“In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)
The piece of armor Paul is referring to here is the large Roman shield covered with leather, which could be soaked in water and used to put out flame-tipped arrows.
Although the Roman soldiers needed this physical shield to protect them while in battle with surrounding armies, Paul knew that this church in Ephesus also needed a spiritual shield to protect them while in spiritual warfare with their spiritual enemy, “the evil one.” This protection they needed back then is the same protection we need right now, and it is called faith.
Faith is finding out what God’s truth is and acting on it, even if you don’t feel like it, agree with it, or even fully understand it. Faith is, therefore, not based on our feelings. Faith is based on our actions.
As a pharmacist, patients bring me prescriptions to be filled on a daily basis. They felt an ailment, went to the doctor, got examined, were diagnosed, and then the doctor wrote some illegible words on a sheet of paper and told them to bring the paper to me. The patients have no idea what the paper reads but are willing to bring it to me anyway. I take it, read it, fill the bottle with the medicine the doctor ordered and give it to the patients. They now have a bottle of pills they know nothing about. They also still have their original symptoms.
Turns out, going to the doctor, getting a diagnosis and a prescription, and going home with a bottle of pills is not the solution. The patient may not have been able to read what the doctor wrote nor fully understood the mechanism of action of the pills in his or her bottle, but he or she must still take the pills in order for the aliment to be cured. He or she must exercise faith in the doctor who wrote the prescription, the pharmacist who filled it, and the pills that claim to be effective.
As such, we must take up our shield of faith. Reading our Bibles, going to church, listening to worship music, and praying are essential. But until we exercise the faith those actions create, we are not “living by faith” (Romans 1:17) or “walking by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is this living and walking by faith that access the grace God has already deposited in our lives to assure us victory against the “evil one.”
It is faith that we are to stand behind to be shielded from all the flames that have been darted our way to destroy us.
I remember “taking up the shield of faith” when at an impasse with a loved one. I received godly counsel to carry out some counter-intuitive acts of love and forgiveness towards this person. It seemed impossible. The advisor said “do it for me, Christy. Not for them and not for yourself, do it for me.” With those words in mind, I took her advice. I didn’t understand it nor did I feel like it, but I believed in her expertise and trusted her judgment. I did what she said and it was great advice.
Taking up the shield of faith is believing in His expertise and trusting in His judgment. It is doing what He says to do. This involves taking our eyes off of our situation and placing them on God. It involves acting based on His promises rather than our pain. Taking up the shield of faith means we live life knowing that eternal consequences are real. Each time we stand behind this protective armor, we are declaring that we trust God in every circumstance, no matter the cost. We are declaring that we fear God more than man and are committed to obeying the Bible even when we are “in our feelings” and it conflicts with our desires. We do this because, by faith, we believe God rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Just as my patients must take the pills to achieve the results promised, we must take up our shield of faith. This will allow us to experience all that our God has promised those who live by and walk by, not their feelings on any given day, but rather their faith in Him.