Summary: Without a shield, we will falter on the battlefield. With the shield of faith we can ward off attacks. Don’t let your shield down; it receives the blows meant for you. Keep the faith!
“Above all, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one,” Ephesians 6:16.
Some of our forward-deployed soldiers are using Exo-Shield body armor, comprised of a series of contoured, ergonomically designed armor plates for the upper body, thighs and shins, providing protection with ample mobility. This could be compared to a coat of armor, worm by the knights of old.
In Bible times, there were two types of shields utilized by the Roman Legion--a small round one strapped to the forearm to parry blows in hand-to-hand combat, and a large rectangular shield measuring 4½ by 2½ feet, nearly the size of a door, and covered with metal or leather. It played a strategic role in offensive assaults. The front line of advancing troops stood shielded in front, in a phalanx (rectangular) formation, providing a wall of protection, while archers close behind fired volleys at the enemy line. The force would advance in this fashion till they were near enough to engage in close combat. Soldiers who discarded their shields and fled made easy targets for pursuing enemies…soldiers who marched side by side, advancing on the enemy, were considered virtually invincible.
Do you ever feel under attack? The devil has a well-stocked arsenal of weapons to choose from--to wage war on us--and at times we feel bombarded, under siege. Then when we’re most vulnerable, we’re tempted to feel bitterness, despair, apathy, or self-pity. Satan is the author of confusion; he aims to distract us from sound thinking. Without a shield, we will falter on the battlefield. With the shield of faith we can ward off attacks. Don’t let your shield down; it receives the blows meant for you. Keep the faith! “God’s battle plan is about trusting and applying what we know about God to life’s trials” (MacArthur).
Living by faith is confidence in God. Faith persuades us that God can shield us from whatever assaults are launched against us; and that He will preserve us till the end. The charge “Take up” in verse 16 is a military term, directing troops to take up arms against a foe. We take up faith as our shield of protection against all attacks.
But we do not fight alone; we’re not intended to be lone warriors, but part of God’s army. And we don’t remain in the shelter of the fort. As the Roman soldiers joined their shields together, we band together as well, in one great wall of faith--a united force for good. The grace that brings us to Christ draws us to one another.
The “flaming arrows” (KJV “fiery darts”) refer to Satan’s weapons. Opportunity may knock once, but temptations and doubts seem to bang on our door forever. Every temptation to sin is a temptation to disbelieve God. When least expected, we are bombarded with lies and enticed to live for self and forsake our high calling. We quench these attacks by trusting in God’s promises. Proverbs 30:5 assures us that “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Faith enables us to repel these attacks, in the Name of the Lord of Hosts. We rest in the truth of God against the onslaught of the enemy.
A modern example: Israel’s “Iron Dome” is a sophisticated mobile air defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells. In 1999 elements of the Patriot Missile brigade I served with in Germany deployed to Tel Aviv to set up a temporary defense of the city; since then, Israel has developed its own system, which has overall been effective in intercepting thousands of Hezbollah air strikes. Faith is our “Iron Dome”.
Only in a world where faith is challenged can faith exist. Every day we put our faith on the line. Untested faith does not qualify as faith. Our faith may not appear strong, yet even a feeble faith can rely on a strong Christ. Faith thrives when there is no hope but God. A life of faith consists of patience and hope in the midst of suffering and strife.
While stationed at Fort Story, Virginia, I conducted a wedding for the daughter of Senator Jeremiah Denton, a Navy pilot whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam. He was captured by the Viet Cong and spent nearly 8 years as a POW at the so-called “Hanoi Hilton,” including 4 years in solitary confinement. During a propaganda press conference, before the cameras he blinked his eyes in Morse code the word “torture.” In his autobiography, he states that his faith in Christ sustained him through this ordeal. Denton fashioned a cross out of bamboo that he kept hidden from the guards. His faith was central to everything he did. He stated: “I offered myself to God with the admission that I could take no more on my own.” Faith was his shield.