Series: PPE for the Christian life, by Rosie Moore.
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).
In the last few weeks, the Apostle Paul has been waking us up to the true war we are waging against Satan and his evil forces in this dark world. This spiritual war is no joke and there is evidence of it all around us. Satan’s forces are not mere fantasies, but very real armies, whose goal is to divide and defeat Christ’s Church. Knowing he can’t destroy the Church (Matt 16:18), Satan’s next best option is to be a sniper.
He will fire problems at us, like financial stress, sickness, broken relationships and emotional struggles. Then he will fire darts of anger, fear, sadness, suspicion, doubt and self-pity. He will do anything to turn us away from Christ and back to sin; away from each other and back to being hostile and isolated. Unless we take up the shield of faith and lock shields together, the sniper’s darts will find their mark. They will cause a raging fire that destroys everything in its path. Without the shield of faith, Satan will disable, demoralize and scatter Christ’s troops.
But, let’s never forget that each Christian recruit has been issued supernatural weapons with “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). Paul deliberately repeats the word ‘all’ for emphasis. All the flaming darts of Satan can be repelled with the shield of faith, which we must hold up in all circumstances. God will give us the victory if we use the weapon of faith He has freely given us in His Son. Today let’s look at this shield that Christ provides for his soldiers.
Locking shields together
When we believe in Jesus, Christ’s enemies become our enemies too. That’s why we can be sure that Satan will hurl his darts in our direction. The “day of evil” will inevitably come (Eph 6:13). It’s not a matter of if, but when. What’s more, the family of believers throughout the world is facing the same enemy—the “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are living in a world at war.
The shield that Paul had in mind wasn’t a tiny little one, like the flimsy plastic shield my son used to attach to his lego characters. It was a shield that was almost the size of a door, big enough for burly Roman soldiers to crouch and hide behind. What’s more, the shield also united the soldiers to each other, because its edges were bevelled in such a way that they could be locked together to form a solid wall. Arrows couldn’t penetrate that united wall as the soldiers marched forward, held together by the shield’s common bond. The shield was a powerful defensive and offensive weapon. In addition, the Roman soldiers would dip their shields in water, so that the enemy’s fiery arrows would be extinguished the moment they hit the shield, rendering them powerless to penetrate.
This shield is the visual image Paul uses to describe a believer’s supernatural weapon of faith in the Lord Jesus. It enables Christians of every tongue, every nation, every gender, and every race to stand together and work as one; to lock shields together; to trust God and pray together; to bind ourselves together by our common faith against our common enemy. But what ‘faith’ is he talking about? In a world which has its own definitions of ‘faith’, this is a vital question to ask.
Three ingredients of Christian faith
There are three vital components to every Christian’s faith:
Firstly, there is historical faith, which believes the real Jesus of the Bible. It is a faith that knows that Jesus is God, that he lived, and died, and rose again as a real man, and that he will return to restore all things to how they should be. It is not faith in faith, or faith in a figment of our imagination, but faith in Jesus, who was seen and heard and touched by many people in the first century (John 20:31).
Secondly, there is saving faith, which is personal trust in Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. There is no saving faith unless we believe that, left to ourselves, we are eternally lost and separated from God. But Jesus died in our place to atone for our sins (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Tim 2:5). Saving faith is trusting in what Christ has already done for us on the cross: securing our forgiveness, our new family and our eternal home. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not yet seen” (Heb 11:1).
Thirdly, and this is where I will focus today, there is the practical everyday faith of a believer, flowing from our historical and saving faith. It is the faith that says,
“Today I am not going to depend on myself, or my strength, or my knowledge, or my ability. Today I am going to trust Jesus to give me victory over whatever darts are fired at me. Today I am going to believe that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God, interceding for me and all his people. Today I’ll live confidently and serve wholeheartedly, knowing that no false charge can stand against me. No trouble or hardship, or persecution or famine, or nakedness or danger, or even death, can separate us from the love of Christ…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:34-39). Everyday faith is aligning our lives with the victory that Christ has already won for his people on the cross.
If Romans 8:34-39 is to be believed, then we can be sure that many fiery darts will come our way, especially if we are standing for Christ. They will be directed at us personally, as well as at the body of Christ and our smaller fellowships. We can surely read Covid-19 into Paul’s long list of fiery darts. If those darts catch fire, they can do serious damage, not just to ourselves, but also to those around us. Let’s look at some of these fiery darts, and how faith is a powerful shield to deflect them from penetrating our souls:
The fiery dart of Fear
Fear and anxiety are the enemy’s lethal missiles, particularly as the ripple effects of Covid play out in our country. Just a fortnight ago, I read that over 3 million people have already lost their jobs as a result of the lockdown in South Africa. As I write, many people I know personally, across the spectrum, are gripped with fear, anxiety, depression and debilitating mental illness.
