The basic training we've received in our study of the full armor of God has included the fact that we must be girded with truth, have on the breastplate of righteousness, and our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel. This morning, in our fourth study, we will learn about the shield of faith.
The shield of faith. The word Paul uses for shield here refers to a large, oblong, four-cornered shield - behind which you could hide your entire body. The shield of faith protects us when we hide behind it.
But from what are we hiding? "All the flaming arrows of the evil one." These are arrows launched at us from an enemy who has no greater desire in his heart than to see us dead. It is of course the devil who opposes us so emphatically.
The Bible describes the destructive nature of the devil in many ways.
- John describes him as the red dragon, whose tail sweeps the stars from heaven (Rev. 12:4).
- Peter describes him as a lion, prowling around to find prey to devour (1Pet. 5:8).
- Jesus called him a murderer and a thief (John 8:44, 10:10).
- Here, Paul is equating him to an archer on an opposing army - launching fiery arrows at us.
These arrows get their Greek name from the verb meaning "to cast." So they really refer to anything that is launched against us - missiles, arrows, darts, javelins, spears, etc.
Those fiery projectiles take the shape of difficulties and temptations. Simon Peter said,
1Pet. 4:12 ...do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
As we've been learning about on Thursday nights in our study of the book of Job, the devil's intention is to destroy us by putting us through ordeals of loss and suffering, hoping that we'll lose faith, curse God, turn away from the Lord, and head toward death and destruction.
In fact, this technique very often works for him. That's because the only thing that stands between us and complete failure is this shield of faith we hide behind. If we have no faith, we'll be killed by his fiery arrows. But if we have faith, we will extinguish his fiery arrows.
And so it seems that a good understanding of what faith is, how to get it, and how to use it, is vitally important. In our basic training, then, it is essential that we learn about faith.
The definitive statement about faith is found in the introduction of what has been called "the Hall of Faith," where we have a list of people who had great victories in their lives against all odds because of faith. It says,
Heb. 10:38-11:1 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Shrinking back from difficulties means that we're casting away the shield of faith. That will lead to our destruction. However, if we have faith, we will be preserved.
What is faith? It's the assurance and the firm belief in what we cannot see. Now, I've never seen molecules, gravity, or magnetism. But I have faith they exist. But is this the faith that will shield me from the devils fiery arrows? No. The Bible says that the faith which is essential is faith in God (Mar. 11:22), in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24), and His blood (Rom 3:25). This is the truth which will shield you, save you, and sanctify you (2Thes. 2:13).
And so we haven't seen God physically, but our faith assures us that He is there. We don't see Him protecting us, but our faith gives us full conviction that He is doing just that. We don't have a legal document stating that we belong to God and have citizenship in heaven, but we know by faith that it is absolutely, positively true.
Now, faith is not an "on or off," "yes or no," "one or zero" thing. It exists in all different intensities, all kinds of strengths.
- You can be full of faith (Acts 11:24), or your faith can be lacking (1Thess. 3:10).
- You can be strong in faith (Rom 4:20), or weak in faith (Rom 4:19).
- You can continue in the faith (Acts 14:22), or turn away from the faith (Acts 13:8).
You might be one of the people who are on the low end of faith. You might be one who says, "Pastor Ron, I just don't have very much faith. I'm always questioning my faith. I'm weak in faith." Well, first of all, let me say that you certainly wouldn't be the first.
When Jesus was telling the apostles to be on their guard,
Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
Jesus knew that faith can grow. Paul saw it happen to the Thessalonians, and he wrote how encouraging it was to see that...
2Th. 1:3 ...your faith is greatly enlarged...
If you have weak faith, it can be increased right now, where you are, just by the encouragement of the truth of the Word of God.
Rom. 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Remember that Paul and Barnabas went to several cities...
Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
We just need to be reminded that these difficulties and tribulations should not rob us of faith, because faith is the only thing that will extinguish these fiery arrows!