The year 2020 has been a year of protecting oneself from the virus by wearing a mask, ensuring adequate separation from others and restricting personal movement outside home only when absolutely essential. In his Epistle to the Ephesians Apostle Paul emphasized another type of protection that God has given to every believer and the shield of faith is a prominent part of personal armor. But is that shield only for a spiritual battle or is it useful in our daily battles with diseases and sickness? And how do we protect ourselves with this?
When God breathed into a pile of dust of the earth formed in the shape of a man, God put a part of Himself into man to make him into the ‘image and likeness of God’ and that pile of dust became a living being. But the sin of disobedience caused death while Adam and Eve continued to live for long after that. Lord Jesus is ‘the resurrection and the life’ and then He has declared, ‘Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die’ (John 11:25-26). From this we see that there are two types of death, a physical death of the body and a spiritual death of separation from God and Adam and Eve died this death of separation immediately but physical death much later.
The first time shield is mentioned in the Scripture is about God offering to be one for Abraham, after he had defeated a large army of four kings and expected retaliation from them (Genesis 15:1). Shields are of two types, one is an active shield, that protects from close range weapons or projectiles, like arrows, and is an active blocking system; the second is passive protection like closing altogether one or more avenues of attack and it surrounds the one being protected from all sides.
Why does man need a weapon? The authority and power given to Adam and Eve to ‘dominate the earth and subdue it’ has an element of force involved for there was something to be dominated and subdued (Genesis 1:28). Where Satan’s role and structural form is explained, also is there his location, ‘the Garden of Eden’ and his role has been to oppose the plans of God (Ezekiel 28:13). The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil and every believers role is to do the same by making disciples of ‘truth’ so that the truth could then set them free (1 John 3:8). A believer therefore comes in opposition to the devil.
Apostle Paul has laid out the details of the opposing forces that these are not flesh and blood, but are rulers, authorities, powers of darkness (the dark world) and spiritual forces of evil and these are in located or have access to the heavenly realms and can operate from their spiritual disposition in the material realms and we are required to withstand their attacks (Ephesians 6:12). The ‘shield of faith’ that is available to a believer is used to ‘quench the fiery darts of the evil one’ (Ephesians 6:16).
What are the fiery darts or flaming arrows of the devil? These are no ordinary temptations but seem to suddenly come from nowhere to pierce, penetrate and torment the soul. Satan was created by God as ‘seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty’ Ezekiel 28:15). The devil can easily identify our vulnerable spots and the type of arrows shot by him could be like some of the listed here but definitely more than that. First, anything to get us to disobey God for God’s blessings and protection are related to our obedience to Him. God has given us free will to choose of either of the two trees in His Garden and Satan’s efforts are always directed towards leading us to the forbidden one. Moses laid down clear choice before the Israelites, ‘ See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess’ (Deuteronomy 30:15-18). The Israelites disobeyed God and went into captivity.
Second, is to induce blasphemous thoughts about existence of God, truth of His love or about our suffering despite God’s love. God gave us the dominion and whatever happens here is our responsibility, but we tend to forget that.
Third, critical and hateful thoughts towards self by remembering past sins and hating self and others whereas we are to love each other as Lord Jesus has loved us (John 15:12).
Four, thoughts of lust, revenge or despair that sing deep into our very mind, heart and soul, thus weakening our defenses against the devil’s plans.
Five, sudden feelings of fear, anxiety and panic creating doubts about everything in our life, even about our faith.
Six, sickness and disease as in the case of Job and as seen in cases of healing by Lord Jesus and in the church.
Seven, creating doubts about the truth of the Gospel, Lord Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and resultant salvation by grace through faith by leading a believer to believe his lies.
Though the battle is in the spiritual realms but its effects will be felt in the spiritual as well as in the physical or material world through sickness, disease, loss of money, relationships and faith.
Apostle Paul’s advice to all believers is to put on the ‘whole armor of God so that when the day of evil comes’, it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ the day of evil comes you may be ready (Ephesians 6:13-14). A similar command is from the Savior Lord, ‘in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’, thus indicating the certainty of the same as also our victory through faith in the Son of God (John 16:33). It is not our needs or circumstances but faith that moves God. The teaching is ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6) and faith is acting in belief on the truth of God’s word. King David was a man of war and declared in faith, ‘You will cover the ‘tzaddik’, the righteous, all around with ‘ratzon’, Your favor, O Jehovah’, You will encompass them as with a ‘tzinnah’, a large rectangular shield (Psalm 5:12).
Purpose of the shield – The Roman shield was a large, slightly curved rectangular shield, up to 3 feet in height and almost the same width with a large metal knob at its center, providing protection from arrows shot. It also helped in creating a wall by lining soldiers together to block the enemy movement with the knob used to knock down the opponent backwards. The shield is not only for protecting but also helps to push back against the enemy; second, it extinguishes the ‘fiery darts’, the lies and false or half truths that the devil hurls sat us and third, joined together with other Christians, our faith is strengthened and through fellowship with others we help each other to form a barrier against the devil.
