A week ago, my bible study leader made a confession – “I need a break.”
My group (Radiance) is compiled of a group of about twelve women, ages 23-32 and a mix of married, mothers, and singles. Our leader is just about the coolest person ever, because she shows up once a week to teach to all of us hooligans, and brings a home cooked meal with her.
So a week ago, she opened up the room for offers – for someone else to lead the group in week five of our study. The room sat quiet for a moment, until out of nowhere I said, “I’ll do it.” I think she was half surprised and half relieved. I was mostly just surprised that those words had come out of my mouth.
Either way, you’re mine week five. So here we go.
Our group is currently working through THE ARMOR OF GOD by PRISCILLA SHIRER. We’ve worked through the Belt of Truth, The Breastplate of Righteousness, The Shoes of Peace, and now week five – The Shield of Faith.
In a moment of true honesty, I have made it to most weeks during this semester of our group, but I have yet to read the book. It has sat patiently on my desk, holding onto it’s tight, uncreased binding. I participate as much as I can in the discussion, but for some reason or another, I became too busy to read during the past weeks. I’m not sure why I thought this week would be any different.
So I know that you’re most likely not doing this study, but hey until week five, I wasn’t either. Let’s get on with it together.
When Priscilla moves on to week five, she discusses the Roman army’s shield – two feet wide, four feet long, shaped like a door with iron built into the center to then be covered in canvas and wrapped in leather. A soldier could hide his entire body behind this shield if he were to crouch onto the ground in cover.
These shields were used more strategically when the enemy would launch flaming arrows overhead to create chaos within the tight Roman formations. The soldiers would then group together and link their shields to create what they called a turtle formation – used to deflect the arrows, and when the shields were dipped in water – extinguish them.
Priscilla talks in length about the meaning of faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines it this way: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
In the study she brings a chair into the illustration- “Whether or not a chair can hold my weight has nothing to do with how much faith I have. I could possess all the faith in the world, but my faith doesn’t make the chair any more strong or sturdy. So increasing my faith is not necessary, but becoming better acquainted with the strength of the chair is. The stronger I discover it to be, the more willing I’ll be to sit in it and allow it to carry my weight.”
The author also relates faith to a vulnerable relationship with a friend. When meeting someone, you could have all the faith in the world that the relationship is going to be one of deep and intimate conversation – a real friendship with honesty and vulnerability. But unless you open up to that person on a real level, you’re not going to know. You’ll never get deeper than the surface level. You’ll never live out the potential of that friendship.
In my head the illustration took shape with getting on a flight. You might see the back of the pilot’s head, hear him or her come over the speaker in the plane, but you don’t know that person from Adam. Yet by getting on that plane, are you not entrusting your life to their skills as a pilot? You haven’t shaken their hand or looked them in the eyes, but you’re handing them your future. You could easily not get on the plane, but where would that get you?
We can have BELIEF in the Lord, but we’re not fully trusting in the Lord if we’re not living it out through FAITH. “Faith does not focus on the quality or quantity of human belief. It focuses on how trustworthy, true and loyal the object of that belief has proven Himself to be.”
My thoughts seemed to make a connection that was not illustrated through the study, but here it is.
When the Roman soldiers came in to their turtle formation, linking their shields together, they were fully enclosed in this dome of protection, if you will. They held up their shields awaiting the attack to end. They had no idea what was happening outside of that layer of protection, but had to have blind FAITH in their shields to stop the chaos of the fiery swords.
God calls us to have this same blind faith when we walk with Him. We don’t know the path in which he will take us, but He asks us to walk anyways. It may go against our own thoughts, knowledge and past experiences, but “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).
Priscilla finishes this week’s study with the story of Luke 5.
He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
It’s as if Jesus was saying, “you just heard my sermon, now let’s go live it out.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Simon was called to go against his knowledge of fishing in shallow water, his experience of fishing all night with no reward, and his exhaustion of just washing his nets, and obey the words of Jesus anyways. The result of this blind faith was the desires of his heart.
One of my favorite Christian songs is Oceans by Hillsong, and it’s playing in my head as I read the story of Simon.
“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand”
In the beginning of the lesson Priscilla talks about a friend who actively listened and heard from the Lord – faithfully following His desires. When I read this I was jealous of how clearly she described hearing from God, knowing that it rarely, if ever, happens to me.
Then I realized that maybe it doesn’t happen because I don’t allow the space for it. My life is busy, hectic and loud. My mind is wandering, distracted, and allowing the fiery arrows of chaos straight through. I have yet to hold up my shield and allow the quietness and stillness of the Lord to enter.
Last week I didn’t know why I blurted out an agreement to take on this week’s lesson, teaching in front of a group of my peers – one of the most intimidating plans I could make for myself on a Wednesday night.
But now I know. For the past week I have opened this study, dove into my bible, and swam in the depths of my thoughts. I prayed that the Lord would help me craft the words to say and the connections to make to His Shield of Faith. We spent time – real time – together.
I was jealous of the woman who heard from God often. But then I realized, I didn’t just hear from God. I was pushed by Him. He called out to me, and I followed. And because I followed, He gave me the strength to lead.