Are You Using the Shield of Faith?
Having the Right Tool is good
Having the proper tool for a job is a wonderful thing. If one must chop down a tree, a pencil sharpener won’t be of much use. If one is baking bread (like I am now), an oven is more helpful than a chainsaw. Now, I have produced some loaves that could have been more easily sliced by a chainsaw, but that’s another story.
The correct tool for the job at hand can make or break the project, but simply having the necessary tool is not enough. One must understand its uses, and a certain level of adeptness at wielding the said tool is also nice.
Knowing How to Use It is even better
I once borrowed a very cool mandolin slicer from a friend and commenced to slice off the end of one finger while enthusiastically carving a sweet potato for fries. I had the right tool, but I should have practiced a little first and gotten used to handling that weapon before attacking the potato (and myself).
Ephesians 6, in the well-loved “Armor of God” passage, informs us of the weapons with which God has equipped us to succeed in the spiritual battle of living in enemy territory and working to take ground for the King.
I particularly love the assurance in verse 16:
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
It took long years for me to realize that activating my faith it the ONE factor that will change how much damage I sustain from the enemy. Not how many shots are fired at me, but how much havoc they can wreak.
The Shield of Faith
A shield is a useful thing when flaming arrows are being shot at you. Remember the ancient Romans and their testudo – the shield wall they would form when marching in formation into battle, making an impenetrable covering over their heads and all around their line? Very effective.
The shield of faith – your faith – can extinguish ALL the fiery darts of the evil one. That’s a Bible truth and stupendously wonderful news! If you were under the impression that you are simply living at the mercy of whatever the devil throws your way, be encouraged that God did not leave you defenseless and needing to impersonate a hedgehog at every attack.
However, a shield, like a mandolin slicer, is only as useful as its user is adept at handling it.
If I use my shield so rarely that I fumble to raise it, handle it awkwardly, and lack the strength to move it quickly into position, then I will be left open to lots of arrows, and some will undoubtedly find their mark.
In my ignorance, I used to think this was some unfortunate and inevitable mystery of being a Christian. I don’t know much more now, but I do know that when God says the shield He has given me can extinguish ALL the flaming arrows shot at me, I can take Him at His word, and I’d best learn to use my shield.
If I’m getting repeatedly wounded by the enemy, it’s not because of equipment failure. Yes, he’s nasty, and he fights dirty. Yes, he looks for wounding and weakness and is remorseless and cruel. But he is defeated, and he knows it.
Since there aren’t REALLY flaming arrows whizzing around us, what does the enemy use, metaphor aside?
The Flaming Darts of the Enemy
Fear. Doubt. Discouragement. Betrayal. Circumstances. Sickness.
That’s just a very small sampling of what can be his handiwork, but chances are you’ve experienced more than one of them this week alone. Rather than fighting on tangible fields of battle, the struggles we face are most often on the invisible battlefield between our ears. Such a small location, but the impact of the outcome of the battles fought there will affect every aspect of our lives.
Think about it – our actions are determined by our beliefs. What we really believe about God, His goodness, His faithfulness, and our own worth and value are prime pieces of territory the enemy would love to stake his flag on in that battlefield of the mind.
So if doubts, fears, etc. are the arrows, then HOW do we repel them? They are much more subtle than the purely physical variety, and making the transition from metaphor to reality can be a challenge.
We repel them by activating our faith against them.
How YOU Can Use the Shield of Faith
Example scenario: We hear the news of the recent Las Vegas tragedy and as a result, start feeling fearful of being in large crowds.
Fear-filled response: We dwell on everything terrible we have heard in the news lately. Instead of fighting it, we give in to this fear and allow it to grow, allowing our world to shrink down to a shade of the full and abundant life Christ has provided for us. We become controlled by the fear of something that may never happen, just by hearing about something that didn’t happen directly to us. We have given up territory to the enemy and put limitations on our existence that we were never meant to have.
Faith-filled response: We pray for those affected, understanding that we live in enemy territory but that God is not threatened in any way by the enemy. He has no equal, and there is no question about which is the winning side in this epic battle for the souls of humanity and the glory of God. We can remind ourselves of Isaiah 33:6, which says “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” We can also remind ourselves that He has promised to never leave us, and if He brings us to a season of hardship or suffering, He WILL see us through it. We can also remind ourselves that this life is just the prelude and training ground for the real one – a mere dress rehearsal for the wonders of eternity. Our job is simply to trust and obey God and honor Him in the moments He brings and to gratefully live the life He has granted us, trusting Him with the future, and remembering that He is already there. Not bound by time or space, He is already in our future, so we have nothing to fear. When we arrive, He is already there. His Word tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
If I am not accustomed to responding this way – to raising my shield and using it to fight off an attack – it may feel like so much whistling in the dark at first. It is very much the opposite. It is shutting down the enemy’s attempt at forcing us backward. The only way to get more comfortable doing it is by repetition. The fight is real, friends.
In both of the possible responses, we are moved in one direction or another. We have either retreated or advanced.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I don’t want to allow the enemy to push me into a corner by systematically giving up ground because I failed to use my shield.
Of course, there is much more in Ephesians 6, and we have a sword, too, as well as other pieces of armor. The sword and shield work together beautifully since our faith grows by hearing the Word of God, and the sword IS the Word of God. A synchronistic response of offense and defense – faith in God and speaking His Word over your circumstances.
Put IT Into Action
My challenge to you this week is to think about the most recent arrow the enemy has shot at you. What is he using? Doubts about your worth? Fear? Discouragement? Whatever it is, find a Scripture that applies, and memorize it. The next time those thoughts come, use your shield of faith! Enemy attacks don’t stop until the war is over, so be prepared to do it again, and then again.
If you need help finding a Scripture that fits, let me know.
This week, I’m praying for you. I’m praying that the victorious, soon-coming King will give you fresh strength for the fight at hand and that you will become even more adept at using the weapons He has put at your disposal. If you’re a bit out of practice and they feel clumsy and unnatural at first, don’t give up! He knows you can master them, and so do I.
With faith, hope, and love,