I leave for Brazil tomorrow for two weeks of "signs, wonders and miracles" in Joinville and Londrina (near Sao Paulo). I am one of 80 team members going down with Gary and Kathi Oates (their website can be found at www.garyoates.com). Before I leave, here's a thought that came to me as I was memorizing Psalm 91 (at God's nudging). This thought completely rearranged my thinking about the armor of God mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18.
Psalm 91:4b says, "His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." That started me thinking about the "shield of faith" that Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:16 as the means by which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy. I have always thought that this referred to my/our faith, but a quick study of the word "shield" in the Old Testament revealed that Paul was almost certainly not thinking about our faith but rather God's faithfulness. In the Old Testament, either God or one of His attributes is always the shield for God's people, not their faith. And since the Greek word in Ephesians 6:16 can just as easily be translated "faithfulness" as it can be translated "faith," and since the OT references to shield were probably foremost in Paul's mind (Paul was filled with Scripture), I am thinking that Paul had God's faithfulness--not our faith--in mind when he told us to take up the shield.
Some of you may be thinking, "Why make a big deal about this minor difference?" Let me elaborate... If my faith (or perhaps "our faith") is what shields me from the enemy, I am in deep trouble. Why do I say that? Because my/our faith seems to be fairly small potatoes compared to the infinite faithfulness of God! We are told often in Scripture that God's faithfulness reaches to the skies, is endless, etc. So...which shield would you prefer: your faith or His faithfulness? One that is limited to your earthly perception of things or one that reaches to the skies? (His favor, according to Psalm 5:12, also surrounds us as a shield--I like that one, too!).
For me this insight was huge! Instead of trusting in my ability to work up faith to fend off the enemy's attacks, I simply get to rest in God's faithfulness. My faith is therefore a response to God's infinite trustworthiness, and this shifts my emphasis from me and my very limited perspective to an infinite God with infinite knowledge, love and power. Personally, I prefer to have God between me and the devil, not my personal ability to believe or trust God. I am thinking that you will agree with that.
So...when you suit up with your armor (I recommend doing so each day), may I suggest that you try this new, much larger shield? I am quite certain you will find its protection much more to your liking.
Pray for my trip, please, for God to hugely bless the Brazilians we serve and for Him to pour out love and power through all of us. Thanks!
Stay lost in His love (or get lost in it if you haven't already!).
Tom, the least of Abba's children