Summary: The Devil is at war with us, his arrows are flying. Time to raise our shields and extinguish the flaming arrows of doubt.

Raising up our shields

Genesis 15:1-21

I am a trekkie, not of the next generation or deep space nine, but one of the originals. I always looked forward to the ominous music, the attack from the enemy ships, and Chekhov asking, “Shall I raise the shields Captain?” This morning I want to talk about raising up our shields.

In the ancient world, shields were used to protect the warriors from the enemy’s weapons. These weapons could be arrows, swords, spears, or flames. In firefighting, we have different types of shields. We have face shields, we have our turnout gear, and we have hoses with which we use water as a shield. Shields protect us from things that will harm us.

The devil has many weapons, and he knows how to use them effectively. Of all his weapons, we would think that temptation is the strongest, actually it isn’t. I consider, of all his weapons, DOUBT is the strongest. Doubt is that nosy neighbor. You know what I am talking about don’t you. You’ve just come home from work, it is a beautiful evening, cool, gentle breeze, and you decide to have dinner al fresco. You get out the grill, just getting ready to put the meat on the grill when all of a sudden you hear “Hey neighbor, got a minute?”

Doubt always starts with a question. “How can you believe that big God could ever care about you?” “Don’t you think that you are presuming too much that God cares about you, let alone want someone like you in heaven?” “What makes you think you are on good terms with the big guy?” “Did you forget what you did on that business trip?” “How about what you did the other day when that driver cut you off?” “Do you think that He won’t call you on that?” Doubt will pester you, irritate you, criticize you, always question and never answer.

Doubt is a two-faced, mean spirited, foul-mouthed liar. His aim is not to convince you, but to question and confuse you. He does not offer solutions, only raises questions. He may use the current jargon, but he is not a newcomer. His first seeds of doubt were planted many years ago in the Garden of Eden in the heart of Eve.

I imagine Eve going through the Garden enjoying the day looking at all God created. As the kids would say today, maybe she was out catching some rays. All of a sudden, she notices something watching her. They engage in some small talk, all the while, he is working to get her to change her focus. He gets her to look at the tree or the fruit. He positions himself, as he will do, between the light and us, casting his dark shadow as he plants that seed of doubt.

Did God really say you must not eat of any tree in the Garden? No picket signs, no slogans “God is dead.” Just doubts, just questions to get us to take our eyes off God and onto anything else.

Have you seen this fellow? If you are doing good works to be saved and not because you are saved, you are listening to him. If you find yourself doubting that God could forgive you, you have been listening to him. If you are more cynical about Christians than sincere about Christ, you have been sold some snake oil. If you doubt that God could love you, guess who came to dinner. Time to raise the shields.

Imagine if you would Abraham. He is in his late eighties and he remembers what God said to him earlier. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars. Abraham remembers the promise, but then he sees his wife, his only wife at that time, Sarah walk by, silver or white hair, maybe her nightgown and robe with slippers, walking by maybe with the aid of a cane. “Err God?” “Yes” “How you going do this, we are old and past the age of childbearing?” “No problem” God says. The chicken bone stuck in his throat for a few minutes, but eventually slid down. Then he remembers promise number two. “All this land will be yours.” Imagine God telling you today that your children will own America one day. Then maybe we can understand Abraham’s hesitation. “A little help with these ok.” And just at the right time, a little help was given.

He was resting in the quiet of the palm trees. His sleep is fitful; it is as though God is allowing him to work through his doubt. How can I know that God is with me, what if this is all a hoax, am I really sure that was God speaking. The thick dark clouds of doubt overshadow the light of God’s promise. It is the same darkness we feel when sitting in a funeral chapel and listen as the obituary of a loved is read. The same darkness we feel when the doctors say, we have done all we can do, the same darkness when we lost our temper again, the same darkness into which Jesus screamed “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” These are appropriate words, for when this darkness of doubt overtakes us; God seems so very far away.

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