The Armor of God: Hold Up Your Shield of Faith!

By studying Ephesians 6:10-20, we are becoming equipped for spiritual warfare, as we put on the full armor of God.
Let’s review a few things from what we’ve learned so far.
·         We battle in God’s strength, not our own flesh, because this is a spiritual war.
·         We have an enemy who is smart, cunning, deceptive, and above all desires to destroy your spiritual life if you are a believer, and your physical life as well if you are not living as a protected child of God.
·         We must put on the full armor of God, as each piece works in harmony with the other.
·         Our goal is to stand firm, resisting the attacks of our enemy.
·         We have wrapped ourselves in the belt of truth, taking every thought captive that raises itself up against the Word.
·         We are wearing the breastplate of Christ’srighteousness, living out His holy and sanctified life in us.
·         We are wearing the shoes of the gospel, digging our heels deep in the security of our salvation, and leaving the prints of Christ’s aroma wherever we go.
Today, we are picking up our shield of faith.
Ephesians 6:16 – In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
We have already seen that our faith has everything to do with our ability to stand firm.  We stand firm in our faith.
What is faith?
The Greek word translated faith is pistis (Strong’s 4102), and is a noun.  The fact that the noun form is used tells us this faith is something we possess, not a verb, which would mean it is something we do.
Faith is conviction of the truthof anything, belief; in the NT of a convictionor belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it (Blue Letter Bible)
Vines Expository Dictionary  tells us the word primarily means “firm persuasion,” a conviction based upon hearing (akin to peitho, “to persuade”), is used in the NT always of “faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual.”   Subjectively the word means firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness; objectively meaning that which is believed, doctrine, the received articles of faith.
Essentially, when we speak of faith, we are speaking of being firmly persuaded or convicted of the truth of the gospel and all that the gospel contains.  By this definition, you can see that weak faith means we are shaky in our conviction, immature faith means that we need to grow in our conviction, and strong faith means an unshakeable conviction!
The New Testament contains 244 uses of this word for faith.  That would be a great study…look up one reference each day for the next 244 days and discover a treasure about faith!  But for today, let’s just look at the seven other references Paul uses in the letter to the Ephesians, and see some of the benefits of our faith.
1.  Our faith is in the Lord Jesus, not ourselves.
Ephesians 1:15 – For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints…
2.  Our salvation is by faith we have received, not faith we’ve achieved.
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
3.  Our faith in Christ gives us bold and confident access to approach God.
Ephesians 3:11-12 – This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
 
