Summary: Merely sort of agreeing with Christian ideas won't carry you far when life gets difficult. The real strength comes when we are solidly connected with our God through a deep and living faith inour hearts.
This morning we'll continue with putting on the armor of God. We live in a world that bombards us with things that battle against our souls. And God has provided armament to be able to resist them, not only to resist, but to stand strong and firm and hold our ground. We start by putting on the belt of truth, seeking until we are confident we have found genuine truth, and then hanging a life of integrity on what we know to be true. Then we put on the breastplate of righteousness, a determination to do whatever it takes to be righteous before God, doing what is right as much as possible, and then receiving his forgiveness for the times we fail. Then we put on our feet the protection of the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace, taking initiative to set the tone of righteousness in our world, not leaving it to the devil’s distortions. And today we lift up the shield of faith.
And I hope you are seeing that these are pieces of armor that do no good sitting on the shelf. We have to put each one on. We have to put each one on many times because the battle never really stops.
And these are not pieces of armor that we need to manufacture ourselves. This is God's armor. He provides it. We just need to put it on and put it to use.
This morning we move on to the fourth piece, the shield of faith, Ephesians 6:10 17
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench 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."
The Apostle Paul knew a lot about Roman soldiers. He got arrested by them plenty of times for disturbing the peace. He would come into a city that had never heard about Jesus before and tell everyone who would listen what God had done. And there were usually some who were so closed minded that they would stir up a riot or something in protest. And Paul would be the one who got arrested. He spent many long hours chained to Roman soldiers in the dungeons. But he made good use of the time.
For one thing he took it as a chance to catch up on his correspondence. And we should be thankful for the time Paul spent in jail because many of those letters have been treasured and protected by the church. Most of Paul’s letters that we have today in the New Testament were written in jail. If he hadn’t been locked up he might have traveled to Philippi and Ephesus and just told them what was on his heart for them and his words would have been lost.
But Paul also saw that his imprisonments provided him with the best captive audiences he ever had. In his letter to the Philippians he said that he didn’t mind being in jail because as the different soldiers came and went on their shifts of being chained to him he had been able to tell every soldier in the local imperial guard about Jesus.
Maybe it was one of those guards who told him about a day when they had faced fiery darts in a battle. Some armies used small, hand-held darts, with the tips dipped in pitch, and then set on fire. Not only could they wound you. But they could set your clothing on fire, or your tent, or even your wooden shield.
So as a defense the Roman soldiers used large shields. The Greek word for the kind of shield Paul is talking about is from the same word as a door. They were large and rectangular shaped, four feet high. You could hide behind them pretty well. In those days they would have been made of wood, but trimmed with metal and covered with leather. If they were expecting to face fiery darts, they might wet the leather down so that any darts that stuck in the leather would be extinguished. The Roman soldiers would line up in squares with the front row holding these shields up, side by side in a wall, with sharp pikes sticking out between them. The second row would hold more shields over the heads of the front row to protect them from stones or arrows flying through the air. And these formations were the tanks of the ancient world, which could plow through the enemy lines. They demolished army after army that dared to defy them.