The Armor of God: Part 5 - The Shield of Faith
by Aneel Aranha
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
Continued from Part 4: The Gospel Shoes
If you are a good Christian (read: a person who does his best to emulate Christ in every way, not somebody who merely goes to Church every Sunday), you are one of the few people that the enemy is mortally afraid of because he knows that you can cause his kingdom irreparable harm. Consequently, he will rain down arrows upon you without ceasing. Flaming arrows that will burn you if they hit and bring you down. There is only one thing that can keep you entirely safe. It is the mighty shield; the shield of faith.
A Roman shield (scutum) was curved to fit around the body and large enough to shield the entire body. Most shields were made either of plywood, in two or three layers, laid at 90° to each other, or planks, butted together at the edge. They were usually covered with a layer of leather.
The Old Testament is littered with stories of men who carried powerful shields of faith. Here is a mention of some of them in the letter written to the Hebrews.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. (Hebrews 11:6-8)
The shield of faith these men wielded was awesome as they believed and trusted in promises that God made, even at times when every bit of "common sense" dictated that they were impossible to fulfill. We are all required to wield shields of faith in the manner that they did.
God gives us this shield when we are baptized in Christ. It is given to us gratis, not because we have done anything to merit it or deserve it, but as a gift.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
But once given, we have to use it. A shield does nothing by itself. If left in a corner it will simply lie there collecting dust while you get shot at and burned down. Most of us who are born Christians do just that; keep our faith to one side. It is not enough to simply hold it in the hand either. While it might deflect some of the arrows shot at you, a well aimed one will have you up in flames. To be fully effective, a shield has to be used to block every arrow that is fired your way. This is an active task, requiring the effort of making choices all the time.
When the enemy shoots arrows at your mind, for instance, tempting you to question the promises of the gospel, it is faith that defends you; a faith that asserts that God does not lie and that every word he speaks is the truth. When he shoots arrows at your heart, tempting you with the desires of the world, once again it is only faith that can save you; a faith that reminds you that the eternal happiness that awaits us is worth sacrificing the temporal pleasures of this life. When he shoots arrows at your feet, tempting you to walk on slippery paths that lead to destruction, yet again it is faith that comes to the rescue; a faith that affirms that the only "way" is Jesus.
While the helmet of salvation will protect your mind, the breastplate of righteousness will protect your heart, and the gospel shoes will protect your feet, the defenses themselves are protected by the additional defence of faith. Consequently, anyone who wears the armor of God properly and carries a strong shield of faith becomes practically invulnerable to the attack of the enemy, whose burning arrows then begin to have a power akin to lighted match sticks. You can extinguish them easier than you would blow out the candles on a birthday cake!
Obtaining a faith that is this strong, however, requires a lot of effort. Faith has to be strengthened on a gradual basis, and this doesn't happen in a controlled environment. It mostly happens right out in the battlefield where you are required to use the shield of faith time and time again. God often protects you in the early stages, but as your "shield control" gets better, he leaves you to fend for yourself. This can be a very trying time, as I learned from experience over six months last year, but by the end of it, the shield practically becomes an extension of your arm and warding off the arrows becomes almost automatic. [see also The School of Faith]
Practice wielding the shield. The easiest way to do so is by making statements of faith whenever the arrows start flying, all expressed with declarations that begin with credos: I believe that God's will for me will be done in my life. I believe that God is looking after me and watching over me at all times. I believe that there is no power on earth that can touch me as long as I remain faithful to God. I believe that God does not lie; that he will keep each and every promise that he has made to me. I believe that I have eternal life. I believe that I am no longer a slave to sin. I believe ....
May the Spirit be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved.