“I’m tired!”…. “I’m burned out!”…. “I’m going to the house!” It might be surprising for many laymen to know that their pastor has probably dealt with one or more of those impulses on any number of Monday mornings. The simple truth is — ministry is HARD! I’m not sure I even trust a man who says he hasn’t fought the impulse to look through the ‘help wanted’ ads after a full weekend’s work. This is not just a self-serving whine, either. The work of the ministry is nothing less than willingly sticking your head up above the crowd and plastering a bullseye on it for the enemy to see. Let’s face it, when we do just enough to get by in the Kingdom, we readily meld into the background of what one writer calls ‘moral therapeutic deism’ – a faith that offers relative structure and occasional self soothing respite, but little productive engagement of the culture or passion for the Great Commission. The enemy is not threatened by such. When we deign to say ‘listen to me’, however, he raises his metaphorical eyebrow and begins to plot a way to restore our plodding anonymity if not our demise. Paul used the analogy of fiery darts and arrows to describe the tools and methods of his attack (Ephesians 6:16), and that is often a more than apt description. That being said, we are reminded that there are ‘weapons’ on our side of the call to obedience as well, and they are powerful in the extreme (2 Corinthians 2:4).
OK, OK – you’ve heard this sermon before, right? Maybe you even preached it and people were blessed by it and God used it….and you still came home to that sense that you’re not really making a difference and that you’re spinning your wheels. The enemy is clever enough to know how to touch you in that particular place where a pure heart strains to obey it’s pure purpose, and runs headlong into it’s own limitations. The good news is in a nuance not often lifted from the promise already committed to memory. It’s in a single word – the word ‘all’. It’s in Ephesians 6:16 – Paul makes it clear that not a single ‘fiery dart’ can get through the shield of faith that has been ‘taken’, not just received. The very answer for our sense of inadequacy lies in the fact that we’ve not just been given a shield of faith, but that we’ve proactively reached out and taken it up! I’m not responsible for the reaction of the people I’ve been called to serve, only for offering them the option under the anointing. Those fiery darts come in as personal invectives, questioning your effectiveness, your productivity, your successfulness, your relevancy, and any number of other specific assaults on the man of God as a person, and on the value of his work. In so doing, the enemy tries to get the man of God to carry a burden that never devolves to a true servant – that of accountability for the choices of others. When men reject the gospel, they are not rejecting the messenger so much as they are rejecting the message, but the enemy wants to take out two birds with one stone and cause the messenger to find his own leafy gourd to shelter under and pout (Jonah 4:6). We are well served to remember that where there is a temporary shelter the blessing is temporary as well – the gourd comes with a worm and a strong east wind just around the corner (Jonah 4:7,8).
Here’s the bottom line….we don’t need a ‘break’ nearly as much as we need a ‘breakthrough’. Relief is no substitute for victory, and we’ve been given all the tools to achieve it if we simply stay focused on His promise and His provision rather than our perception of His relative favor. The answer is in ‘taking’ the shield of faith to our selves and using it to ‘quench’ those fiery darts rather than just surviving the onslaught. Speaking the WORD over the attacks of the enemy in prayer and in outright confrontation breaks the hold of the accusers lies on the spirit and causes every weapon formed against us to founder (Isaiah 54:17). The promise is that in wielding this provision of the armor, ALL the fiery darts of the enemy will be quenched! Did you get it? That means that all I have to do is make sure my heart is pure before the Master, my hands are surrendered to His will, and my feet carry me to His purposes – what happens downstream is HIS responsibility, and my calling is secure in that obedience. Remember the predicate….’having done all, to stand’ (Ephesians 6:13) – did you see the comma? Do your part, and be willing to ‘stand’ still and see the salvation of the Lord. There’s sufficient grace for the journey, a sufficient arsenal to fight the fight, a battle plan crafted in the halls of eternity, and a promise that He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you! Take that to yourself along with that shield of faith, and there’s just no way you can fall.