Fight, flight, or freeze.
Threats, stress, and pain come at us, and we either fight back. Flee the scene. Or freeze in place. Me, I’m the one who consistently left when things got rough. Too much tension and arguing? I’d hop in my car and hurry to my friend’s house. Too much accusation and pressure? I’d march from the room and out the door. That’s my natural bent.
But–what marriage, motherhood, and ministry have been teaching me over the last two decades is that facing the hard things works better every time than fleeing them.
And one of the coolest outcomes of learning to stand firm in the midst of life’s hard things is getting to see God’s faithfulness at work. When I set aside what I feel or perceive or think I know, I can choose to believe that what Jesus says is true. I can choose to trust a faithful God who never fails and never flees.
In other words, we have a fourth option when the storms of life hit. Faith.
Inner Workings of Faith
While we wear truth, righteousness, and salvation everyday–as we would a uniform to work–when it comes to faith, we must choose to pick it up every time it’s needed. A response is required in the moment.
While I am not a natural ‘fighter,’ I do find myself quite drawn to movies that portray warriors who have honed their craft so well that their motions are instinctual. Whether it’s Captain America flinging his shield or Aragorn wielding his longsword, these archetypal heroes demonstrate the power of practice, the art of action. When the odds are not in their favor, they pick up their weapons and keep moving forward.
As believers, we’re meant to do the same. Jesus makes it clear that our decision to follow Him comes with difficulty. Conflict. Tension. Even persecution–all for His sake. So, we need to be ready.
Everything God has been showing us in this series comes together: our bodies will have a response to the hard things, as will our minds, emotions, and spirits. And, we have the ability to choose whether or not to listen to our thoughts and feelings when they say run or hide.
We can choose faith.
But, unlike those legends of lore who win every war in their own strength, we step forward in faith because of the One we trust. To put faith in our training, our strengths, or our knowledge is to set ourselves up for failure. To put faith in our trustworthy God is obedience. And victory.
“If you are struggling to move forward in obedience to God, you do not need bigger faith. You just need to realize how big your God is. The more faithful and strong you believe Him to be, the more willing you will be to depend on Him. Your level of faith will always be tied to your perception of God.”Priscilla Shirer, p.140
Faith, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, is “proof of that which is not seen” (11:1). Faith is putting what we know to be true about God into action. We pick up faith, like a shield, and enter the fray in full obedience to God–”without needing to see the evidence that it will all work out in the end” (Priscilla, p.127). Because we trust God with the outcomes.
Lord Jesus, I confess that my idea of faith is rooted in my ability to perceive or perform–which isn’t faith at all. Help me, instead, to know You so well that my trust in You grows exponentially and my faith follows suit. Because I’m learning, Father God, that You are bigger than anything I face, that You are faithful in every situation–You never leave; You never fail. You always help; You always strengthen. May my faith in You propel me forward in life so that even when what I see or feel tells me I can’t, I actually believe I can–because of You. Lord, I choose faith over fear. I choose You over me. I choose to live for You and with You–in faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Isaiah 41:10, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Corinthians 1:9, Psalm 56:3-4)
Picking Up the Shield of Faith
When we choose to respond in faith, a shield goes up. But, that doesn’t keep the enemy from doing everything he can to distract us from our faith-action.
Paul goes into more detail about this one piece of armor than the others, exhorting us to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). By describing the benefits of using the shield of faith, Paul tells us what the results will be. Those fiery darts of distraction will be snuffed out.
It helps to understand Paul’s metaphor by visualizing a Roman soldier’s shield. Called a sculum, this door-shaped plank of wood was covered in layers of canvas and leather. A top layer of iron wrapped the edges and anchored the center. At two-feet wide and four-feet high, a soldier’s shield covered his entire body whenever he crouched behind it (Priscilla, p.125).
In battle, enemies would shoot flaming arrows at the Romans–not so much as a way to kill them but as a means of distraction. If their wooden shield caught fire, the soldier’s attention went to the flames instead of the battlefield. To defend against this strategy, the Romans dunked their absorbent shields in water so that when the flames sunk into the wood, the fire fizzled out (Priscilla, p.130).
What flaming darts has the enemy been slinging your way lately? What blazes has the enemy set within your heart to keep you insecure, afraid, or questioning your ability? What fires have you been putting out, only to miss the action God has called you to?
It’s time to pick up your faith-soaked shield and let it douse the enemy’s attempts to distract you.
Lord Jesus, You are the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You win every battle because You are the Son of God–the Christ and Messiah. In You there is no flaw, no lie, no ability to betray or abandon. And with You I am victorious. I choose to follow You no matter what I see or feel because I know that You are trustworthy and faithful. Yet, I recognize that the enemy wants me to give in to insecurity, doubt, and fear instead of believing and walking in God’s truth. So, today, I pick up faith, allowing your shield of protection to put out all the enemy’s fiery plans for me. I know that by doing what you call me to do–no matter how incapable I feel–I am walking in faith. I feel a holy confidence growing as I move forward in obedience. Armed with faith, I refuse to believe my feelings. I refuse to be discouraged. I choose, instead, to trust in You, Jesus. Amen.
(inspired by Revelation 19:16, 1 Corinthians 15:57, 1 John 2:21, Psalm 9:10, Philippians 4:19, John 14:1, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Victor Matthew’s ‘Warfare Prayer,’ and Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God page 133.)
The Practice of Gathering with People
In last week’s post, we looked at ways isolation and division can keep us from the abiding life we long for. Let’s take that a step further today. Let’s consider faith’s role in community as a way to come against the enemy’s lies, attacks, and attempts to prevent us from entering God’s presence and the purposes has for us.
And, the Roman soldiers paint the perfect picture for us.
Known as the Tortoise, or Turtle, Formation, a group of soldiers would come together with all their shields to form an impenetrable defense.
This coming together became an effective strategy in defeating armies that shot arrows from high castle walls or from across a field. What was good for one soldier became even better when used in tandem.
And, that, my friends, is the practice of faith in community. While praying alone in our closets is good and right, our coming together with other believers in prayer is even more powerful. While studying the Word on our own is needed, getting with others to hear their insights and wisdom builds our faith even more. While getting alone with God in silence is a must for our weary spirits, practicing spiritual disciplines in community shapes, softens, and shields us in ways doing it alone cannot.
So, hear me. We need alone time with God. We need to think for ourselves. Pray by ourselves. And give the gift of quiet time to ourselves. But. Not at the neglect of entering into all these practices with other believers. It’s not an either-or. It’s a both-and.
I absolutely love writing. It’s an alone kind of work. It’s time with Jesus, my Bible, and my laptop. But God regularly reminds me that to hermit myself in my home, never to connect with other people, is to miss the point of why He calls me to write and to set myself up for attack. Throughout my years of ministry–both on a church staff and in this writing season–He has led me toward groups and individuals who come alongside me for my journey. Their prayers of provision and protection have covered me like a turtle’s shell. And, without them, I have no doubt the enemy’s arrows would strike me down.
I encourage you to seek others. Pray–together. Search God’s Word–together. Stand in defense against the enemy–together. Encourage one another–together. Speak truth in love–together.
Because, we’re better together.
Lord Jesus, thank You for the Day of Pentecost and the way You turned a crowd into a Church, transforming a loosely connected group of people into a tightly knit community. I confess my own tendencies to want to go it alone, to control my performance and outcome. So, I pray, Holy Spirit, for your divine inspiration and courage to seek out holy community. Lead me to a person, a group, or a church that will come alongside me on this faith journey. May I listen to your leading. May I trust others when it’s wise to do so. May I fully participate, not only offering my prayers and encouragement but receiving them, as well. I celebrate the victories to come as I lift my shield alongside my brothers and sisters in faith. May it be so, Jesus. Praying in your name, Amen.
(parts taken from JD Walt, in The Daily Text, 6/10/22)
- Week Twelve Practice = Community! As Jennie Allen says, find your people. Come together, like a group of soldiers, in order to train and enter the battlefields of life fully armed and full of faith–together.
- Week Twelve Prayer = Use the prayers within this post which are my own–though they are greatly influenced by Scripture and a few great people of faith, as noted. Or, create your own prayers using Scripture to help you keep picking up faith.
- Community is the name of the game. Don’t do this faith journey alone. And, if this space is your community right now, I’m honored. Let’s lean-in to God together–and lift our shields of faith. Comment below or join in the conversation on Instagram.
- I’d love to hear how our Abide playlist has become a tool in your arsenal as a believer who faces fiery darts everyday.
- Resources for this week–just a list you can come back to as needed. No expectation for this series:
- Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, The Armor of God.* (Again) Her research just keeps on giving. 😉