Ephesians 6:16

Ephesians 6:16

Sermon preached on May 2, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

This past week the NY Times had a few quotes from former First Lady Laura Bush's upcoming book,
Spoken from the Heart. One of them related to a car accident she was involved in when she was a teenager. She was driving her father's car a drive-in movie she was talking to a friend and didn't notice a stop sign. She went through it without stopping. She hit another car and one of her classmates, star athlete Mike Douglas, was in that car. She writes about the accident,

"The whole time, I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling 'Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,' over and over and over again."

But her classmate died. She said,

"I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years. It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard. My begging, to my seventeen-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas's sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain."

It's amazing how quickly your life can change. One moment she was a happy, carefree teenager, the next she was riddled with guilt and remorse. Her life was changed forever. The whole thing came out of nowhere. It was so unexpected.

That's the way that it is with many trials and difficulties in life. They are so unexpected and they come out of nowhere. Someone's life is going along as it always has, perfectly normal and stable, and then, suddenly, out of the blue, it's like an arrow strikes and pierces their heart. All at once everything changes.

Are you prepared for something like that in your life? Would you be able to stand if something dreadful happened to you? Would you be able to shine for Jesus even in a dreadful situation? In our text the apostle Paul gives us the key to standing in such a situation. He wrote,

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

One of the great truths from our text is that

Satan will send unexpected horrors your way and you need to be prepared for them.

Paul refers to flaming arrows. Arrows are something that you don't see coming. They are deadly and they arrive unexpectedly. If you're not prepared for them, if you don't have your shield up to stop them, they're going to greatly injure you—perhaps fatally.

One type of flaming arrow hit Laura Bush the night of that car accident. A moment's inattention led to a horrible accident and the death of a classmate. Why would God allow that to happen? Why didn't God answer her prayer by allowing her classmate to live? It was a flaming arrow that got through.

And consider the flaming arrows that came upon the great reformer Ulrich Zwingli's wife, Anna on October 11, 1531. That day she received absolutely devastating news. On that day there was a battle fought to protect Zurich and, although her husband was not there as a combatant, he was killed. On that same day, in the same battle, Anna also lost her son, her brother, her son-in-law, her brother-in-law and some of her closest friends. They were all killed. (From Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8 p. 186) Can you imagine? Many different flaming arrows were sent her way. Interestingly, none of them seriously injured her. Schaff writes,

"After giving vent to her woe, Anna Zwingli resorts to the Bible, which was her husband's comfort, and was to be hers."

Later a great poem was written that 'vividly and touchingly' described her grief. She used her shield effectively against a monstrous onslaught.

But the arrows that hit her were all of one type. But Satan's flaming arrows come in many forms, and we need to be prepared for them in whatever form they come. I believe John Eadie has the best summary of the various types of Satan's arrows. He writes, (Ephesians, p. 471)

"The darts appear to be Satanic assaults, sudden and terrible—such as suggestions to evil, such unaccountable impulses to doubt or blaspheme, such horrid insinuations about the Divine character and one's own state, as often distract persons, especially of a nervous temperament."

Sinclair Ferguson expands on this. He writes, (Ephesians p. 182)

"Paul here puts his finger on a sinister and often profoundly distressing experience, well catalogued in the history of the church: a sudden, unexpected, attack on the mind, thoughts, and affections of the believer, weakening him, creating shame, spiritual paralysis and terror." "Some of the spiritual masters (like Bunyan and Spurgeon) have described experiencing an onslaught of unworthy, even blasphemous thoughts coming to them unbidden, hated as well as feared. At other times, the sudden memory of past sin seems to be like a match thrown on dry tinder. Panic and guilt overwhelm the believer; he loses his footing, doubts his salvation, and is overtaken by doubts that obscure the love of the Father."

There are different types of flaming arrows. As we have seen,

they can be great trials.

We see such arrows in Zwingli's widow and in what Job went through. When we face cancer or other terrible diseases, those can be arrows from Satan.

Christians, so often when such troubles come, we ask God,

"Why? Why me?"

We don't know why God has allowed such bad things to happen. It all seems so unfair because we had other plans and now they are lying in ruins.

