The shield of faith
John W. Keddie
In the Roman soldier’s armour, the shield was vital for protection. Paul says of the Christian’s spiritual warfare: ‘above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one’ (Ephesians 6:16).
This warns us that the adversaryuses ‘fiery darts’. Against these the shield (and helmet, v. 17a) are crucial for defence. Such ‘fiery darts’ were very small but very potent – so small that soldiers could not see them coming; and so ‘fiery’ as to be destructive and hurtful.
An army going into battle must have a clear idea of the enemy’s power. So believers faced with ‘the wicked one’ need to exercise lively faith in Christ in order to deflect his assaults of temptations to sin.
Doubts and fears
How does the devil fire ‘fiery darts’ at God’s people? First, he fires them into their minds. Where do their doubts and fears come from – doubts about God, creation or salvation?
They may come from the media, evolutionary propaganda, worldly conversation, and impure things in magazines and the Internet, as well as from many other places. The whole world is under the devil’s sway (1 John 5:19) and many things could become the occasion of shaking our faith.
Fiery darts can come at times we are least prepared for them – perhaps in church or while at prayer. The devil always wishes to distract us from God’s Word.
Then, they might be hurled at us in the various trying circumstances of life. Job faced bereavements, loss of property and loss of health. He felt the Lord was against him, and his counsellors said to him, ‘Look, you’ve sinned against God and must confess it’.
While it is true that there is always indwelling sin to contend against (even Job said, ‘the arrows of the Almighty are within me’), the darts fired against him were Satan’s and needed to be deflected.
There are times when ill-health or works of necessity may keep a believer from the means of grace. But we also have to be aware of Satan’s fiery darts putting lame excuses in our way, for absence from public worship or other Christian duties. He will use anything to diminish our diligence in the things of the Lord and deflect us from following Christ closely.
But how does a soldier deflect the enemy’s arrows? Through ‘the shield of faith’. Paul says, ‘above all taking…’ Why ‘above all’? The answer is, because without faith it is impossible to please God; unbelief brings us under Satan’s sway.
A shield gives protection. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ protects us from succumbing to Satan’s temptations. Picture those large riot-shields that police carry for protection against missile-throwing crowds. They would be very exposed without them.
The believer must exercise faith in Christ, or else be easy prey to Satan’s wiles and temptations. In the words of a Puritan writer – this faith keeps Christ in view and will entertain nothing that impugns the worthiness of God in his dealings with us; receives nothing concerning God and truth but what is revealed by God himself through his Word; disposes the believer always to bless God and counters all thoughts of blasphemy concerning his works and dealings.
How do believers exercise a renewed faith in every trial? There is nothing else for it but to apply ourselves to the Word and prayer.
It’s surely not fanciful to think of the shield of faith as being kept wet to counter the fiery darts. If we keep the shield constantly soaked with the Word of God and prayer, then it will be effective against the evil one.