For a Christian, faith is a big deal. It's so big that Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Wow! We have NO hope of pleasing God if we have no faith. So it's fair to say that faith is incredibly important in the life of the believer. But still, why does Paul tell us to "take up the shield of faith?" How are faith and a shield related?
Let's start by examining what a shield is and what purpose it serves. Merriam-Webster defines a shield as "a large piece of metal, wood, etc., carried by someone (such as a soldier or police officer) for protection" and "something that defends or protects someone or something." So the key word here is protect. A shield is used to protect the soldier from the attacks of the enemy. However, a shield is useless if it is not a.) made of the right material and b.) used properly.
The usefulness of a shield depends on what it is made of and the type of weapon the enemy is using against the shield bearer. The material of the shield must be strong enough to prevent the enemy's attack to penetrate. For us as believers, the scripture is telling us to "take up the shield of faith." It also tells us that the enemy's weapons are "flaming arrows" and reassures us that the shield of faith is capable of extinguishing them. Something to take note of is that Paul says take up the shield of faith. It doesn't say a shield of faith which would denote more than one. The usage of the signifies to me that there is one shield of faith and that it is accessible to all believers. That means that the faith that we must use as our shield is not our individual faith that is unique to each of us, but the faith that we all share as believers. This faith then is that Jesus is the Son of God. That he willingly laid down his life as a sacrifice for his sheep. That we who have accepted his gift of salvation have been redeemed and are co-heirs with Christ. The faith that extinguishes the darts of the enemy is the complete trust and confidence we place in God and in His goodness. It is our strong conviction that he holds us in the palm of his hands, and that he has good plans for our lives.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." ~Romans 10:17
The arrows of the enemy are doubt, fear, anxiety, distrust, disbelief, discouragement, and a plethora of other soul devouring afflictions. While the enemy can attack our bodies, our finances, our families, and other external areas of our lives, his real aim is our minds. Any thinking Christian can testify that the real battleground is in the mind. If the devil can steal our peace or our joy or our trust in God then he has really gained a foothold that can lead to our downfall. Therefore it is imperative that we take up the shield of faith. Just as with the other pieces of the armor that we have studied so far, we must consciously and intentionally use the shield.
A shield is worthless if it is not utilized or used properly. If I have the shield but I don't know how to use it, then it has no true power to protect. So how do we use the shield of faith? Well let's look at what scripture says in Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." We build our faith by constantly hearing the word of God. Hearing the word of God comes in many forms, through messages preached in church or on podcasts or tapes, through teaching heard when we go to Bible Study, from hymns and other Christian music, or even from simply reading the bible out loud to ourselves. Another great way to hear the word of God is from the testimonies of others. When they tell us of how God has moved mightily in their lives, our faith also increases. Remember that the faith that we are using for protection is the strong belief in who God is and what He has done through Jesus.
When the enemy comes in with doubt, we must speak out loud scripture like Isaiah 40: 28-31, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." When he comes at us with fear, we raise the shield of faith by reciting 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Every arrow that he can throw at us can be extinguished by the word of God.
It is so very important for believers to know the word of God. We live in a time when it is more accessible than ever before. If you would prefer not to read it, there are audio versions. If you can't understand the King James Version, there are tons of others like the Message or the NIV. There are also bible apps that make it very easy to access wherever you are. We really have no excuse as modern day believers for not knowing or studying the word of God. If there was ever a reason why we should be consistently reading, studying, and meditating on the Word, then it should be so that we are equipped with the shield of faith. Without the shield, we are open to everything that the enemy throws at us and eventually our ability to stand will be so compromised that we will fall. Therefore, we must do as Paul says and take up the shield of faith.
The Fly Lady is a wonderful woman who has dedicated her life to helping people who have messy tendencies to get their homes under control. I discovered her a few years ago and immediately implemented her tips and tricks. One trick in particular that the Fly Lady espouses the most is putting on lace up shoes even if you're not leaving the house. Her belief is that if you get up and get completely dressed down to your shoes you will be more motivated and inspired to clean or de-clutter. With shoes tied onto your feet, you're less likely to lay in bed all day doing nothing.
So how does this relate to the shoes of peace? Well, when we put on the shoes of peace, we are prepared at all times to share the gospel with whomever God places in our path. In Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We know this as the Great Commission. It is God's expectation that we, as his children, will go forth and spread the gospel. We can't do that if our shoes aren't on.
Being prepared to share the good news about Christ's redemptive work on the cross means that we are already wearing the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Telling others about Jesus obviously means that you are firmly anchored on the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done for you. It also means that you are pursuing righteousness and committed to living for Christ. How can we share the gospel if we don't truly believe or if we aren't living the way God expects us to?
"We must make our standing secure and we do that by rooting ourselves in the gospel of peace."