What we should know is that these are arrows of Satan that are sent to destroy us. We must stand even in such difficult times. We are not to only be Christians when things are light and easy. It's important to stand when Satan tries to knock us down. It's important that we meet trials with the shield of faith.

Satan's flaming arrows can also be

suggestions to evil.

Have you ever been taken by surprise by a sudden urge to do something wrong? Most of you have heard about the Apple engineer who lost the next generation iPhone prototype in a bar. Some guy found it, and rather than returning it to its owner or Apple, he sold it to some computer website for $5000.00. Ever since I heard about that I've thought very badly of the guy who found it and sold it. What an unethical, unprincipled young fellow. That's what I thought of the guy until the other day I was thinking about it and wondered what I'd do if I had seen that phone slip out of the Apple engineer's pocket unto the bar stool as he got up to leave. Of course I think I'd bring it to his attention right away and call him back. But at such a time an incredible wave of curiosity could come over me and give me a great desire to see what the next generation iPhone was like. Satan can shoot his arrows at a time like that. So maybe I'd think that I'd look at the phone for just a few seconds while he paid his bill and got his coat on. But then perhaps I'd find it so cool that even though he was going out the door and someone brought it to my attention, I might say,

"Just another few seconds, I'll catch him in the parking lot before he pulls away."

But then it would be too late and he'd be gone.

But seriously, did a sudden impulse ever come over you to do something wrong, an impulse that was totally out of character for you? It happens. Those sudden, out of the blue, impulses to sin. After it's all over you stand there asking yourself,

"Where did that come from?"

It could be an impulse to lie, to save yourself some embarrassment. Or the lie could come out of fear, as happened to Abraham when he lied about Sarah not being his wife. It could be an impulse to take something that's not yours. It could be an impulse to look at something you should not look at. A lot of people aren't like Job who said, (Job 31:1)

"I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl."

James and John had an impulse to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village that refused to welcome Jesus. (Luke 9:54) Paul had a sudden impulse to speak out against the priest after he gave the order to strike Paul. Paul said, (Acts 23:3)

"God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!
You sit there to judge me according to the law,
yet you yourself violate the law
by commanding that I be struck!"

When Paul said that he didn't know he was the high priest and he had to apologize after it. Sudden impulses to evil can be attacks from Satan. They are one type of his flaming arrow.

You need to protect yourself from them. Just because they are sudden and unexpected is not excuse for you falling into sin. You need to take up the shield of faith.

Another type of flaming arrow can be sudden doubts.

Brownlow North was a great Scottish evangelist in the 19th century. Yet shortly after his conversion had great doubts about his salvation. He spent months in anguish and distress. His own heart told him that he was the chief of sinners and that Paul, who called himself the chief, was not to be compared to him and that there was no hope for him. Often he could not sleep and sometimes felt that he was near death, such was his despair.

We see something of the same doubt coming to David when he was pursued by King Saul. He did so well for so long. But in 1 Samuel 27:1 we read,

"David thought to himself,
'One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.
The best thing I can do is to escape
to the land of the Philistines.
Then Saul will give up searching
for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.'"

David's started to have doubts about his safety. He didn't think he could trust God. He failed. He let an arrow through.

You need to protect yourself from sudden doubts. You need to take up the shield of faith.

But the great question is: How exactly do we take up the shield of faith?

What it means is that you are to take up the promises of God and apply them to the situation you are in. You are to trust God. You are to know assuredly that He will keep you safe and see you through your trouble and see you to glory. You are to be assured that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that He loves you and will take care of you. You are to know assuredly that His way is the way of life, the way to glory and that you are to know that the way of sin is the way to suffering and death.

The Greek word that Paul uses that is translated 'shield' refers to the 'long, oblong shield' (BDAG) that was used by Roman soldiers. John Stott writes, (God's New Society, p. 281)

"The word that Paul uses denotes not the small round shield which left most of the body unprotected, but the long oblong one…"

Some have said that this shield would look like a small door. According to the Greek historian Polybius, (203 to 120 B.C.) this shield was four feet long and 2 and a half feet wide.

