The past few days I've been thinking a lot about the “Armor of God”. If you're unfamiliar with this term, it refers to an illustration the Apostle Paul uses in chapter 6 of his letter to the Ephesians. Here he describes the resources we have as believers in our spiritual battle. I've been thinking specifically of verse 16, where Paul writes, “Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.” This particular passage has been on my mind a lot this week because there are some situations we're facing that have required us to really step out and trust God - and to be honest, that’s been a challenge for me - so I've needed to ponder this verse as a way to keep encouraged.
I think in order to fully understand what Paul's saying here, we have to remember what Paul's situation was when he wrote it. Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians from a prison in Rome, where he was literally chained to a Roman guard 24/7. Obviously that means he had plenty of time to observe Roman armor. According to historians, the shield of a Roman soldier from Paul's day would typically have been made of wood - and would have been rectangular in shape, measuring about four feet high and two feet wide. When these soldiers went into battle, they would often encounter a barrage of flaming arrows coming at them from all directions. The primary reason the enemy did this was to demoralize and confuse the Roman soldiers. So, in order to keep protected, and in order to keep focused on moving forward in the battle, the Roman soldiers would group together with their shields side-by-side to protect themselves from this onslaught of fiery arrows.
The more I've pondered that, the more I'm convinced that the Apostle Paul really hits the nail on the head when he tells us to use faith as our shield. Here’s why I say that: the devil wants to discourage and disorient us, and so he's more than happy to send some flaming arrows our direction. These arrows show up in our lives as temptation, anger, pride, envy, fear, doubt, worry, and pretty much anything else you can think of that distracts us from fully living for God. They're delivered primarily in our thoughts, and because the enemy knows that this is a battle, he will shoot these flaming arrows at us at the most strategic times - like when we're tired, or when we're stressed, or when we're feeling overwhelmed by the challenges in life.
That's why, during these times, it's especially important that we hold up our shield of faith. Notice that it's not a shield of “feelings”, or a shield of “human wisdom” – but rather, a shield of faith. It's intentionally choosing to believe God will do what He’s said He will do - no matter how we feel. God never changes. His truth endures forever. So our faith must be built on, and supported by, these truths.
It's also interesting to note that the Roman soldiers huddled together for maximum protection because they knew there was strength in numbers. As Christians, the same is true for us. Satan knows that when we’re isolated, we’re more vulnerable. So part of “raising our shields of faith” is remembering that our protection is strongest when we’re grouped with other believers who are doing the same thing. And that means when we're feeling low or discouraged, the last thing we should do is turn away from other believers and isolate ourselves. Instead, we need to run to them and be encouraged by the sharing of our faith.
So today, take a minute and pray with me that God will remind each of us that our faith must be based solely on Him – the truth of who He is, His ability to provide for us, and to protect us. And then let's also pray and ask God to show us if there are believers around us who are feeling isolated in their battle - and as He does so, let's run to stand beside them, lifting our shields with them, so that together, we can stand strong against the enemy of God's kingdom.