Characteristics of the shield of faith – The five characteristics of the shield of faith are – first, it is our first line of defense by deflecting the weapons shot by the enemy from a distance like the arrows, catapults, flaming arrows, fireballs or metal darts set on fire. Lord Jesus’ rebuke to Simon Peter for trying to persuade Him from His move to the cross was directly addressed to Satan who was trying to work through the disciple to tempt both Peter and the Lord to disobey God’s will (Matthew 16:21-23).
Second, the shield guards – ‘The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’ (Psalm 18:2). King David in these nine titles assures himself that God is for him, a rock is a place of shelter, safety and security; fortress is a place of strength and safety; deliverer makes a way of escape; His God who not only object of adoration but also One who strengthens the soul; his strength using a different Hebrew word meaning fountain, source or origin; shield who defends both his head and heart; his horn meaning his strength and defense and finally his stronghold or high tower of refuge from where he could see his enemy from a great distance.
Third, the shield deflects – Faith in God and His promises causes Satan’s ‘flaming arrows’ to bounce off, not able to enter our mind and soul for we are assured of the truth of God’s word.
Four, shield can incapacitate the enemy – In the wilderness the Son of God told Satan, ‘Away from Me Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only. Then the devil left Him and angels of God came and attended Him’ (Matthew 4:10-11).
Five, shield helps create a citadel – The Roman army in certain situations adopted a ‘tortoise formation’ of temporary defense. A group of soldiers would form a rectangular position with the soldiers on the periphery holding their shield in the front and those in the center held them on their heads to protect them from arrows and other projectiles from the enemy. This would become a battle tank that could protectively move in any direction.
God tests our faith by allowing the devil to tempt us and Job suffered the most by losing everything, his wife, also not able to bear his pain asking him to accept death, his three friends accusing him of sin but God restored everything to him. The Son of God was led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness where for forty days, He was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-2). Lord Jesus prayed for Apostle Peter, ‘that your faith may not fail’ for Satan had asked to sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31-32). When attacked by the devil we should not be shocked and be assured that god has not deserted us for ‘the battle is not yours, but God’s’ ((2 chronicles 20:15). In each of the three cases of Lord Jesus, Job and Apostle Peter, the devil attacked the flesh with suggestions to fulfill our desires or attack us with our fears and our fleshly nature tends to agree with his ideas.
The shield of faith shows us whether a suggestion is from above or from below, since its working effectiveness is through close relationship with God in faith. Our belief in the ‘shield’ is application of what we believe and that answers every attempt of Satan to derail our faith.
How to put on the ‘shield of faith’ – Our faith is in God and not in the shield which is a symbol of power of God and His supernatural resources made available to us by our loving Father in our fight against ‘the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of darkness and against spiritual forces of evil’ (Philippians 6:12).
Faith is a gift from God – Lord Jesus told the father of the deaf and mute boy, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ (Mark 9:23-24) The protection of the shield is in the supernatural realm but it also affects the material world which effect can be appropriated through faith. Like the father of the boy, I can pray to the Lord and seek His help, ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief’.
Need from protection must be realized and sought – As a believer and a child of God, my life must display a close partnership with the Heavenly Father through the Savior Lord. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, promised by Lord Jesus ‘will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you’ thus ensuring close fellowship with God (John 14:26).
Shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit are closely interlinked and to receive these we must adopt this procedure. First, make a deliberate attempt to earmark time for this, begin with prayer seeking the help of the Holy Spirit and then identify the ways and thoughts that the devil has put into your mind to attack. Second, make a list and then identify Bible verses to counter each of those issues based on categories by using the internet or a reference Bible. Third, arrange these verses by topic and put the common ones together and choose the verses that you feel suit your situation the most.
Four customize your protection – For example Isaiah 41:13 reads, ‘I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. Do not fear, I will help you’. I apply this as ‘As per His promise Jehovah God is holding my right hand to help me and I will not be afraid’. Five, print these and place in prominent places in the house or write on index cards and carry along to read and memorize these, make a screensaver on the phone or laptop to memorize.
Apostle Paul advises the believers ‘to stand your ground’ and after doing everything ‘stand firm’ (Ephesians 6:13-14). Standing firm is to ‘bring every thought captive in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Lord Jesus knew that the devil fears God the Father and faith in the truth of God’s word would make the devil flee. He quoted the Word of God in answer to Satan’s temptations and the devil ‘left Him until an opportune time’ (Luke 4:13).
Kingdom of God is established in us but we live in this world surrounded by the forces of darkness who are perpetually in opposition to us. At every opportunity they shoot arrows of doubt, lies, deceit and division and the shield of faith helps us test every spirit and its message with the standard truth of God’s Word. These are God given spiritual weapons and we use them for defeating the demonic forces and emerge victorious in this world. Our battle here determines our eternal future and our loving Father in Heaven desires our victory in His beloved Son