Monday Minutes With Pastor Chris McCool (April 10, 2023)

The next item of spiritual armor found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is the “shield of faith.” The shield of the Roman soldier was extremely important to the whole armor. All the other armor protected primarily against combat in close quarters, but the shield protected against a barrage of long-range missiles that might be cast against him from afar.

There were primarily two different types of shields used by the Roman soldier. One type was a small round shield strapped to soldier’s forearm, very light, used in hand to hand combat. This shield was utilized primarily in solo battle with the enemy. The other type of shield was a larger, oblong piece of wood covered with metal or leather. It was shaped somewhat like a door, and in fact the Greek word for this shield is based on the word for “door.” The leather of this shield would often be treated with oils or dipped in water so that it would deflect or extinguish flaming arrows. With these large shields, the front line of soldiers would stand with shields planted side by side, often with interlocking edges, where they could stand behind their shields and generally be protected. Notice that the individual soldier got protection from those around him as well!

Like the Roman shield, the “shield of faith” is a “full body” shield and not the little solo combat shield. And what is faith? Scripture speaks plainly about faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. 11:1. “Substance” refers to a solid foundation upon which to build or stand; “evidence” is simply a proof by which something is proven or tested. Faith is NOT wispy or ephemeral; rather, it is admissible, valid evidence in the courtroom of your heart and mind, and will provide a solid foundation for you in the spiritual battle you face!

So how do we use this shield of faith? It is a simple strategy: our faith must be an ACTIVE faith, one that we take up and exercise daily! Like a muscle, faith must be exercised – that is, it must be lived out in our everyday walk. Four times in Scripture, God tells us that “the just shall live by faith.” And each time this statement is made, there is a different context.

We first read this admonition to “walk by faith” in Habakkuk. He puts it this way: “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Hab. 2:4. Habakkuk is writing in the time period immediately before Babylonian Captivity. In his day, wickedness was rampant throughout Judah, but God was silent about it. Yet, even though Habakkuk could not understand why God wasn’t doing something, God said, “Trust me, Habakkuk, and live like you trust me!”

The second statement about walking by faith occurs in Romans 1:17, in the context of the preaching of the gospel. Paul tells the Romans that “therein” – i.e., through the preaching of the gospel – is the righteousness of God revealed to us. The gospel message reveals His hatred of sin and ultimate judgment of all sin, but which for the child of God has already occurred in Christ. Knowing this, Paul says, “Live a life of faith!”

The third occurrence of this admonition to “walk by faith” is found in Galatians 3:11. The context here is Paul’s concern about the Galatians sliding back from a belief in grace to a belief in a works-based system. He reminds them that living by the law won’t help you:  we should and must live by faith in the finished work of Christ!

Finally, the statement occurs in Hebrews 10:38, where the writer is admonishing the Jewish Christians of the day to “stay the course” and not to “draw back” from their steadfast belief in Christ. The context here is the timely deliverance of staying faithful to a life in Christ and not sliding back into the false teachings of Judaism. “Live by faith,” the writer admonishes, and do not slide back into the works-based message of the world!

Notice that the shield of faith is necessary in every situation of life! We must keep the faith when things around us look bad and things don’t seem to make sense in our lives, as Habakkuk warns. We must keep the faith when things are sounding good in our lives and the gospel is sounding forth, as in Romans. We must keep the faith even when others slide back, as in Galatians. And we must keep the faith even when we ourselves are tempted to draw back, as Hebrews warns! Basically, in every situation of life, we must walk by faith.

My beloved friends, our enemy is real and he is smarter and stronger than you! He will defeat you in hand to hand combat, but more often than not he lobs his assaults from a distance where you can’t even see where he’s shooting from. And while these attacks can never separate us eternally from God, they can be devastating from a temporal standpoint. His assaults are many and varied: darts of doubt, darts of discouragement, darts of deception, darts of distraction, darts of delay! These darts have wreaked havoc on God’s children who do not properly utilize the shield of faith.

Thankfully, the shield of faith is sufficient to deflect ALL the fiery darts of Satan! But this shield only works if you put it to use. You need to hold it up and stand behind it, and stand beside your brothers and sisters who are also brandishing this shield of faith. You need to keep a firm grip upon it, and keep it at the ready at all times – don’t drop the shield, or lay it down, or throw it away! The shield of faith does you no good slung over your back as you march out unprotected! Keep it ever before you, and avail yourself at all times of the complete protection provided through the shield of faith.

May the Lord bless you is my prayer.

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor