Day 20: The Shield of Faith
Have you grown tired of being tempted? Just when it seems we have started to clench freedom from the struggle against sin, a wave of temptation hits us in our most vulnerable spot. Temptation in these moments is a desperate attempt for the enemy to take us out when we least expect it. The shield of faith is our guard against this. The right answer, the right response, the right preparation may be elusive, but we are always capable of having faith.
A shield is often viewed as a defensive weapon. For a seasoned Spartan soldier in ancient Greece however, it was an offensive and highly lethal weapon:
The main purpose of the Spartan shield was defensive; however Spartans also used it to bash their opponents. This could be to stun them, knock them down or get some room to use another weapon. The shield could also be used as a killing weapon outright, its weight and thin edge making it a superb blunt weapon. The hoplite shield, or aspis (although it is commonly called a ‘hoplon’), was heavy, weighing about 30 pounds. They were constructed out of wood with an outer layer of bronze. Due to its defensive nature, Spartans using it as a weapon could gain the advantage of surprise. Being clubbed to death by heavy shield may have even been more unpleasant then being hacked apart by a Kopis! 
Not only was the Spartan shield a weapon, it also partially protected the soldier beside them in certain formations such as the Phalanx.
The shield of faith is no different. It took faith for the apostle Paul to stand up to the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30 - 23:35), for David to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and for Jesus to stand up against temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Similarly it takes faith to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ, protecting against the enemy when we are strong and they are weak (Galatians 6:1).
What do you hope for regarding sexuality?
We are not merely byproducts of our environment, circumstances, or habits. Through faith in Christ we can overcome all things. The area of sexual sin is no different. We have been given divine power that can move mountains, cast out demons, and completely alter our lives for the glory of God. Gaining a proper perspective on how faith plays a role in our lives is essential to victory. According to Jesus, we neglect faith so often because we naturally love darkness, and are afraid of being exposed:
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” -John 3:20 (NIV)
So how are we to be free? What are we to take from today's lesson? Quite simply, it is by faith that we are able to move forward in victory over sin. Christ died on a cross around 2,000 years ago, and no matter how much evidence we have, there will still be a degree of faith required to follow him. Understand however, that when we take up the shield of faith, Christ shows up in real and powerful ways.
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” -Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
If we can move mountains with our faith, surely we can find freedom from sexual sin. Have full confidence that in Christ you are set free, you no longer have to earn your way to salvation through the law. In response to that, we are serving and honoring God with our bodies, have faith that he will grant you the strength to overcome the evil one. The moment you stop believing is the same moment you will fall back into your old ways.
FAITH WITHOUT DEEDS
So what is faith and how do we carry it out regarding sexual sin? Faith is expressed through action. It is not some mystical force by which we walk blindly into situations. If courage is the ability to leap from a cliff, faith is what carries us through every moment after. But you see, it requires action to become active:
So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. -James 2:17 (NLT)
Moving forward in the battle against sexual sin, you no longer need to beat yourself up over stumbling. As with children, stumbling happens. What separates children from men and women is the ability to take action. Instead of asking, "How is it possible that I stumbled again?", ask yourself, "What will I do moving forward to make sure this doesn't happen again?" Take charge of the circumstances surrounding your shortcomings and make the change. Here are some things that I changed in my life, be they permanent or temporary, to eliminate sin:
- Gave away my computer to a friend temporarily
- Cancelled cable TV
- Smashed an old cell phone that was causing me to stumble
- Sold a gaming system that had an internet browser on it
- Asked close friends to hold me accountable on a daily basis
What do all of the above have in common? They required action from my end. Faith will require action from you as well. More often than not, it's going to be uncomfortable, unnatural, and unusual to those around you. But better to be unusual than trapped in an endless cycle of sin:
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. -Matthew 5:29 (NIV)
So, exercise the use of your shield today, whether that be defensively or offensively. Continue to step forward in confidence knowing that you are making changes in your life to combat this sin. God sees those changes and works alongside you to overcome the darkness:
- Give a Reason for the Hope that You Have
What is our motivation be here? The glory of God. If you seek to glorify God and make that your number one priority (it’s why we’re put on this earth), then you will naturally want to love and obey Him.
- Live Under Grace, Not Works
Christ paid the ultimate price, made the ultimate sacrifice, died a horrible death so that… we can live in guilt? WRONG! Far too often we are bent on being good enough to approach Christ when in reality he calls us to have faith in him. This faith will manifest itself through a desire to serve Him and free us from the snares of the enemy.
- Do a Heart Check and Make Changes
If the patterns of your current lifestyle are still causing you to stumble into sin, take an honest look at your heart. Far too often we are caught up in the same loops, thinking that we’ve made significant changes when in reality we are trying to address behavior and not our hearts. Think of the last time you fell, was it the first time you fell in that place or in that way? Probably not - so what needs to change? It's not enough to simply force yourself to do a devotional every day for the sake of checking off a box (behavior modification). Instead a genuine desire to go after God should manifest itself in your life, where those times of devotion become second nature.
Day 20 Application
How is faith like a shield in your life?
What areas of your life still require more faith from you?
Focused prayer time is important. Do you believe prayer has to stop after "Amen"? Have you been in contact with your accountability partner such that you were asked tough questions about purity?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?