Pick It Up!
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
– Hebrews 11:1
Several years ago I went in for my regular eye exam and was greeted with the news that something wasn’t quite right with my right eye. I got the lovely privilege of signing up for a visit with a cornea
specialist. I was not excited. Partially because there is a history of some fairly serious eye issues in my family but more so because I hate even the thought of someone examining my eyeball. A couple of weeks later at my appointment, the nurse walking me through all the scans and tests holds up a wand of sorts and tells me I will need to sit very still and not blink while she touched this wand to my eyeball.
That particular test didn’t exactly go as planned. She had to hold my head down and eye open while I gripped the arm rests of the chair and desperately tried imagine myself being just about anywhere else. At the end of a couple of hours of testing and waiting for results, I was told my cornea was misshapen. Then they explained that, in order to prevent it from getting worse, I was going to coming back for an afternoon of having my eyeball propped open and being treated while I remained awake. It took everything in me not to smack the good staff at the clinic as I desperately wanted to keep them away from my eyes.
When we feel physically threatened or attacked, it is a natural instinct to want to hide behind some sort of substantial protection. Children growing up in the Midwest learn to seek shelter from tornados in storm shelters. Those on the west coast grow up learning to run for doorways when they feel and earthquake. During World War II, much of Europe learned to hide in darkness to stay safe from bombers. Roman soldiers carried a physical shield with them.
The shield of the Roman soldier was large and heavy. Picture carrying around a wooden door and you aren’t too far off. These shields were large enough that that soldier could hide completely behind them if needed. They were often made of wood and covered in animal hides and, when going into battle, soaked in water so literal flaming arrows from the enemy would extinguish themselves instead of igniting the shield on fire. And while they were used defensively to protect a soldier under attack, they could also be used offensively to push back against an enemy in close combat.
The next piece of our spiritual armor Paul lists is a shield of faith. In contrast the previous pieces, this is the first piece which requires us to actively use it so it is effective. A shield is something which has to be deliberately picked up each time it is used. Similarly, choosing to actively use our faith is something we must do on a continual basis. Faith isn’t something we learn or experience just once, but something we utilize on a daily basis.
Let’s step back a moment and think about what faith, in practice, is all about. Faith is what prompts us to believe God first and foremost and above all other persons and things. Faith is what reminds us that God is true to His Word and can be trusted to keep His promises. It recognizes the deceptive tactics of Satan and puts an end to their ability to impact and influence our beliefs. Faith chooses to believe that Jesus’ life and death on the cross has paid the price for our sins and so there is no more condemnation for those who believe and trust in Jesus for our salvation. Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Faith is no small thing.
There is a purpose to our shield of faith: to extinguish the fiery arrows of the evil one. Just as the Roman soldier didn’t carry a shield as a fashion statement, we should be sure our faith is not simply a way of conforming to cultural norm or family expectation. We are meant to put it into action. Our faith is meant to protect from the many ways Satan tries to steal, kill, and destroy all that is good in our lives.
Another interesting observation about the shield of the Roman soldier is that they would often band together in a formation known as the testudo (or “tortoise”) formation. Especially when facing incoming arrows from the enemies archers, the soldiers would huddle closely together with those on the outside putting their shields out to protect the edges of the group while those in the middle would lift their shields above their heads to form a solid protective cover. Together, in this formation, the Roman army essentially became a human tank which few barriers could prevent from advancing on the battle field.
Similarly, when we utilize our faith alongside the faith of others, we become infinitely more formidable against the attacks of Satan than when we are standing alone. In Hebrews 10:23-25 we are reminded of the importance of gathering together. Living faith in community allows us to help each other build our faith. It means there is someone there to help us when it feels like Satan is attacking us from all sides. There is someone there to encourage us and inspire us. And when a fiery arrow does manage to get through and injure us, we are surrounded by others who can protect us.
- As a reminder, every piece of spiritual armor, just like the pieces of physical armor, are designed to protect our most vital organs so that we may live the life we are called to live. So it is worth considering not just the armor we put on but the person it is protecting. Ask yourself, is your heart in line with God’s? Who are you truly beneath the armor?
- If you haven’t before, take some time to list out the times when, in looking back, God was protecting you and guiding you in ways you didn’t realize. List out the times God has clearly answered your prayers in big and small ways. Ask family and friends to help you remember these times and keep the list handy for when it feels like God is far away to remind yourself of how God has worked in your life.
- Scripture is full of the promises God makes to those who trust in Him. You can review just some of those by clicking HERE. Which promises are the easiest for you to hold onto? Which are the hardest for you to believe in?