The Shield of Faith (12-08-20)
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)
Faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the confidence in what we do not see.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1,6)
Faith for the Christian has different expressions. The fundamental expression of faith is that God exists, and that Jesus died so that we could be forgiven, so that we could be put right with God. A second expression of faith is believing in the truth of God's word, believing what God says about us and living in the light of that. The third expression is the faith, the size of a mustard seed, that can move mountains through prayer.
St Paul’s analogy of the armour of God is based on that of the Roman soldier, and the shield that a Roman soldier carried was huge, the original word for it was related to the word for ‘door’. It would protect his whole body, from his head to his knees. It could interlink with his fellow soldiers’ shields to form a protective canopy, like a tortoise shell, and would be covered in animal hides which could be wettened to literally quench the fiery arrows of the enemy.
Taking this analogy of the Roman shield, faith is something that covers the whole of our Christian life, from the moment we trust in Jesus, and it is something that is stronger when we share it with our fellow Christians, forming a protective canopy when life is tough.
Having said that, Paul’s example of the shield of faith is quite specific. It is, he says, to quench the flaming arrows of the enemy. What does he mean by that? What are the flaming arrows of the Christian’s enemy?
For me, the flaming arrows that threaten to afflict the Christian are the doubts that come when things don’t go as we hoped or planned, they are the fears and anxieties that creep in when we don’t know how things will work out and they are the lies that threaten to undermine our confidence in who we are. Against all of these we can raise the shield of faith.
Against the doubts we raise the faith that says the death and resurrection of Jesus is beyond reasonable doubt. With that fundamental truth in place we can start to trust again for the things we don’t understand. Against the fears and anxieties that beset us, we raise the faith that says ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’, and against the lies that seek to undermine us, we raise the faith that says that God loves me so much that he sent Jesus to die for me, that if I confess my sin I am forgiven, and that God has a plan and purpose for my life.
Thank you, Lord Jesus that through faith in you I have eternal life. Help me to raise the shield of faith in my daily life that I might quench the doubts, fears and lies that threaten to undermine me, and live in the assurance of your love, your forgiveness and your plans for my life.