found and rooted in the provisions of God the Father, the finished works of Christ Jesus the Son, and the current and present help of the Holy Spirit. The stronger that conviction, the stronger our faith.
So when the evil one attacks our health, finances, academics, career, marriage or community, we are convinced that these things are God’s provision and that He’s committed to protecting and blessing what He has given us. When he attacks our identity, sense of worth, sense of fulfilment and purpose, clear conscience, hopeful expectation, joy, peace of mind or vision, we are convinced of what Jesus has done for us through His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, and who we’ve become as a result. When the attack is on our character, ability, passion, drive, clarity, sense of direction, way of life, areas of weakness or our growth in God, we are convinced of the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit that is our overwhelming advantage.
This conviction/persuasion births in us corresponding action. We believe and therefore speak or act accordingly. The principle is the same whether we are putting up a defence or advancing against hell’s gate. It applies to us as individuals or as groups of believers doing life together. How do we acquire this conviction and what informs our corresponding action? How do we obtain the shield of faith?
The answer is simple.
So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ. – Romans 10:17
Our faith (conviction/persuasion) comes, and is strengthened, as we read/hear, believe, internalise (meditate upon – Joshua 1:8) and act upon God’s word with the help of the Holy Spirit. We must constantly engage God’s word as if our lives depend on it, because our lives depend on it. Read and study the scripture daily, engage the word of God in the same (or more intense) manner as you engage your daily meals.
The greater your investment in this regard, the more you set up yourself for a faith-filled life.
And you would find it a worthy investment!
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. – 1 John 5:4
Mr Seun Akappo
Mr Akappo serves as a Volunteer Leader at Sycamore.