“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
(Hebrews 11:1 & 6)
What is “faith”?
It’s a word we hear a lot in our culture. It’s become the politically correct way of saying that a person believes in God. It’s become a generic term for religion---any religion.
All a person needs to do is claim to believe in a Being that is Greater than themselves and we say they have “faith”. For example, the other day I heard a religious person talking about the things that were truly important---faith and family. I guess you ruffle fewer feathers if you say “faith” than “Christianity”. It goes along with our society’s belief that all roads lead to Heaven and all religions are equal.
However, just because the culture uses the term “faith” this way, doesn’t mean the Bible defines faith in the same manner.
Another common misinterpretation of the word “faith” comes from within the church, particularly within Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Rather than devaluing faith so that it forms into any generic belief in any religion, these people go to the other extreme and define faith as some type of mystical “wishing”. It’s almost superstitious. Throwing all common sense out the window, these misinformed souls believe that if they have enough “faith” they’ll get everything they desire from a magical God without ever taking any personal responsibility for their actions. They’ll say things like, “I have faith that God will prosper me financially”, yet they take no personal responsibility for their finances. In fact, many times their “faith” causes them to live irresponsibly while they wait and wish, having “faith” that someday God will do a miracle and they will be rich. Even though many times the intentions of their hearts are genuinely good, once again, these people have a misunderstanding of what it truly means to have faith.
So what does it really mean to “have faith”?
Hebrews 11:6 gives us a pretty accurate definition.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Looking at this verse, we see that the #1 ingredient in an accurate definition of faith is: Believing that God Exists and that He Is Who He Claims to Be in the Bible.
At first glance, this Scripture seems to agree with the idea that faith acknowledges the existence of a Higher Power. However, if you look a little closer, you understand that whenever the Bible talks about God they are speaking specifically of “The Supreme Deity.” The One and Only True God of Israel Who sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of mankind, and then raised Him again on the third day, conquering death and Hell.
This same word for “God” (theos) was used in John 17:3 where God is defined as the Only One True God. “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent.”
The word (theos) was used again in 1 John 5:20, “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him Who is true. And we are in Him Who is true by being in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
I Thessalonians 1:9-10 talks about turning from idols to serve the One True God (theos). “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, Who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
Hence, upon further inspection we see that “faith” involves more than just believing that there is a god, but rather, the writer of Hebrews defines faith as believing in the One and Only True God of the Bible.
You may ask, “Why is this so important?”
Well, in the context of Dressing for Victory and wearing the full armor of God, what may seem like a needless play on words becomes an absolutely essential weapon of defense in your spiritual armor.
Ephesians 6:13-16 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
It’s important that we understand the true definition of faith, so that we can use it as a shield against all of the flaming arrows of lies and deceit that the enemies of our souls wants to use to destroy us.
Before we go any further into practical application, it’s important that we get a good picture of the imagery the writer is using to teach us this spiritual truth. To do this, we need to know more about two things: fiery darts and shields. (Because let’s face it: we don’t see a lot of either in our day to day lives.)
So what are fiery darts?
Albert Barnes tells us that: “The fiery darts” that were used in war were small, slender pieces of cane, which were filled with combustible materials, and set on fire; or darts around which some combustible material was wound, and which were set on fire, and then shot “slowly” against a foe. The object was to make the arrow fasten in the body, and increase the danger by the burning; or, more frequently, those darts were thrown against ships, forts, tents, etc., with an intention to set them on fire.”
Dr. Tony Evans describes it this way, “In Western films, cowboys circled their wagon trains so they could hide behind them and shoot at the Indians. In the early days, it wasn’t a fair fight because the cowboys were the only ones who had the guns and the cover. The Indian’s arrows were no match for the cowboy’s bullets…until the Indians lit the tips of their arrows and aimed them at the wagons.” (101)
Just like the Indian’s arrows dismantled the cowboy’s defenses, so the fiery darts that the enemy shoots at us are meant to dismantle your defenses so that you’ll be open to every other attack the enemy of your soul wants to send your way. One of the most common fiery darts that the enemy is using to dismantle the defenses of Christians in today’s society is the fiery dart of Universalism or the belief that all religions lead to Heaven or that all human beings and all fallen creatures will ultimately be restored to right relationship with God in Heaven.