Paul calls this shield the 'shield of faith'. Perhaps this implies that
we are to have a great and broad knowledge of the Word of God and be able to apply many different promises to our situation. We are not just to know a few promises of God, but we are to have a comprehensive knowledge of them so that we will be able to pull all of them together into an unfailing shield.

You are to trust God.
You are to take the promises of Scripture and apply them to yourself and your situation. John Calvin said, (Sermons on Ephesians, p. 673)

"let us learn to make faith our buckler, that is to say, when we intend to enter into the battle and to persist in it, let us consider that we have God as our Father, because of his own infinite goodness he has chosen and elected us to be his children."

Calvin gives us examples of how to do this. For example, he said,

"If we are tempted to covetousness, because we are afraid lest the earth should fail us, God has taken upon him the responsibility of nourishing and sustaining us. And so, resting ourselves upon him, let us ask our daily bread at his hand."

When covetousness come upon you, you are to think of Jesus' words to His disciples in Matthew 6:25–34

"Therefore I tell you,
do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food,
and the body more important than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes?
See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,
which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire,
will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?'
or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well."

Calvin also goes on to say that if you are tempted by sexual temptation and sin, remember that you are part of the body of Christ. Your body is His temple. In such a situation we should also remember the warnings of Proverbs chapters 5 and 7 that tell us that sexual sin is the way to the grave, the way of misery and ruin.

Are you tempted to doubt? Remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Remember that He has promised never to leave you, never to forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) Remember what Jesus has done for you.

A couple of minutes ago I mentioned Brownlow North and the great doubts that came to him, the hours where he despaired. How did he ever get out of such a situation? It was by reading the Bible and applying what it said to himself. One night he was reading Romans 3 and when he read verse 21 a new light opened on his soul. It reads,

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known.... this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."

When Brownlow read that, he struck the book with his hand, sprang from his chair, and shouted,

"If that Scripture is true, I am a saved man!"

He believed, he trusted Christ. He applied it to himself. He knew that he had Christ's righteousness. Faith laid hold on the promise of God and gave him the assurance he needed. (From Brownlow North by K. Moody-Stuart. p. 29)

Are you tempted to think that no one cares for you? Satan will tell you that you're worthless, that you've only deluded yourself about being a Christian, that you're really too bad for Christianity. In such a situation you should remember Paul's words in 1 Timothy 1:15,

"Here is a trustworthy saying
that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
—of whom I am the worst."

In spite of our sin, Jesus cares for us very deeply. As we read in Romans 5:10,

"For if, when we were God's enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!"

Isaiah 40:11 says of our Shepherd,

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;"

If, on the other hand, you are perplexed by God's providences, like Job—rather than saying, "Why me?" we should be echoing the attitude Peter told us to have in 1 Peter 1:6–7,

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith—
of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire—
may be proved genuine and may result in praise,
glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

In such times we should remember the words of Romans 8:28,

"And we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose."

One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is this: (Shadowlands, p. 1)

"God loves us, so He makes us the gift of suffering. Through suffering, we release our hold on the toys of this world, and know our true good lies in another world. We're like blocks of stone, out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in this world is not the failure of God's love for us; it is that love in action. For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial is no more than the shadlowlands. Real life has not begun yet."

Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd. Calvin says, (Sermons on Ephesians p. 673)

"Seeing he has given us his promise that he will always be on our side, and that he is greater than all the world and that he has put us in good and safe keeping by ordaining our Lord Jesus Christ to be our shepherd, let us gather all these promises together and make a shield of them to set before us at all times, and whenever we are assailed."

When in trouble, we ought to be like David when he fled from his son Absalom. Psalm 3 records his words,

"O Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him.'
But you are a shield around me,
O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again,
because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this text means for you is that you are surely going to be attacked by Satan. He hates you and wants to destroy you. One day he is going to take aim at you and send a deadly arrow your way. If that arrow hits you you'll be undone, you'll be destroyed, lost forever. There's only one way of stopping that arrow, by trusting in Jesus. Only He can save you. Go to Him. Ask Him to save you. Take His protection.