Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. …Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…. Ephesians 6:11, 13-18
Alright, you ready to gear up? I sure am! I don’t know about you but I have never been one who has been a big fan of body protection. You know, like a bike helmet or knee pads. About the only protection I was very religious about were my gloves when I worked as a medic. You touch some pretty nasty things when you work in the medical field! (Boy do I miss it though.) I’m big on promoting others to wear the stuff, especially my kids, but I’ll pass.
Many times we think others need something more than we need it ourselves, but I’m starting to understand and lean more towards the mentality of “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.” So, as I’m going through this revival of sorts, I want to make sure that I’m geared up properly and ready.
First, let’s take up our shields. “Above all, taking the shield of faith…”
Why a shield? I always thought a shield was so cumbersome, just one more thing to carry around and make your arms tired. That the energy and focus used in protecting you would have been better spent in simply becoming a better fighter. Playing on the offense instead of the defense. However, especially when we play by the rules of war that Jesus has laid out for us, we will need to play on the defensive line more often than not.
A shield comes in many shapes and sizes, depending on the type of combat that we will participate in. Thus it will also have varying weights to it, just as each situation we come upon will carry different weights in the severity of the trial or test we are faced with. It is also used not only to protect ourselves, but also the persons to our left or right. (Typically the left, since most fought with their right hand…except this lefty here.)
Shields were also a way to display the person’s heraldry. It often times portrayed the person’s clan, group or allegiance. To wield the shield of God…I imagine that image would herald quite an unforgettable message to those attacking. But make no mistake, the larger the foe, the mightier the blow. So you want to have a firm grip on that shield!
What does the shield represent in this passage? It represents our faith. Faith is the prerequisite to all things as I said a few days ago. Without faith can we truly accomplish anything lasting like hope and love? When the days seem dark or the enemy seems unbeatable, it is our faith that will give us the courage and the strength to continue fighting. It is the first thing we should pick up each morning as we wake and what we should herald to all that we meet. It will also wax and wane in size at times, but will still remain powerful and effective even when it is as minuscule as a mustard seed. Imagine that…stopping an arrow with a mustard seed! Now that’s something to marvel at!
Faith is what sustains and teaches us during times of battle and during times of rest. It is something that is outside of ourselves that we can not control. Just as a shield is something that we must take up and isn’t in and of ourselves.
Faith is having complete trust or confidence in someone or something and is, basically, your loyalty to someone. In this case it is our loyalty to God our Father, Jesus our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Comforter and Teacher. This is why when we start to slip away from practicing our faith or maintaining a growing relationship with God, it is seen as a disturbance among our family and friends. A break in faith is disloyalty by definition.
It would be the same as throwing down your shield and fighting for the opposing team just to save your own skin. It’s like a mutiny on board a ship that was meant to get everyone to the destination safely. Faith is not necessarily something that is based off of proof and so it is something that we initially acquire often times through choice.
God wants us to make the choice to follow him and to believe in Christ. When we do, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit which makes it easier to continue having faith. It’s hard at times and doesn’t come easily or of its own accord, but once we have true faith then it is easier to recall during exceptionally hard times when our reason wants to push against that which is unseen or is not fully understood.
It’s not something that just happens because of a neuron being fired like blinking your eyes, thinking or growing hair. It’s something that must be exercised, daily, in order to grow. Just as we must exercise and train daily for battle if we hope to succeed.
It’s not always used in battle, either. Just as a shield is used in many cases in non-combative ways. Like an electronic shield that helps to eliminate or reduce noise and crosstalk between signals. Imagine how frustrating it would be to try to have a serious conversation on the phone while you’re picking up a radio talk show at the same time. It’s the same when we deal with outside influences…like someone telling you that we evolved from apes. Genesis says otherwise.
Shields are also used on space craft. A heat shield is used to protect the aircraft and the persons on board during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere so that they don’t burn up. This is the type of shield that someone may use when they’ve been struggling with their faith or when they have stepped away from God and are searching to get back. They’re going to go through the heat of “re-entry” as they face the shame or guilt that they feel, but having that faith of knowing that God’s love is without measure and that He has forgiven our transgressions before we even confess them will give us the strength to withstand the heat we feel in our souls.
Shields/Faith is a mighty tool because it can be used in so many different ways and comes in so many varying strengths, sizes, shapes…it can even be borrowed from our neighbor when we’re too weak to hold our own. When we pray for those who are struggling or are exposed.
I may not wear my bike helmet every time, or put sunblock on each time I go outdoors…but I will most certainly work on remembering to pick up my shield each morning as I prepare to face the day ahead of me.
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