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
The Roman shield was a very large, slightly curved rectangular shield featuring at its center a large metal knob (called a boss). It was an impressive line of defense….which afforded soldiers a great deal of protection from enemies; its slight curve deflected attacks without transferring the full force of the assault to the man holding the shield and the ‘boss’ deflected even the more vicious blows. Also, the solider in combat could use the shield as an offensive strategy to knock an opponent backwards. The size of this shield was noted to be three and a half feet tall and almost three feet wide…a size that can be ably handled by a fit person.
Up until now, Paul’s description of the armor of God has been limited to items we wear… the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, and they essentially hold themselves up. The shield is different. Paul tells us that the shield is something we must take up, something we are required to raise. A shield is the first line of defense.
Satan is always hurling his fiery darts of fear, doubt and worry in our direction, but the only time they can hit us is when we let our shield of faith down—when we stop believing that God is in control; that He is working everything out for our good; that whatever happens is for the ultimate best of everyone involved, however little it seems to be that way.
When our faith in God’s omnipotence and care is strong, it is impossible for Satan to break through our shield and land an attack. But when we allow doubt to creep in, as Peter did when distracted by the waves, we will start to sink. The rest of our armor will be battered, and so will we. But an actively raised shield of faith prevents this otherwise inhibiting fatigue.
While a physical shield protects us physically, faith can protect our spiritual lives even in the middle of physical trials. When Satan (through Nebuchadnezzar) attacked the values and beliefs of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, they were able to stand resolute and unwavering because of their faith. In their response, they essentially said, “God is capable of delivering us from this fate. We don’t know if He will or not, but that doesn’t matter. He gave us His commands, and we are going to keep them regardless of the physical outcome. We know He can just as easily raise us from the dead.” Now, that is a firm Faith in God.
A shield does not only defend, but it can incapacitate. When Christ was being tempted by Satan, His faith in the Word and commands of God repelled Satan for a time (Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Christ was tempted in all things, so this was certainly not the only encounter Christ had with the devil). The boss (the metal knob in the middle) on the Roman shields allowed soldiers to give their enemies a stun-inducing shove that would allow them to follow through with an attack. Our faith in God, as demonstrated by Christ, can also give Satan a good shove backwards and give us a chance to fight back by doing God’s will and work. Because God tells us that faith cannot just be in our minds, it must produce actions—works of obedience and service (James 2:20) God is all powerful – He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him (Prov. 30.5).
It is a lesson to note that it is true that God sometimes allows Satan to afflict believers in spite of their being armed with the shield of faith. If in God’s sovereignty He allows them to do so – they cease to be Satan’s flaming missiles. Rather, they become the refining and purifying messengers of God’s love under His sovereign eye. God never allows Satan’s work to go further than he intends”. Job is our great example here. It is clear that God allowed Satan to bring trouble to Job, but Satan was only allowed to go as far as God allowed. “The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger (Job 1:12). In 1 peter 1:6-7 we also learn that trial can have a purifying effect…to prove our faith is genuine and in the process bring honor and glory to God.
Christian, we must remain God centered and never become Satan-centered. This is always a danger. We must not become so conscious of Satan’s power that we are always ‘fighting the devil’ instead of ‘serving God’. Job is an example for us. All of Job’s suffering s and problems were directed from Satan’s hands. Yet as Job discusses his torment with his three friends and even the Lord, his thoughts, words and hopes were God centered. Job never even credited Satan with producing his affliction. He kept his eyes upon the Lord and ultimate victory came.
Despite the agenda of the enemy, when we take up the shield of faith… we can ask for the presence of God to protect us… for God’s holy angels are sent to minister to us and to protect us(Ps. 34:7; Heb. 1:14).
“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” 1 John 5:5