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.