Through the years, as Danny and I have had the privilege in ministry to counsel with other married couples or couples that are soon to be married, we have found a very common phenomenon. It is rare for both people in the marriage to begin, or even live and walk in a simultaneous passion for Christ.
It is certainly no coincidence that when one partner in the marriage begins to surrender their lives and their time to Jesus it is very soon that their spouse’s passion dwindles- even when that spouse has prayed for years for their husband or wife to come to Christ or to be concerned once again with matters of eternal importance.
Sure, none of us lives in a constant state of passion and I have certainly been grateful for the times when I have felt incredibly weak, that Danny has come alongside me to remind me of the great promises that are forever true, even when I can’t physically see their end before me.
Over the last month life just hasn’t been easy. Life is like that sometimes. In pretty much every area where Danny and I are called to lead there are battles right now (excluding adoption, which is going miraculously smooth!). And while we certainly do not expect everyone to understand or “get” the magnitude of the responsibility of a life of being a bi-vocational pastor, running a business and shepherding a church, and a large family with its own demands- most people in our circle of life actually seem to. They pray for us and encourage us forward and those things are nothing short of life to us. As we step out to obey what God leads us to do-all of the complexities of these callings are seriously put to shame in the light of the encouragement we are surrounded by.
But the other night we fell prey to discouragement. Danny and I sat up late weeping tears of longing for the days when our faith will be made sight for the specific things we know God planted in us for ministry. It felt like an all time low. I can’t say we’ve both been simultaneously discouraged in this way, and we both acknowledged it to the point of knowing we needed to guard our words with one another because it was difficult to find within us the encouraging ones.
I believe it was no coincidence that right at this time God brought me right to Ephesians 6.
…Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
I’ve been thinking so much about the shield of faith. After all, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Faith is when we look at our situation, and we choose to believe what God has said instead of what we see and what we feel. Sometimes it feels a lot easier to do this than other times. But as we are learning, with the big things, there will be big battles.
When it feels like the world is caving in and everything is breaking, and there are still demands at every turn, it can seem almost impossible to regain composure before the next band of arrows flies onto the scene. The shield of faith is what we raise up at these arrows and this shield has the power to extinguish them; to put them out.
As I was researching about Roman combat and the use of the shield I found some very interesting information.
Shields made the army. Without a shield, a Roman soldier is simply a walking target. Unlike the sword fights of Hollywood movies, hand-to-hand fights did not often turn into ‘steel-on-steel’ combats with swords clanging on sword with lunges and parries. These weapons, as experience has shown, do not take kindly to such treatment. A shield was the only real defence. As a unit the legionaries could, at an order, lock their large oval shields together, to create a defensible barrier from which they could launch spear attacks and repel an enemy charge. This tactic was particularly successful against cavalry. With the foulkon manoeuvre, the shields of an entire unit were used to create a shield wall behind which the frontline crouched; the second and third lines lifted up their shields to create a ‘roof’ that was proof against hostile missile fire. Finally, the unit could manoeuvre close to an enemy or a city wall under siege using a tactic called a ‘testudo’. Much like a foulkon, the shields were used to box in the legionaries, but this formation gave the unit the ability to move, albeit slowly, and could advance toward a hostile city wall without suffering casualties from skirmishers. (romanrecruits.weebly.com)
Essentially this “testudo” tactic of locking shields enabled an army to advance even in the middle of a rain of spears and arrows. When shields were locked together to make a wall and even roof above the group, they were not only protected- but they could advance forward as well. How astounding!
While it is the enemy’s desire to bring about discouragement in leaders, faith is certainly contagious. When one person is discouraged it is truly amazing what speaking words of faith will do to turn the situation around. But it is when the enemy is able to sow discouragement into entire groups and no one is grounded on the assured promises of God that the damage is actually done. Because we do not typically realize in the middle of a rain of arrows and spears that we could be advancing forward right in the middle of it-if we would only unite our faith.
This is where it really counts! That place where your body is tired and your spirit is weak. That place where you know that if you let go of everything you knew that God wanted to do you would regret it for the rest of your life, but you wonder in yourself how you can keep moving forward. This is where victories are won! This is where we feel so far away from the end, yet by choosing to believe anyway, giants are defeated and so often things are catapulted ahead!
“…but we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
There has not been a time in history that anyone has seen a great move of God without facing many battles in their faith. According to Scripture and looking at history, it is through the testing of faith that the victories are won. There has not been a time in history that anyone has seen a great move of God without facing battles and being required to walk by faith alone.
So sometimes when the going gets tough, it is time to stop looking at what we see and discussing how we feel, and it is time to lock shields. It is time to build a wall of faith and continue advancing.
And that’s exactly what Danny and I are immensely refreshed in and have set our faces like flint to do. We simply refuse to bow emotionally to one more arrow. We see the arrows not only directed at us but at others who are precious to us and such a huge part of our lives. God’s promises are true. We will certainly see with our eyes all that God has said He will do. And we see spiritually the other shields that are locking with ours to form an inpenetratable wall of faith that the enemy simply doesn’t stand a chance against.
Can I encourage you as God is encouraging me? Even at our weakest we can willingly choose to unite our faith with our spouse’s, our friend’s, our church’s…really anyone’s. We can, by the power of God at work within us, move forward.
This is where victory is sure and and faith spreads like wildfire. I can’t wait to see what is ahead.