This week we continue in the series of Spiritual Warfare, today focusing on the Shield of Faith. But first, a bit of a recap.
Previously in this series on Spiritual Warfare we covered… defence, and I suggested we’re like windsock people. Before we meet God, we are inert nylon sacks lying on the ground, incapable of doing anything for ourselves. We are at the mercy of the weather and world around us and a victim of the sin we are born into.
Then, in His mercy, God moves. The Father’s love falls upon us, the Spirit stirs, and the Son issues His invitation to step out from our identity of “victim”, “sinner” and “enemy of God”, and offers us a choice.
If we choose yes, the Spirit bursts to life within us and we become animated, vibrant and alive. However, our shell is still nylon and weak. But our God does not leave us exposed. In the one motion, as we choose to die to self and are reborn of the Spirit, we are instantly encased in the armour of God.
In the war against sin, the world and the devil, we stand encased in the righteousness, salvation, truth and peace of Christ. These are defensive weapons crafted for the war we are engaged in and perfect for defending us against Satan’s tactics of guilt, lies, suffering and pride. For we don’t stand encased in a cold, rigid, metal shell, we stand within the living breathing Son of God, who is the armour of God.
Now we turn our attention to the offensive weapons starting with the shield of faith. You might be tempted argue the shield is a defensive weapon. And you’d be right. But a turtle doesn’t leave its shell at home when it pops out to the shops, or steps outside for a bit of gardening. Like the turtle, our shields come into play in every aspect of our lives; to protect us from attack, but also to enable us to forge ahead, or to go about out daily lives.
In Ephesians 6:16 Paul wrote,
6 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
Paul was referring to the Roman legions shield – Image: Turtle formation
The Turtle Echidna
One night we had an echidna wander through our carport. (I know echidnas are not turtles or tortoises – but the principles are the same). Anyway, in an uncharacteristic bout of bravery, our dog alerted us of an alien creature trespassing on our property.
We went to investigate and I, in my ignorance, thought I could save this poor creature (who was at this point a large ball of spines) and relocate it to a safer, quieter environment. Do you think I could move that thing? Not only was it huge, it had become one with the rock under it.
I tried using a shovel, to no avail and then realised, the best thing to do would be to go back inside— with the dog—and let the creature do what it did best; go about its business without fear from any of us. Patiently waiting within its rock-solid ball of spines for the danger to pass, then continue on its way.
As a means of defence, a segment of, or a fractured shield still has some use. However, as a means of offence, whole shields only need apply. And what’s more, not only do our shields need to be whole, but they also need to be properly prepared. Roman soldiers coated their shields with fire retardant. Because, obviously, it’s irrelevant how whole your shield is, if it’s on fire, it’s not only useless, but it’s a liability.
Another important fact about shields is proximity. We not only need to keep our shield close— like the turtle/echidna, but also in the right position—like boxing. If you drop your guard, it’s irrelevant how fit and experienced you are, or how good your equipment is. If you don’t use it properly, you’re going down… guaranteed.
Our Faith is a multifaceted weapon. As we can see from the Turtle/Echidna formation, it was also useful for covering and shielding others. For example, in the gospels we read of how a Roman Centurion’s faith was strong enough to heal his servant. A synagogue leader’s faith was powerful enough to save his daughter’s life. And a Canaanite mother’s faith healed her child. The recipient’s faith was not the issue, it was the faith of the one going into battle on their behalf.
Live By Faith
What is the famous Faith Chapter in the Bible? Hebrews 11.
“My righteous one will live by faith. And I will take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”Hebrews 10:38-39,
Faith – the righteous are those who will survive the judgement because they have faith (i.e., are faithful to God). Biblical saving faith was not passive assent but actively staking one’s life on the claims of God. It was a certainty sufficient to affect one’s lifestyle.Keener, C. IVP Biblical Background Commentary New Testament – second Edition p427 . Inter Varsity Press, 2014. Illinois,
Do You Believe… Enough?
Weak faith or moments of weakness are not the same as unbelief. Because unbelief (i.e., non-belief) indicates distance from God.
in Mark 9 We read of a situation of a man and his boy who the disciples couldn’t heal. When Jesus arrived on the scene, the father asked if it was possible for Him to save his son. Jesus replied, all things are possible for those who believe:
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:24
This is very different to what the author of Hebrews refers to in Hebrews 3:12-15, 19 .
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”Hebrews 3:12-15, 19 .
Stubborn hearts which had seen the miracles of God, who had been held and saved by the Father’s love, power, and grace, turned away from Him. After all they had experienced and witnessed, they did not believe God could deliver them into the Promised Land. They rejected Yahweh and therefore He rejected them. Yet our lord was able to work a miracle with the conflict of faith the father had in Mark 9. What was the difference? One was making an effort, the other had given up after they had already received the blessing.
Remember it is not our armour. It is God’s. Our faith in not in ourselves, but in Him. Christ is our Shield of Faith and He is big enough to cover us and all our trials.
The Way of the Turtle
A turtle is wise to retreat into its shell—its Shield of Faith—when it’s in danger. For this is what the shell is for. But a turtle who abandons its shell and runs for its life, is not long for this world.
Faith is never perfect. Often the two, unbelief and belief—like the father in Mark 9—settle in the same pool, war within the same soul. However, this does not present a problem for God. We are told faith as small as a mustard seed, can move mountains. Matthew 17:20. But first there must be faith.
Asking for help, wanting to learn, being willing to grow is how we prepare our shields for battle and protect them from fiery arrows. Allowing our faith to affect our lives is how we carry them correctly. And obeying the command to love—the Lord and our neighbour—is how we widen our shield’s reach to encompass those around us.
Emperor’s New Clothes
I’ve never been a fan of miming putting on the armour of God. It’s not a bad thing to do. But, if that is as far as it goes, we are like the emperor in his new clothes, parading around the town—and on the battlefield—believing we are safe and fully clothed when in fact we’re naked, ill-prepared and unprotected.
If, however, when we mime putting on the full armour of God we reflect and acknowledge it is not an actual breastplate, helmet, belt and boots, but rather the righteousness, salvation, truth and peace of Christ. That it’s God’s armour: His strength, power, authority, sovereignty, victory, mercy, grace, His love… His beloved, obedient, sacrificed, raised and victorious Son whom we stand within and for, whom we trust, love and serve. Whom we live and glorify. Then miming putting on the full armour of God has merit.
No Longer Victims
Faith like love is a choice. We can choose to obey the command to love, and we can choose to live by faith. We can choose to stand within our shell, or to shrink back abandoning our faith and turning away from our God and be destroyed.
And we can choose because we are no longer victims of our consequence and prisoners of sin – we are no longer unanimated nylon sacks living at the mercy of the elements and the world around us, held prisoner by sin.
Rather we have confidence in our righteous God, and assurance in his promises. This is the foundation on which we stand, and from whom we don’t retreat. It is this faith we can actively pursue and allow to change our lives. But as always, it is our choice.