Today, we will take a look at the fourth piece of armor that Paul encourages us to put on–the shield of faith. My last three blog posts have dealt with items we wear: the belt, the breastplate, and the shoes. Click on the links to check those articles out.
Instead of the typical shield that we see depicted on movie screens, the shield the Roman soldiers carried were actually a slightly curved rectangular shape between three and three and a half feet tall, and equally as wide. And centered in the middle of the shield was a large metal knob. This knob was called a boss.1 The size of the Roman shield afforded the soldier a great deal of protection. Because of its curved nature, it could deflect attacks from the side. With the added metal knob, the soldier had an edge to knock down his opponent. So, what does the Roman shield have to do with faith?
What Is Faith?
To understand the link between the Roman shield and our faith, let’s understand first Hebrews 11:1:
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV).
When we are hoping for something to materialize it means we haven’t seen it yet. When we do see it materialize, it becomes tangible or it becomes a reality. Faith then is the confidence in God that we already have what we are hoping for. It is the belief, or the confidence, that because of God’s faithfulness, He will fulfill His promises to us. This conviction is based on trust. We trust in God’s character, meaning we believe who He says He is, and we believe in His promises-that He will do what He says He will do. From the perspective of trust, we then have assurance and conviction and we will demonstrate our faith in that we will have what we hope for.
How Are the Shield and Faith Connected?
First, the shield guards. The shield of faith also guards us spiritually when we’re in the trenches of physical hardships. Remember Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-Nego? They were physically in a burning furnace – a real physical crisis. These three teenagers had an unwavering faith, supported by their obedience to God’s commands. As a result, God empowered them to hold onto their faith with the boldness to tell the king they wouldn’t bow to worship the golden image. Thus, God protected them physically, even though these boys didn’t know if God would actually deliver them from certain death.
If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).
Shield of Faith Averts
Since the ancient Romans used shields that were slightly curved around the edges, it had the ability to repel hits from their enemies. We have an enemy today-Satan. And he often pursues us by shooting his fiery darts of worry, doubt, and fear. These are some of his weapons to pull us off our game and to get us to doubt God’s faithfulness or that God isn’t in control of all that touches our lives. If we let our shield of faith down, then we are exposed and we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.
Shield of Faith Fends Off
Remember that boss- the doorknob? That doorknob-like structure has a purpose. It can be used by the soldier to shove back or repel his enemy. It can literally knock his foe to the ground, thereby incapacitating him for that final attack. What would we use as a modern day boss? The doorknob in our faith today would be our obedience to God’s will and His ways, and in our works of service. These actions build our faith, they repel attacks from Satan and help us to live a resilient life.
Shields Work As A Wall
I’m sure you’ve seen it–when enemies sent arrows up into the sky, soldiers closed ranks. Soldiers on the outside used their shields to form a wall around the perimeter. Then those in the middle raised their shields over their heads to protect everyone from free-falling arrows and other projectiles. This technique is called the “tortoise,” formation.2
If Christians today use their faith to build up one another, we too, can become a strong soldier in God’s army.
1 The Great Teachings of the Bible and What They Mean for You: The Armor of God, Lesson 5: The Shield of Faith, www.freebiblestudyguides.org/bible-teaching/armor-of-god-shield-of-faith.htm, accessed 9-1-16.