So how does the gospel of peace help me to stand? And how does that help me to resist the devil? Good question! No soldier goes into battle without their shoes. Shoes offer protection against harsh terrain and possible debris. According to vroma.org, the shoes worn by Roman soldiers had metal "hobnails" on the sole for traction. It was imperative for the soldier to have a firm footing in the heat of battle, and so it is with us also. We must make our standing secure, and we do that by rooting ourselves in the gospel of peace. In the heat of the battle, we are standing secure in the knowledge that we have been saved by grace through faith and that we are now well-cared for children. This is our source of peace as the battle rages on.
The gospel is not only for the non-believer. It is nourishment to the soul of the believer. It reminds us and encourages us and transforms us. It grants us peace in the storm, knowing that we serve a God so deeply in love with us that he was willing to give his only Son as a ransom for our sins. No matter what storms rage and what attacks the enemy employs, knowing that we have been saved by the blood of Jesus should be the foundation on which we stand and the power to keep standing.
The next piece of the armor that we will look at is the breastplate of righteousness. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines righteous is "acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin." The website gotquestions.org states, "The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word." Wow! Righteousness is a tall order. It seems an impossible standard to meet. Well, it is. How can little ol' us ever hope to meet "God's own perfection?" We simply can't, at least not in of ourselves. In fact, Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."So why does Paul instruct us to have on the breastplate of righteousness? Is that even possible? I mean, the belt of truth is definitely possible, but a breastplate of righteousness?
Well, the question arises, is Paul asking us to put on our own righteousness? No he is not. As believers, we have accepted Christ's sacrifice as a payment for our sins. Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" and in 1 Peter 2:24 " who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed." We can put on the breastplate of righteousness because of Jesus. His work on the cross means that we, as those who have believed, are now righteous in the sight of God.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." ~2 Corinthians 5:21
So how do we put on the breastplate of righteousness. Well, it comes after we have put on the belt of truth. Once we are firmly planted in the truth of God and who He is we are able to put on the breastplate of righteousness. The first we must do is be obedient to the word of God. God's standard is holiness. Therefore, we hold up or thoughts, words, and deeds to the standard of holiness and when they don't comply we ask for forgiveness and strength to change and we get to work.
Studying the word of God is so important when it comes to the armor of God and it is extremely important when it comes to the breastplate of righteousness. You cannot rely on your or the world's definition of righteousness. Therefore, you must check the manual (the Bible), to make sure that you are truly equipped.
Remember that the breastplate is protecting the heart. If the heart is injured, then death is fairly certain. In spiritual warfare, if the enemy gets to your heart, then you are in deep, deep trouble. Proverbs 4:23 states, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The state of your heart determines the decisions you make and the quality of life you enjoy. As such, we must be very, very sure that we have on the breastplate of righteousness. It is imperative that we "guard our hearts."
When you think of an armor, a belt is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Really, in a life or death fight how exactly will a belt be useful? Well, it depends on the type of armor.
When Apostle Paul was writing his letter, he was very familiar with the Roman armor. He was in prison and as such had a great familiarity with the Roman armor.
According to truth.net, "The belt—known as the cingulum or balteus—played a crucial role in the effectiveness of a soldier's armor. It was the belt that held the scabbard, without which there would be no place to put a sword." The belt held the other pieces of armor together and the same can be said of the the belt of truth.
In today's society, many people think that truth is relative. We hear phrases like "my truth" and "your truth." However, in the Kingdom of God, there is one truth. On this truth we build our faith and our trust. The truth simply is that Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross for the sins of the world, rose on the 3rd day taking death and hell captive, and ascended to heaven where he now sits on the right hand of God making intercession for us, his people. The truth is that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that we who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life." The truth is that "there is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." The truth is that "in him we live and move and have our being." The truth is that he has gone to prepare a place for us and that he is coming back again.
Jesu said that the enemy is the father of lies. The only way to combat his lies is with the truth. Not the world's truth, not your own truth, but with God's truth. When the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, you must have your belt of truth on to keep your full armor together.
What truth are you leaning on today? What truth are you building your life on? If you are having trouble standing today, remind yourself of the truth. Speak it out loud and into your circumstance. Write it down and post it where you can see it. Meditate on and memorize it. For as Jesus said, "Then you will know and the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Yesterday's topic was standing firm. We left off asking: Is standing firm really even possible? How do we stand? What is this armor of God? Can we truly resist? Let's answer a few of these questions.
First of all, to answer the first question (Is standing firm even possible), YES!! Standing firm is possible. Is it easy? Sometimes, but most times no. It depends on the particular situation or trial. However, it is very possible. God never asks us to do anything that he has not or will not equip us to do. If we examine the key scripture, we see that standing firm depends on whether we have armed ourselves with the armor of God.
I hope that all bible believing children of God know that we have an enemy. We have an adversary who is determined to destroy us. Ephesians 6:11-12 states, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Here the scripture is clearly telling us that we are fighting a battle that can only be won if we are dressed in the armor of God. If we have any hope of standing firmly when trials and tribulations or persecution and oppression appear, then we must make sure that we are securely anchored to God and clothed in His armor.
So yes, we can stand firmly. It is definitely possible. Don't listen to the enemy. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Next time we will take a closer look at the armor of God, what it is and how we put it on.
God bless you!