“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV).
We all love to hear about the faith of the spiritual giants who have gone before us. It never gets old. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV). Hebrews 11 goes on to speak of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and the list goes on. I encourage you to read all of Hebrews 11 & 12 today, and spend some mindful time linking their stories to the Shield of Faith.
The concept of a shield isn’t hard for us to recognize, but it may be a bit foreign to visualize faith as a shield. Consider this: the opposite of faith is not doubt as you may suppose; but rather it is fear. Fear can cripple a person. It can hold her back from doing what she knows she should do. It can keep him paralyzed, unable to function. When you trust God, have faith in Him, you will be able to function at full capacity. The lies that the devil speaks in your ear, “flaming darts of the evil one,” no longer keep you from advancing. It’s no wonder that Jesus said, “if you have faith like a grain of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 ESV).
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It takes God at His Word. It understands the risk, but sees the unseen. It recognizes that God will always back up His Word. However, like the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, we will not always see His Word played out in our lifetime. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” Hebrews 11:13 ESV, emphasis mine). In our current society we want to see results yesterday! But God’s timing is not always our timing. We obey, however, knowing that “all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen (so be it) to God for His glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV).
Faith is moving forward when fear rears its ugly head. I’m sure most of us have seen movies where two ancient armies are facing off on the field of battle, the front lines like one solid shield. No one enters battle without fear, yet they fight nonetheless. In Part 2 of this series we looked at the Sword of the Spirit. The Word of God. Our primary offensive weapon. Our shield protects us so that our sword can come into play. But if not for our sword, we probably wouldn’t even have a shield! For “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV).
In Luke 17, the disciples ask Jesus to “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5 ESV). Jesus tells them a story about being a servant (vv. 7-10). As I see it, this story tells us that we can increase our faith by going over and above what we are commanded to do. This weekend my pastor reflected upon our “growing up” years. He rightly pointed out, for most of us at least, that when told to clean our rooms or write a book report in school, our question–spoken or unspoken–was usually “What is the least I can do to meet the requirement.” I am guilty at times of taking on this attitude in my spiritual life. But in order for our faith to grow, we need to step out, trusting God’s great love for us, and do something more.
A shield is only as strong as the material of which it is comprised. A shield of papier mâché will stop a spitball, but it will be totally useless when faced with flaming arrows from hell. A shield built of faith in the Word of God, that has been tried and tested in the battlefields of obedience will “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
Life can be brutal, filled with wars which are not of our own choosing. Putting on the whole armor of God, especially the shield of faith, ensures that we find ourselves safely on the far shore.