Christians are not immune from fear.
But, if allowed to penetrate our souls, fear and anxiety can destroy our relationships and our faith in the Lord’s ability to help us through every adversity. Like Christ’s terrified disciples in the storm on Lake Galilee, we may also be praying, “Lord don’t you care that we are perishing?” To take up our shield of faith, we must pray these fears to the Lord. We must take our eyes off the crashing waters of our circumstances, and look instead to Christ, the Lord of the universe. Let’s remember our Lord’s response to the terrified disciples after he calmed the storm, “Why are so afraid? Where is your faith?” Christ is saying to us too, “Don’t you trust me to take care of you?”
When your heart is being set alight by the darts of anxiety and fear, the only PPE to hide behind is the enormous shield of God’s sovereign grace. It is to trust that God is holy, righteous and just. And amazingly, He cares for you and for me. We take shelter behind this shield by exercising our faith every day. Find a regular spot to read the Bible and pray to your Father. His Word will remind you of who He is and why He is worthy of your trust. Don’t stop attending your Zoom Bible study with fellow believers who love the Lord, and love you too. Together, you will lock shields with other soldiers in Christ’s army. If you’re not locking shields in a group like this, find one near you on this link.
God has placed his people together to re-order our minds with the truth and to bear each other’s burdens, even as we each carry the load Christ has allocated to us (Gal 6:2, 5). Don’t let these simple habits of grace slip from your life. They are the God-ordained means for us to deflect the darts of the enemy in all circumstances. They are literally life-saving!
Read Psalm 55 and cast your cares on the Lord, as if you were throwing a fishing net into the sea. “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Ps 55:22).
The fiery dart of Doubt
In addition to fears, we may also be hit with the fiery darts of doubt.
We may be having doubts about God. “Do you really know what you’re doing, Lord? Do you really understand what I need? Is your Son really enough? Am I banking my whole life on pie-in-the-sky?” Satan loves to plant doubts in our stressed minds, making us doubt everything we have believed about God.
We may be having doubts about other Christians too, especially as we haven’t met flesh-on-flesh with people for so long. Satan loves suspicions to build in us, to make us wonder whether fellow believers actually love and care for us. “What did she really mean by that statement? Did he look at me funny on Zoom? Why has she not called me to ask how I’m doing? I knew all along he hated me!” Because our personal perceptions are incomplete and often inaccurate, how desperately we need to entrust our doubts to the Lord Jesus, who alone knows the motives of the heart (Jer 17:9; 1 Cor 4:4-5; 1 Sam 16:7).
We may also be having doubts about ourselves, whether we’re capable of supporting or leading our family; whether we actually have eternal life; whether we’ve only half understood the gospel. Of course, we should always be asking God to search our hearts and show us our sin and blind spots (Ps 139:23-24), but false soul- searching is straight from the devil when it leads us to drop our shield of faith.
Without firm faith in Christ, those arrows of doubt will internally combust, causing us to doubt God, to doubt ourselves and to doubt others. Instead, we must never stop trusting that God is for us and not against us; that He will help us, and His love will never leave us.
The fiery dart of Words
Words can be fired like fiery darts that deeply wound us when they invade our minds and emotions. Words are never just sticks and stones, yet insults are hurled carelessly and self-righteously in our culture. Words of criticism and accusation can cause us to feel shamed, unworthy and unloved, especially when they are aimed at the conscience and character of a person. Satan loves to destroy relationships through words. If we are not locking shields together, the darts will find their mark.
The fiery dart of Confusion
If your emotions or thinking is confused, be sure that Satan is firing his darts at you! God is not the author of confusion, Satan is (1 Cor 14:33). He loves to scatter our thoughts and stop us from relying on the truth of the Gospel. Our Lord is a God of order, peace and beauty, not confusion.
Our shield and very great reward
But in the face of these fiery darts, God has given us a supernatural weapon to repel them all and extinguish their fire before it spreads. He has given us each other, to lock shields and stand together as a mighty wall against Satan’s attacks. Only faith in Jesus, God’s own Son, can protect us. The Lord of Abraham said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Gen 15:1). The God of Abraham provided Christ to be our shield in life and death. He is all we need. Let’s pray to Him and trust Him at all times (Ps 3:1-4).
My three favourite resources for building faith:
- Fighter verses app- Memorize the Bible, fight the fight of faith.
- Truth for life app—15 minute daily messages by Alistair Begg.
- Music! Below are Pete’s two favourite songs that play on repeat in our home! May they encourage you also to keep fighting the good fight of faith. li>
Warren Wiesbe, Stand: Putting on the full armour of God.