4.  Our faith gives us the ability to experience the fullness of the love of Christ, as He dwells in us.
Ephesians 3:17 – …so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
5.  Our faith is not a mixture of many beliefs: it is purely faith in Jesus alone.
Ephesians 4:4-5 – There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
6.  Our faith is a growing faith, and its aim is knowledge of Jesus.
Ephesians 4:13 – …until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
7.  Our faith is rooted in love for the Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 6:23 – Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
Did you notice one common theme?  Jesus.
Our faith is in Jesus, about Jesus, grows in knowledge of Jesus, and is rooted in love for Jesus.  The faith that protects us against the assaults of our enemy is only faith in Jesus.  Faith is being firmly convinced that Jesus is who He says He is, has done what He has said He has done, and will do what He says He will do.
What does it mean to “take up” our shield of faith?
Take up is written in aorist tense, active voice.  Aorist tense is simple, undefined action, as opposed to continual action.  We are not “continually holding up our faith” (even though we continually possess it), but each time an attack (flaming arrow) comes, we draw on our faith to extinguish that arrow.
This tells me that faith is not “static.”  It is not that one day God gives us faith to believe, and we are saved, and our faith remains in the same state the rest of our life.  If we are to “exercise” faith each time a flaming arrow comes our way, then our faith is a living, growing thing.  It adapts, enlarges, and becomes stronger and more resilient.  Our conviction and persuasion in Christ deepens and grows each time our faith is tested.
What are the flaming arrows of the evil one?
Scripture gives us a pretty complete picture of the ways our enemy will attack.  We have already learned that it is the mind and heart for which he is aiming.  But he has three particular areas which he loves to use in our life.
1 John 2:15-16 – Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
We just saw that faith is intimately tied to loving Jesus.
Here we see that “faith failures” are tied to loving the world.  Interesting!
Our enemy Satan uses three areas to attack:
Lust of the flesh (things which appeal to our physical nature: appetites, desires, comfort)
Lust of the eyes (things which appeal to our emotional nature: materialism, security, beauty)
Pride of life (things which appeal to our mental nature: intelligence, status, reputation, success, etc.)
Satan used this very strategy in the Garden of Eden against Eve.
Genesis 3:6 – When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that is was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
In Matthew 4, the evil one used physical temptations (in this case, hunger), attempted to make Jesus “prove” Himself (appeals to our pride and our self-importance), and twisted scripture to confuse and cause error in understanding.  I believe the flaming arrows are any temptation that comes our way – whether physical, mental, or emotional.  It can also be a physical attack on our body – a sickness or weakness, that God allows (i.e. Job).  Flaming arrows are almost always aimed at our minds – a lie, a deception, a half-truth.  Our enemy is the father of lies, and can only lie to us; there is no truth in him.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
To practically take up the shield of faith, we imitate Jesus.  Whenever we are confronted by a lie we respond with the truth, which is abundantly supplied in the word.  We defeat Satan’s lies by our firm conviction of the truth, personal surrender to Christ, and conduct (actions, words, deeds) that is inspired by our love for Christ.  We first believe the truth, and then we act on it.
Notice that our shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, work together.  Our faith is rooted in God’s Word, and God’s Word sustains, grows, and supports our faith.  For me, it is almost impossible to think of one without the other.
Here’s an example of a temptation, and how the armor of God enables us to respond.
My boyfriend is trying to convince me that we should live together for financial reasons, and that we can have an intimate relationship without marriage.  His suggestion appeals to me on all three levels.  I desire him physically, it makes logical sense, and I want the emotional security of living with him. 
The truth is God tells me in His Word that sex is for marriage, and that adulterers and fornicators (sex outside of marriage) will not enter His kingdom.  The truth is even if we are not intimate, God’s Word tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil.  The truthis that God promises to provide for us as His children.  I desire to live a righteous life – Christ gave me His righteousness to wear; why would I soil it with disobedience? I am to be carrying the gospel of peace to everyone I meet; disobedience to God blurs the message, and most likely I will not be sharing the gospel if I am practicing sin, because I will feel hypocritical.  My faithis grounded in love for Jesus, and I do not want to do anything that would grieve Him.  Because I believe by faith that God tells me the truth, I will act in faith and say no to my boyfriend, and proclaim the gospel by my decision.  Faith enables me to act upon truth, rather than my feelings or what the culture tells me.
If I truly have faith (am firmly persuaded and convicted that Jesus is true and right), then I must act on what I see in God’s Word.  To say I have faith, and ignore God’s Word, is to reveal either I do not possess faith, or my faith is weak and immature, and needs strengthening.
The Roman soldier’s shield was large and heavy, rectangular and curved in shape. It was made of two pieces of wood glued together and covered with leather and canvas.  In battle, the soldier would charge with the shield, running towards his enemy with force, attempting to knock him down.  Then, he would kneel and fight from behind the protection of the shield.
I love that picture.  Sometimes our faith is strong, and we can simply raise our shield and push back at the enemy, and his flaming arrow is extinguished.  Battle won.
But sometimes, those attacks just keep coming.  He assaults our mind with fear and insecurity.  He undermines our good intentions.  He throws temptations our way that continually appeal to us physically, mentally and emotionally.  We begin to doubt.  It is in those times that we need to kneel behind that shield, which to me, is a picture of prayer, the last item Paul mentions in this passage on spiritual armor.
We’ll study prayer later in a future post, but until then, when your enemy attacks; raise your shield of faith, remembering Jesus.  Speak His name.  Remember how much He loves you, and let that gratitude spill over into love for Him, as that love will strengthen your faith.
And being firmly persuaded, live what you believe, and stand firm.

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