Daily living by faith on Christ is what makes the difference between the sickly and the healthy Christian, between the defeated and the victorious saint. –A.W. Pink, pastor and author
Joseph is a fruitful bough,
a fruitful bough by a spring;
his branches run over the wall.
The archers bitterly attacked him,
shot at him, and harassed him severely,
yet his bow remained unmoved;
his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob.
Genesis 49:22-24 (ESV)
When we were kids, my cousin Michael and I loved to watch mid-winter Saturday afternoon television flicks. Some were westerns, some monster movies, some science fiction. All involved action, pitting the forces of good against evil in a fight to the death. We learned that in the days of old, long before guns arrived on the scene, the bow and arrow was often the weapon of choice. An excellent archer, such as Robin Hood, could silently take down an enemy in the twitch of a cat’s whisker.
The bow and arrow was used during Biblical times, but the Scriptures also speak of arrows in a figurative sense. Jacob, for example, told how Joseph was severely harassed by archers even though we have no record of this literally happening. Regardless of our personal perspectives on spiritual warfare, there is an evil archer (we call him Satan) and one of his favorite weapons is a flaming arrow intended to strike at the very heart of Christian vitality (see Ephesians 6:10-17). When the forces of evil ambush us—often from the shadows—our primary source of protection is our own personal “shield of faith” that God gives us the wisdom and strength to employ.
I continually return to the subject of faith because, as a general rule, the Western church tends to live more in the realm of wishful thinking than genuine belief. We’ve had it fairly easy for a long time and aren’t dealing especially well with the hardships now coming upon us. How we perceive God at work—or not at work—in the midst of our circumstances can make all of the difference. Those who seek to participate in the advance of God’s coming kingdom cannot do so without living by faith.
There was a time during my senior year of college when I found myself struggling with a wave of anxiety regarding my future. I remember feeling that I had a choice in how I handled the weight of my concerns, but my natural tendency was to fear, and so fear I did. One evening, as I worried my way along a cold, dark street, one of Satan’s flaming arrows flew out of the shadows and hit me squarely in the chest, initiating an unpleasant illness that lasted for several days. Even though flaming arrows and shields of faith are invisible to the naked eye, that experience—and many others since—taught me that things described figuratively in the Bible, it need not be imaginary. Spiritual warfare is an unfortunate reality.
The Curse of Unbelief
Christians in the Western world are under siege, and it is not just by atheists or political rivals. The real problem lies in the seeds of unbelief that we have allowed to sprout and take root in our hearts. When our enemies fire at us with their flaming arrows—as enemies are known to do—we find ourselves susceptible, too often trying to block violent spiritual attacks with nothing more than Fragile Shields of Wishful Thinking.
Why are we so easily angered? Why do we allow fear, cynicism, and bitterness to take root in our hearts? Why, when in the midst of a wilderness experience, do we constantly fall prey to discouragement? We lose heart and become depressed as a result of our reaction to circumstances that are not what we want (or think they should be). We hold onto an idealized form of reality, while growing increasingly negative in our view of life. The cumulative effect can be a wilderness of our own creation.
Living by Faith
No matter what our age, or the extent of our Christian experience, we cannot flourish by merely having, or possessing, faith. We must live by faith.
Christianity is a full-time faith-walk—not a comfort-walk, not a security-walk, not a spectator-walk—but a faith-walk. Until we come to grips with this reality—that every facet of life must be processed through the eye of faith—we not only will be discouraged by feeling abandoned in the wilderness; we also will remain susceptible to Satan’s weapon of choice.
It’s sometimes necessary to slow the pace of life to prayerfully reflect on issues that may be bothering us. Concern for a loved one, a seemingly unanswered prayer, frustration with our government, or the fear of moving in a new direction in life can all be things that weigh on us over the course of time. We begin to feel burdened without really knowing why. But, as we take the time to pray and reflect, we can better identify specific issues, surrender them to God, and deliberately exercise faith. The burdens will begin to lift and we will find the strength that we need to raise our protective shields.
Our enemies never hesitate to exploit any weakness on our part. If we hope to extinguish evil arrows burning with the fires of fear, worry, and doubt, then we need to have our shields of faith in fighting shape—and in use.
This post is drawn from Chapter Eighteen of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers.
Photo by wintersixfour – Morguefile