The Shield of Faith, Part 1

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12, NIV)
 
In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16, HCSB)
 
The shield of a Roman soldier on which the Shield of Faith is based is not the small round shield we often imagine. It was about 4 feet tall and either rectangular or an oval.
 
It was basically a mobile wall. While formed in ranks, Roman soldiers would join their shields together to create a protective barrier. The row in front would hold the shields in front of them, while the rest of the ranks would hold them overhead. This would create a protective covering from the incoming arrows of the enemy.
 
Often these shields would be coated with leather which would be soaked with water. This would extinguish any enemy arrows which might be dipped in pitch and lit on fire. These shields were specifically designed to be connected and joined to the shields of other fellow soldiers. Likewise, our faith is designed to be connected to the faith of other disciples.
 
What about fiery arrows?
 
After disciples have put on the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, and the Sandals of the Gospel of Peace; they have made great strides in their spiritual maturity. It is at this point they have become a threat and a target to Satan, or at least his demonic forces. Satan’s first attack was deception (the Belt of Truth). His second attack was accusation (the Breastplate of Righteousness). His third attack is disunity (the Sandals of the Gospel of Peace).
 
Satan’s next attack is a full-frontal assault. When the Roman army attacked a city, the first full frontal assault would be a barrage of arrows, many times dipped in pitch and lit on fire.
 
How does faith extinguish them?
 
Faith is believing God is in control even when it looks like He is not. Faith is choosing to act upon that belief rather that the circumstances that you can physically see and experience. Hebrews chapters 10-12 list all the examples of faith from the Old Testament and the first century that the early disciples could look to for inspiration. Early disciples could look at these stories and understand that God was still in control:
 
Remember the past, when you first learned the truth. You endured a lot of hardship and pain. At times you were publicly insulted and mistreated. At times you associated with people who were treated this way. You suffered with prisoners. You were cheerful even though your possessions were stolen, since you know that you have a better and more permanent possession.
 
So don’t lose your confidence. It will bring you a great reward. You need endurance so that after you have done what God wants you to do, you can receive what he has promised.
 
“Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay. The person who has God’s approval will live by faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him.”
 
We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved.
 
Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. God accepted our ancestors because of their faith.
 
Faith convinces us that God created the world through his word. This means what can be seen was made by something that could not be seen.
 
Faith led Abel to offer God a better sacrifice than Cain’s sacrifice. Through his faith Abel received God’s approval, since God accepted his sacrifices. Through his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
 
Faith enabled Enoch to be taken instead of dying. No one could find him, because God had taken him. Scripture states that before Enoch was taken, God was pleased with him. No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
 
Faith led Noah to listen when God warned him about the things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family. Through faith Noah condemned the world and received God’s approval that comes through faith.
 
Faith led Abraham to obey when God called him to go to a place that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham left his own country without knowing where he was going.
 
Faith led Abraham to live as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. Abraham was waiting for the city that God had designed and built, the city with permanent foundations.
 
Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise. Abraham was as good as dead. Yet, from this man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.
 
All these people died having faith. They didn’t receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for their own country. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they could have found a way to go back. Instead, these men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.
 
When God tested Abraham, faith led him to offer his son Isaac. Abraham, the one who received the promises from God, was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice. God had said to him, “Through Isaac your descendants will carry on your name.” Abraham believed that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead in a figurative sense.
 
Faith led Isaac to bless Jacob and Esau. While Jacob was dying, faith led him to bless each of Joseph’s sons. He leaned on the top of his staff and worshiped God. While Joseph was dying, faith led him to speak about the Israelites leaving Egypt and give them instructions about burying his bones.
 
Faith led Moses’ parents to hide him for three months after he was born. They did this because they saw that Moses was a beautiful baby and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s order.
 
When Moses grew up, faith led him to refuse to be known as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer with God’s people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little while. He thought that being insulted for Christ would be better than having the treasures of Egypt. He was looking ahead to his reward.
 
Faith led Moses to leave Egypt without being afraid of the king’s anger. Moses didn’t give up but continued as if he could actually see the invisible God.
 
Faith led Moses to establish the Passover and spread the blood {on the doorposts} so that the destroying angel would not kill the firstborn sons.
 
Faith caused the people to go through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. The Egyptians also tried this, but they drowned.
 
Faith caused the walls of Jericho to fall after the Israelites marched around them for seven days.
 
Faith led the prostitute Rahab to welcome the spies as friends. She was not killed with those who refused to obey God.
 
What more should I say? I don’t have enough time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, did what God approved, and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, and escaped death. They found strength when they were weak. They were powerful in battle and defeated other armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. Other believers were brutally tortured but refused to be released so that they might gain eternal life. Some were made fun of and whipped, and some were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. Some wore the skins of sheep and goats. Some were poor, abused, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve these good people. Some wandered around in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground.
 
All these people were known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something very special so that we would gain eternal life with them.
 
Since we are surrounded by so many examples {of faith}, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.
 
You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:
 
“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.”
 
Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right. (Hebrews 10:32-12:11, GW)
 
This passage is all about faith, but notice that it begins by referring to the belt of truth, (Remember the past, when you first learned the truth.) Also, it ends with the sandals of peace and the breastplate of righteousness (those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right.)
 
The discipleship process found in the Armor of God is not only found in Ephesians 6, it is found throughout scripture. It is not Paul’s process; it is God’s process. The steps of discipleship, the steps to spiritual maturity, are clearly laid out in scripture; we have simply overlooked them.
 
The next article in this series is The Shield of Faith, Part 2…
 
 
If you would like to learn more about why it is so imperative that we obey and imitate Jesus as His disciples, please start here and follow the links at the end of each page…
 

The Four Principles of Discipleship…