This fiery arrow is particularly dangerous because it destroys the very foundation of Christianity which teaches that “Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.” (John 14:6)
It alleviates the need for salvation, godly living, and fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)
When this fiery dart pierces a person’s soul, it opens them up to the possibility of involving themselves in other religions and their practices or falling into a sinful lifestyle. After all, what does it matter? As long as you believe there is a god, you’re going to Heaven, right? WRONG!
That’s why it’s so important that Christians are dressed with the shield of faith as a defense against this and all of the fiery darts of the evil one. What does a shield do? Well, in this verse, the shield described is a large Roman shield that is covered in leather or some kind of animal skin. The soldier would then dip the shield in water so that if a fiery arrow came at him, it would be instantly snuffed out.
In our lives, faith is the dripping wet shield that instantly extinguishes the flaming arrows of the enemy. When we define “faith” properly, as “The belief that there is Only One True God and He is Who the Bible says He is”, it instantly extinguishes all of the fiery darts of Universalism and tolerance that wants to destroy our souls.
So practically speaking, how can we make sure that we are armed with the shield of faith?
We have to make the Conscious Choice to Believe that there is Only One True God, one True Religion---Christianity---as it is taught in the Bible.
This is a decision that you must make. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is the choice to believe that God is Who He says He is. It’s the choice to believe that God and the Bible are telling the truth. The first step in arming yourself with the shield of faith is choosing to believe these things.
We must choose to read the Bible to learn about God.
It isn’t enough to simply say, I believe in the Supreme Being—the One True God. You need to know Who He is, what He’s done, how He thinks, and what He expects from His people. The only way for us to know these things is through reading the Bible, God’s Word. As we read it and study it, and watch His story unfold throughout human history, our faith will increase from a choice to believe into a belief that He exists and He has a plan for humanity. The more we get to know God personally and develop a relationship with Him by reading His Word, the stronger our faith will become creating a greater defense in our lives against the flaming arrows of the enemy.
We need to study our Theology.
I know that the word “theology” scares many people. It sounds confusing and technical---like something a Biblical scholar should understand, but not your average Christian. Ironically, this lie is one of the flaming arrows that the enemy throws at us saying, “You don’t really need to know this stuff”, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a good working knowledge of theology will deepen your faith and give you an even stronger defense for when the enemy comes against you with his fiery darts of lies and doubt.
The truth is that theology is nothing more than the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Theology explains why we believe what we believe. The more theology that you know, the stronger your shield of faith becomes because you’ve got concrete knowledge to back up your beliefs. It also makes you a more effective witness because you can intelligently answer people’s questions about God rather than just demand that they believe without any explanation or fact.
Let’s look at an example:
Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
Most Christians accept on faith that God created the world out of nothing because the Bible says He did. However, we don’t live in a world that simply accepts this fact anymore. Evolution is taught as scientific fact in today’s school system. Many Christians struggle with the issue of reconciling their faith to what seems to be scientific fact.
What’s the answer to this dilemma? Theology.
A thorough study of Creationism will prove that there is just as much evidence for the theory of Creationism as there is for the theory of Evolution---possibly even more. There is a mountain of available resources online or in books that contain scientific evidence that it is possible that God created the world just as the Bible says. Once you understand the theology of Creation, then you’ve got a solid basis to base your choice to have faith that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. It’s like adding a few extra layers of protection onto your shield of faith giving you a super-strong defense against the enemy.
When you put all three of these components together: choosing to believe, reading the Bible to learn Who God is, and studying your theology, they will help you reach the goal of: Believing that God Exists and that He Is Who He Claims to Be in the Bible. This is the first step in truly wearing the Shield of Faith as a weapon of defense against the devil’s evil schemes. Next month, we’ll talk about the other side of what it means to have faith---the practical side---believing that God is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
But for now, it’s time to practically apply step #1. It’s time to ask ourselves, “Am I dressing for victory by wearing my shield of faith?”
What does faith mean to me?
Have I bought into any wrong definitions of “faith”?
Am I doing all I can to build up my faith---according to the true definition of faith---my belief in who God is?
The answers to these questions will tell the story of whether you’re deflecting the enemy’s attacks using the shield of faith, or walking naked and defenseless through a battlefield. The answers to these questions could save your spiritual life; yet they are questions only you can answer. After you’ve answered these questions, make the decision the take up your shield of faith and start dressing for victory. In the world of spiritual warfare, it’s the one accessory you don’t want to be without!