AGCC Sun. a.m. 7/18/99
"FAITH UP TO REALITY!"
TEXT: Eph. 6:16; Matt. 14:22-33
INTRO: The Roman soldier had good armor to cover most parts of his body, but it was impractical to cover literally every area such as eyes, arms, elbows, lower legs, etc. To cover everything would mean a man couldn't move!! This was not desirable on the battlefield. So, what was the solution to those areas left uncovered? A LARGE SHIELD! The kind of shield Paul mentions here was not the small hand held type, it was a huge shield that was large enough to literally cover the entire body of the soldier. It was covered with leather that had been soaked in water so that the fiery darts of the enemy would become stuck on the shield and burn out without any damage to the soldier or shield. The shield meant flexibility to cover any exposed area of the body that could not practically be covered in heavy armor.
Like modern warfare, every time sophisticated defensive equipment was invented the enemy found a way to defeat it. Since regular arrows would simply bounce off the heavy armor of a well dressed Roman soldier the enemy had learned a new trick, shoot arrows with a hollow shaft that was filled with a flammable fluid and the tip lit on fire at the soldier and when the arrow struck the metal armor it would shatter releasing the flammable fluid which then could trickle down through the seams of the armor and be lit from the flaming tip of the arrow on contact thus burning alive the soldier. The only recourse for protection was a full length shield that was flexible enough to move around and large enough to completely cover. It is this item that Paul likens to FAITH.
Faith becomes the flexible item for spiritual warfare, always flexible enough to cover anything that comes our way, and larger than life to completely protect us from any flaming dart of Satan's!
Faith allows us to tap the unseen resources of God's power to defeat the enemy. As a spiritual piece of equipment it gives us the confidence TO STAND in battle!
ILLUS: I remember a time when I was waiting for soon to become now. I went down in Oconomowoc to a little lake where we live, and I sat there very early in the morning praying, pleading with God that my soon would become now. "God, I cannot see you working. What about all these prayers that people are praying? This is a terrible situation. What are you doing about it?" God said to me, "Any fish in that lake?" I looked at the lake, which was like glass, and I said, "Sure. Of course there are fish there." "How do you know? Do you have to see fish jump to believe they're there, Jill?" I remember sitting there for a long time until I could say to God, "If I never see a fish jump, I will believe they're there and active. If I never see you answer a prayer, I will believe." -- Jill Briscoe, "In the Father's Arms," Preaching Today, Tape No. 141.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that faith is the great shield to protect our entire life from the attacks of Satan, with faith we can extinguish the fiery darts of Satan that would seek to destroy us!
I. POWER OF FAITH Eph. 6:16
A. Flexible Design Eph. 6:16a
1. Obviously a soldier could not practically cover every part of his body with a tough metal covering, so the flexible design of the shield did for him what armor alone could never do, it covered everything!
a. It was larger than the man!
b. It was movable to shield from any direction
c. It became a terrific barrier to keep the enemy from doing harm
2. Paul's point is simple:
a. Faith is larger than life!
b. It can protect us from attack in any direction, Satan's or this world's!
c. It is a barrier to keep our life safe from destruction.
3. Hiding behind the shield meant not fearing what was coming, but being assured that whatever came your way couldn't not hurt you!
a. Faith helps us see what unbelievers can never see … the reality of God.
b. Faith helps us to know God is there even when we can't see Him!
ILLUS: For centuries the islands of New Zealand were unpopulated. No human had ever set foot on them. Then the first settlers arrived. They were Polynesians from other Pacific islands who had sailed a thousand miles in outrigger canoes. The Polynesians came with the purpose of settling in New Zealand. How did they know the land was there? How did they know they would not simply sail across empty seas until food and water ran out and they perished? The Polynesians had known for generations that land was there because their voyagers had seen a long white cloud on the distant horizon. They knew that when a cloud stayed in one place over a very long period of time, there was land beneath it. They called New Zealand the Land of the Long White Cloud. Faith is like that. It is voyaging to an unseen land, journeying to an unknown future. But it is not mere guesswork, or chance, or superstition. There are facts behind faith, facts that suggest conclusions. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
4. Faith protects all those exposed areas of our lives, and gives us assurance of God's protection!
B. "Fiery Darts" 6:16b
1. Though the Roman soldier was the best equipped soldier in antiquity, though his armor was the most sophisticated and state of the art technology, the enemy had learned a way to still get the Roman soldier - fiery darts!
a. Metal armor had seams … these seams could allow fluid to pass through them.
b. The enemy came up with an ingenious idea, make hollow shaft arrows filled with flammable fluid, a flaming tip, and shoot them at the soldier.
c. Though these arrows could not penetrate the armor, they would shatter upon impact, their shattering released the flammable fluid to drip into the seams of the soldier and were lit upon impact by the flaming tip so that the soldier was then trapped with burning fluid inside his suit - an unpleasant and disastrous experience!
2. The Romans could not make armor without seams - they would be standing frozen if they did, so they developed a defense against this by building a special shield that was larger than the soldier himself, covered with leather soaked in water, and the flexibility of this shield gave them exactly what they needed to protect them from these fiery darts.
3. Paul states that FAITH is like that shield - it is able to quench the fiery darts of Satan.
a. Faith becomes the certainty of being safe when under attack!
b. Faith is flexible enough to cover us from any direction the attack may come.
c. This shield gave the soldier great confidence, he felt assured of safety when he held this larger than life shield!
d. We too will feel secure when we hold the shield of faith … we can be certain in an uncertain world with faith!
ILLUS: When Michael Faraday, the great English physicist, was dying, friends gathered at his bedside. As was often the case in the nineteenth century, they sought some final words from the dying man. "What are your speculations?" they asked. His answer was firm: "Speculations! I have none. I am resting on certainties." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
4. The fires of Hell cannot touch us when we live by faith!
II. PRACTICE OF FAITH Matt. 14:22-33
A. Faith Demonstrated 14:22-30
1. Peter does the impossible thing: You can't walk on water unless you get out of the boat!
a. When the challenge was there, Peter at first steps out in faith with the results being the impossible happened - he walks on water in the midst of the storm!
b. Note that the storm did not cease when Peter stepped out in faith, the storm was still there!
c. Faith however enabled Peter to do the impossible, it SHIELDED him from the storm, it did NOT remove the storm! (Jesus didn't calm the storm until after He joined them in the boat later).
2. Peter does the conceivable thing: He took his eyes off Jesus and put them on the storm!
a. When we get our eyes off Jesus our faith disappears!
b. This is when we begin to sink!
c. It is so easy to see the storm and forget that Christ is standing right there!
3. Peter does the natural thing: In no longer looking at Jesus he sees only the storm and fear grips his heart, no doubt he starts to turn around back toward the uncertain safety of the tossing boat!
a. It is always natural if our eyes are off Jesus and only on the storms of life to want to turn around and go back where we came from.
b. Remember however that the boat was hardly a place of safety in the storm, the other disciples were huddled onboard in fear of the boat breaking apart and sinking … hardly the kind of place to return to!
c. So often Christians after they are saved and when a terrible storm comes into their life begin to turn backwards and think that there is relative safety back where they came from - but that past place is being tossed around by the storms of this world and is in danger of breaking apart - the only real safe place to be is in the presence of Christ!
4. Peter does the expected thing: Once he no longer saw Jesus and only the storm he began to sink!
a. The storm looked bigger than Jesus - the storm was all around Peter, Jesus was just a small figure in front of him, don't be fooled by appearances though; faith had kept Peter up, keep your eyes on Christ and you will do the impossible, take them off Christ and see the huge storm and you will sink!
b. You can expect to sink in a storm if you don't stay focused on Christ!
c. That is why people fear storms so much, but Christians don't have to fear storms, we may not like them, but we don't have to fear them if our eyes are on Christ - this means faith!
5. Peter does the right thing: Peter regains his faith after realizing that going back to a worn tossed boat doesn't offer much solace … he cries out to Christ to save him!
a. This is the reemergence of faith again!
b. Peter realizes his only hope is Christ - and he turns to Him with faith again!
c. Faith is the victory we have in Christ … and it will yield great rewards!
d. Peter's turning back to Christ is evidence of his faith renewed and refocused .. it was the right thing to do!
e. What's the other option? - SINKING AND DROWNING!
6. Faith is always the correct response to the storms of life, many times even the world realizes this, they just don't practice it!
ILLUS: A recent survey at a meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians revealed the following: Percentage of family doctors who:
--are convinced that religious belief can heal: 99
--believe the prayers of others can help a patient's recovery: 75
--believe faith-healers can make people well: 38 -- Yankelovich Partners, cited in Parade (12/1/96). Leadership, "To Verify."
B. Faith & Doubt 14:31-33
1. Jesus saves Peter, He will always respond to the correct prayer - even when short like Peter's!
a. Peter's prayer began with a correct view of God - Only Jesus could save him.
b. It also had a correct view of self - he needed saving and was unable to save himself!
c. That's all that is needed along with faith to be saved!
2. Faith is thus like a shield that protects us from focusing on anything except Christ … and thus preventing our falling through fear!
ILLUS: Warren Bennis, in Why Leaders Can't Lead, writes: The flying Wallendas are perhaps the world's greatest family of aerialists and tightrope walkers. ... I was struck with [Karl Wallenda's] capacity for concentration on the intention, the task, the decision. I was even more intrigued when, several months later, Wallenda fell to his death while walking a tightrope without a safety net between two high-rise buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico. ... Later, Wallenda's wife said that before her husband had fallen, for the first time since she had known him, he had been concentrating on falling, instead of on walking the tightrope. He had personally supervised the attachment of the guide wires, which he had never done before. Often the difference between success and failure, life and death, is the direction we're looking. -- Rex Bonar in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
3. Only after faith was expressed did Peter get to see the storm abate. Peter's faith in Christ also had an impact on the other disciples - note that they ALL worshipped Jesus and said, "truly you are the son of God" 14:33
4. When we "Faith up to reality" it encourages others to get behind the shield of faith too!
5. No matter what sensitive areas of our lives are unprotected by heavy armor, the shield of faith can cover the whole man or woman from any and all attacks of Satan's or this world!
6. Name one good thing doubt has ever done for you? Why not pick up the shield of faith? There is wide protecting for your whole being with faith!
CONCLUSION: Just as a shield was flexible enough to move around to protect all areas of the soldier's life so is faith like a shield - it covers every part of our life! The Roman shield was larger than the entire soldier for full coverage - faith is larger than life and gives us full spiritual coverage. How do we deal with the reality of sin and Satan's attacks - we "FAITH UP TO REALITY"!