The shield of faith
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The apostle Paul doesn’t say, ‘Have faith in faith’. He says, ‘Fight the good fight of faith’. He’s referring to the kind of faith that counters the fiery arrows of the evil one. It protects you, defends you against fierce hostility.
Flaming arrows were a feature of ancient warfare. The soldiers used to plunge them into fire and then send them into the enemy camp. Apparently Roman shields were over a metre long and about half a metre wide. They were made of wood and covered with leather. Before a conflict, the soldiers would soak them in water so that when the flaming arrows hit them, the shields wouldn’t burst into flame but extinguish the fire. So Paul says, ‘Take the shield of faith which is able to extinguish the fiery arrows of the evil one’.
Unexpected fiery arrows are terrifying. They come at unforeseen times and they hurt, wound, shock and bewilder. Maybe you’re a busy pastor or Christian worker and suddenly you’re thinking, ‘I can’t keep going like this. I can’t live up to other people’s expectations. I haven’t got the resources. I’m not going to make it.’ Satan sees where you’re vulnerable and his fiery dart hits home, fills you with fear and horror and scares the life out of you.
God provides a shield that can extinguish fiery arrows, but you need to soak it in God’s Word and use it. Faith in the Word extinguishes scary fiery arrows. So don’t think, ‘What’s going to happen to us? How are we going to cope? Where’s the money coming from? How are we going to afford to live?’ You must take up the shield and stand.
‘Don’t be anxious’
Paul told his next generation servant, Timothy, ‘Now be strong. Fight the good fight of faith.’ He’s exhorting Timothy, ‘Get that shield up! Let the scriptures dominate your understanding. Don’t be anxious.’ We know the commands, ‘Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery.’ We need to add this one to them, ‘Don’t be anxious’.
Let this command get to you. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘OK, Lord, I won’t be anxious but what do I do?’ Here’s the answer: ‘By prayer and supplication, make your requests known to God with thanksgiving and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind’. Tell him, ‘Lord, thank you that you can cope with all this. I believe your promises. Thank you that you said you’d never fail me.’ Over the years I’ve seen the downfall of many people. Those watching them have looked at them and thought, ‘They’ll do great things for God’ and then suddenly, they’re taken out. ‘What happened there?’ we wonder. The answer is this: they yielded to the enemy instead of holding onto faith. Don’t let the arrows end your ministry.
‘Don’t walk in to the door’
We live in an automatic society. You’re in a supermarket, pushing your trolley towards the doors and they open as you approach them. The same is true of doors in airports. The Christian life isn’t like that. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, ‘Faith is an activity, it’s something that has to be exercised. It doesn’t come into operation itself. You have to put it into operation. It’s a form of activity.’ Life for believers isn’t all automatic. If you don’t exercise faith you’ll find that the door doesn’t open by itself, you’ll walk into it. You must fight the fight of faith.
When Jesus was on the stormy lake he asked his disciples, ‘Where’s your faith?’ He says the same to us today. What’s our response? Maybe, ‘Well, I thought I had faith.’ That’s not the answer. Jesus is asking, ‘Who has faith now?’ Who’s trusting God and who’s giving up?’
Grow in faith
One of my favourite New Testament verses is found in Romans 4 – ‘Abraham grew strong in faith.’ You can grow in faith. You might say, ‘I have such a little faith.’ Well, you can grow in it. ‘Abraham grew strong in faith being fully persuaded that what God had promised he was also able to perform.’ God had made him a promise and Abraham allowed that to persuade him. God had promised him an heir. When Abraham was an old man God didn’t say to him, ‘How old are you, Abraham? Oh, 99, and Sarah is barren. Forget it. I didn’t realise that things were that bad.’ God was totally aware of Abraham’s situation, his frailty and inability and his wife’s barrenness. But Abraham didn’t dwell on these things. He was persuaded that God would keep his promise. That’s how faith grows.
Satan is ruthless. He’ll fire one arrow after another: ‘You’re hopeless. You’re useless. Plant a church? Who are you kidding? Never! You’re just a waste of time.’ His arrows will hit you hard. You’re in a battle and you’ve got to respond, ‘God promised, God knows. Satan won’t destroy me. I’ve got my shield up. I’ll extinguish the fiery arrows.’
This post was adapted from the 2nd of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010