The other day I was driving south on Pacific Coast Highway, looking at the varied colors of the choppy waves in all their beauty. Over the years, I have rollerbladed the route many times, singing as I skate, swinging my arms with abandon. I caught sight of a woman and zeroed in on her attire, not quite believing my eyes. What was she thinking? First, she was wearing shorts, no protection on her legs; most importantly, she was not wearing a helmet - why, a fall could be lethal if her head struck the asphalt! Oh, but wait . . . she had her mask on! So, she was protected...?`
We have been looking at donning the armor of God, which Paul described for the young believers in Ephesus. For the fourth piece of soul armor, Paul says to
take up the shield of faith.
Faith? These days, when people use the word faith, they often mean, ‘keep good thoughts that things will work out’. In that case, Paul’s instruction to take up the shield of faith does not make a very strong defense, does it?
Our faith is only as good as the object in which we place it.
And then it only becomes real in our lives if/as we are willing to trust it.
I hear different folks on television, in conversations at random places, even at church say, ‘You’ve just got to have faith’ or ‘Keep the faith, Friend!’ It is a safe, innocuous, non-committal way of saying, 'Trust God, without taking a chance of using his name which is oft politically incorrect these days. It seems like just having faith, whether or not it is in God, a swami or guru, crystals or magnets, a therapist or life coach, or perhaps in the cosmos, is popular and meant to provide some kind of strength—sometimes irrespective of the object (or lack of ), in which we place our faith! Hmmm. Truthfully, that’s kinda silly. Fact is, the sentiment ‘keep the faith’ is usually a well-wishing notion with no substance or power behind it, just a sweet thought.
Take a look at Paul's great words:
“Put on the whole armor of God...
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,
having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and having shod your feet with the gospel of peace;
above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”1
The shield is the fourth item of Roman armor that Paul uses to symbolize the armor a believer should take up to STAND against the attacks of evil that are inevitable. The Roman soldier used several different kinds of shields. The Greek word for shield here is thureos—a shield about two-and-a-half feet wide and high, designed to protect the entire body of the soldier. The shield was made of a solid piece of wood and was covered with metal or thick leather. It was strong and made to protect the soldier, and rebuff fiery darts.
Check this out, as we don’t hear of this sort of warfare today: in the first century warfare the Roman soldier faced, fiery darts were arrows wrapped in fabric, dipped in pitch, and just before being shot, lit on fire. The pitch burned fiercely and on impact would splatter flaming bits, igniting anything flammable in its path. In addition to piercing a person's body, such arrows inflicted serious burns on enemy soldiers and destroyed their clothing and gear.2 Paul said to use the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of Satan. His darts—FEAR, hatred, anger, arrogance, covetousness, despair, guilt and temptation … all designed to get us to doubt and to go against God’s best for us… to choose our will over his will.
Instead, when the arrows come, as they certainly do right now --worries about the future for sure-- we need to raise our shield/exercise our faith in what we know about the goodness and greatness and might of God, realizing that he. is. our. God.
Or as the psalmist said, 'But you, O LORD, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.3
We remember that with God all things are possible.4
And greater is he who is in us that he who is in the world.5
It is not our faith that is indestructible, but rather our God! But we must brandish the shield of faith--apprehending the power that is in the name of Jesus to defeat that which is launched at us! Amen.
1 - from Ephesians 6.10-17
2 - John MacArthur, “The Believer’s Armor: God’s provision for your Protection”
3 - Psalm 3.3
4 – Matthew 19.26
5 – 1 John 4.4