“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)
So you’ve got your kickin’ belt, your righteous breastplate, and your stellar boots all strapped on and ready to go. You tromp out onto the battlefield ready to combat the forces of darkness. Suddenly, you glance up; your courageous grin melts away as you see a shower of incendiary missiles arching straight toward you.
It’s a frightening scenario. Even with all your vital parts covered by your body armor, you’re facing a world of pain if you can’t find some kind of “umbrella coverage” to block these flaming projectiles. Well, our Commander hasn’t let us down yet, and today He gives us another remarkable defensive tool – the shield of faith.
Just as with the previous pieces of armor, we must make sure that this shield of faith is the genuine “GI” (God-issued) version, and not some phony replica that we’ve contrived for ourselves. We trust in the belt of God’s truth, not our own version of the truth that shifts over time and changes with the notion of relativism. We trust in the breastplate of God’s righteousness, not our own feeble attempt at living a life that’s up to the standard of perfection demanded of us. We trust in God’s peace, not the shallow lies that we use to bandage over our broken relationships with God, others, and self while letting the real problem fester and grow. And we trust in the faith that comes through God in the Holy Spirit, not in our own strength to “believe hard enough.”
This shield of faith is strengthened and reinforced by hearing the Word of God, through Holy Baptism, and through receiving the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, God continually adds more layers to our protective covering of faith, making it more resistant to puncture and less flammable all the time. When we put our faith in our own strength, our own ability to believe, and our own philosophical insights, we construct a covering of thin balsa wood that bursts into flames and is reduced to pathetic ashes by the scorching trials that daily assault us.
So how do we make sure that our shield is genuine, quality “GI” material? Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to get out there and put it to the test against Satan’s attacks. The apostle Peter gives good news to struggling Christians when he says that we “through faith are shielded by God’s power…In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:5-7)
Our Commander asks a difficult thing of us; to stride boldly into battle and allow our faith to be tested under enemy fire. It’s certainly scary, but God knows that we’ve been equipped with the proper tools to defend ourselves. It takes faith to go forward and do this – faith in God’s promises and His gracious will for our lives. In a beautiful demonstration of God’s wisdom, He allows our faith to be proven to us personally before putting it on display for the world. It takes faith to let Him put our faith to the test.
There’s a reason why God asks such a trial of us in the first place. This battle is not just about me personally. There are many more souls at stake in this conflict, and being God’s warrior means letting Him put me on the line for others, knowing that He will save and protect me while bringing glory and honor to Himself. As others see God’s splendor reflected from your shield of faith – held high over your head and extinguishing countless flaming arrows – the Holy Spirit will be working to equip them with saving faith as well.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for the gift of faith that You have given me through the Holy Spirit. Let me always trust in Your promises and rely on Your Word when my own strength would fail. Be with me in all trials and tribulations in life, that I may bring glory and honor to You and shine Your love to all those around me; through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen