September 1, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Shield of Faith

In addition to all this [the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and gospel of peace sandals], take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  ~ Ephesians 6:16

Perhaps you remember from previous posts and the verses that precede this one, that the purpose of putting on the armor is that when the day of evil comes we, as Christians, can stand our ground against the devil.  He would like to knock us down.  The Lord has provided for us to stand firm in the battle that is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and forces.  Paul describes how God provides for us using the analogy of a soldier's armor.

What God provides is amazing.  He cares for us!

So, how about this shield of faith?  The verses indicate that faith can put out the flaming arrows of the evil one, which begs two questions.  One, what are these arrows satan sends our way?  And two, how does faith extinguish them?

I love how commentators were all on the same page with regard to explaining what the arrows are.  In fact, I'm sure if you thought about it for a moment, you would come up with a similar list.  Satan assails us almost constantly, and especially if we are working to move in God's direction, with temptation.  We are fiery-dart tempted to fear, bitterness, anger, doubt, lust, revenge, despair, hatred, false guilt, etc.*

Are you familiar with the burn of these fiery arrows?

I am.

If we're not holding up the shield, the arrows get to us and try to burn their way through the righteousness we have in Christ, covering our inmost parts, and through the truth that we have buckled tight around our waist to hold our armor together.  We begin to stumble, wobble, sway, and are disoriented by the temptations as we let them sink in.  We are in danger of collapse.  How can our shield of faith protect us?

Here's how!  When Paul talks about a shield, he's not thinking of a dinky circle, but rather a large rectangular shield made of wood and leather, soaked in water.  Fiery darts can't get through it and are, further, put out on contact.  Likewise, the darts of temptation sent our way by satan meet their abrupt end when we counter them with faith.

The fire of the arrows sizzle and pop messages at us: You are worthless; You are stupid; You are weak; You are unlovable; You cannot stand; You are a failure; You might as well give up, because you're beyond help - sin wins with you.

When we let go of faith that is a gift from God and our shield falls to the ground, we are in big trouble.  But God has given the gift to faith in Him, which is a most powerful protection against the devil's fiery arrows.  They come with their messages of despair, doubt, and defiance.  Faith responds with, You are loved; See what Christ has done for you; Remember how the Lord has worked in the past; Be strengthened by the truth that the Spirit lives in you; Rejoice in the hope you have in the Lord; Give thanks that you are not defined by the world or your failures, but by your membership in God's family and kingdom.

The soaked, impenetrable shield of faith stops the blazing, tempting lies of the devil, mid air! 

God hands us hope in the shape of faith.  Hold on tight!

I love how the New Bible Commentary concludes its discussion of the shield:

Faith in this letter is the radical openness to God that allows Christ's full indwelling, and brings a deeper grasp of his unfathomable love (3:17).  Take up the shield of faith thus suggests a deliberate and positive holding on to the God revealed in the gospel; firm and resolute dependence on the Lord which quenches the fiery attempts of the enemy to harm and to spread panic.

Till next week, walk in His way!

*Examples from lists in all three commentaries: The Message of Ephesians, John Stott; The New Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Press; and The Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary.  They got their lists from the Bible.

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