Opportunities, Obstacles, and Faith

by | May 24, 2024 | Poimenas

Editor’s Note: This is the transcript of the address delivered at the 2024 Graduation Ceremony of Shepherds Theological Seminary by President Stephen Davey.

When Marsha and I, along with our infant twins, arrived to plant a church, we had been able to raise $650 dollars a month for support. We were definitely out on a limb – a providential limb – yet we had seen the Lord provide for us. We left seminary without any debt. And that was largely due to the fact that our family doctor in Texas delivered all Dallas Seminary babies for free. And you know, the line of seminary couples stretched around the hospital.

Blessings Bring Burdens

Upon graduation from seminary and soon after we arrived in North Carolina, I was driving through downtown Cary. Across from Ashworth’s Drug Store was a billboard that grabbed my attention. I don’t remember what the billboard was advertising, but I remember the words. In large letters, it read: “There is no heavier burden than a great opportunity.” It was a reminder that there was no such thing as opportunity without opposition. The blessing of ministry brought with it the burden of ministry. In fact, the greater the blessing, the heavier the burden – the greater the opportunity for heaven, the greater the opposition from hell. The Apostle Paul balanced these twin truths with the depth of ministry experience when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:9: “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” How’s that for a balanced, realistic perspective? There is an open door for effective ministry and when I walk through it, there will be many adversaries waiting for me. Paul is a realist. He understands that you cannot have spiritual fruit without a spiritual fight. Opportunities and obstacles arrive packaged together.

The Importance of Faith

Graduates, we’ve considered it an incredible privilege from God to help prepare you to walk through that open door. But be reminded, what will protect you from the adversary won’t be your diploma or your doctorate, it will be a shield of faith. Faith in God’s provision as you move forward with opportunity; and faith to trust God’s protection when facing opposition. This veteran warrior writes in Ephesians 6:11. “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” With that, Paul goes on to describe the armor, piece by piece. One particular piece of armor that has always intrigued me, perhaps because it is so critical and yet so often misunderstood, is the shield of faith. Paul refers to it in verse 16: “In all circumstances” – get that – in all circumstances, “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” This Roman shield that Paul talked about gives us insight into the operation of our faith as servant-leaders in ministry. This shield was not the small shield carried on the arm. Rather, this particular shield was nicknamed the “door” because it was large and rectangular – it covered the entire body of the soldier as he walked forward. There were times when it could be planted in the ground and hidden behind. It was covered with leather and soaked with water before a battle so that the flaming arrows from enemy archers would hit the shield and fizzle out. To you, our graduating class of 2024, this shield is more important than ever as you walk through open doors of ministry opportunity. Three reasons can be gleaned from this text, as to why the shield of faith is not optional, but essential.

The shield of faith is a reminder of your reliable God.

David, the psalmist wrote: “You, O Lord, are a shield about me” (Psalm 3:3). Our faith in His ability and reliability must never be partial, but total. This is why the very first thing the devil did on planet earth with a human being was cast doubt on the reliability of God’s word, which is an expression of the reliability of His character. When you face your future temptations and challenges in life, with perhaps a heavy burden, and when a fiery missile strikes your shield of faith:

  • Will you believe that God is working everything out?
  • Will you trust that He is in control of the chaos?
  • Even when you consider what you’re having to endure, with no end in sight . . . is God aware?
  • Does God really have your best interests at heart?

When you start listening to those thoughts and effectively lower your shield, you have now become more of an open target then ever before. The enemy can’t steal your soul as a Christian, but he can steal your song. He can steal your courage so that the next time you see an open door, all you’re going to see are adversaries waiting inside. This shield of faith is a reminder that God is entirely reliable.

The shield of faith is a reminder to rely on each other.

You’ve made some friends here at Shepherds Seminary that will last a lifetime. You made some good connections here, and that’s important. In fact, the word “connections” takes us back to this Roman shield. They designed it to work individually and collectively. The edges of the shields were beveled and notched so that they could be locked into place with the shields on either side. A row of soldiers created a wall, advancing against the enemy. This is a tremendous illustration of the local church – serving with unified purpose and oneness of heart. Little wonder the enemy of the church hates the unity of the church – and protecting that unity will be one of the greatest challenges you’ll face, time and time again.

The shield of faith is a reminder to keep relaying the gospel.

There’s a third critical element in the operation of this shield of faith: your gospel message is of Christ, who is the Light in a darkened world. In the center of each shield, the Romans attached a round piece of brass. Before going into battle, the soldiers would polish that brass so that it shone with the brilliance of a mirror. As they walked into battle, they would strategically position the shields so that they reflected the light of the sun into the eyes of their enemies. What a wonderful illustration of the believer who reflects – relays – the gospel of God’s Son. And no wonder that the enemy hates the reflection of the gospel: it has the power to dispel the darkness. So as you adopt Paul’s perspective, living with a sense of anticipation for the open door, just remember Paul’s reminder that open doors include many adversaries. Yes, there’s opposition, but just look at the opportunities for effective ministry. But just don’t forget your shield. You will experience both the burdens and the blessings of an effective ministry as you trust God for provision and protection. Don’t hold back . . . accept the heavy burden of a great opportunity, for the advancement of the church, and for the glory of God.

Stephen Davey has served as the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary since its inception in 2003. Stephen also serves as the pastor/teacher of The Shepherd’s Church (www.shepherdschurch.com) as well as the principal Bible teacher for Wisdom International (www.wisdomonline.org).

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