“In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:16)
Soldiers used a shield as their defense against the weapons of their enemies. A shield was the first layer of protection and the armor on the body was the second layer. You would hope that all weapons could be extinguished by the shield, but sometimes soldiers had to rely on their body armor to protect them from injury or death if they didn’t move their shield in the right place to stop the flying arrows.
Take up your shield of faith. The weapons of the enemy are hurled at us day and night. These flaming arrows are the lies and accusations that the enemy sends our way to ruin the life we have in Christ. We need to be ready.
But what does it mean to have a shield of faith? What is faith? Hebrews 11 defines faith and then goes on to give examples of people who showed great faith.
“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1 CSB
Think about that for a second. “The reality” (or “the assurance” in other translations) is actually the Greek word hypostasis which means “a setting or placing under,” “that which has foundation, firm,” “that which has actual existence,” “the steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution.”
A foundation holds up the entire structure. If the foundation falls, the structure crumbles. We cannot build when the foundation is not strong.
Similarly—a foundation is meant to be built upon. You would never create a foundation just for the sake of creating a foundation.
If faith is our foundation, we must have a firm foundation in order to build upon it. We do not have faith for the sake of faith, we have faith as our foundation to then build our relationship with Jesus.
Faith is Full Trust
People love to describe faith like a chair. I don’t know about you, but movie theater chairs were the hardest thing for me to sit in when I was little. If I sat too far back in the chair, it folded up and swallowed me. I couldn’t trust them. I had to either sit on the edge of the chair or in my mom’s lap for what felt like years until I was finally big enough to keep the seat down.
For normal chairs, we put our full weight in the chair without thinking twice about whether or not the chair will hold us. You sit down with your full weight—your full trust. Having faith in Jesus is putting your full weight in Jesus— so much so that if he fails, you will surely fall.
But many of us are kind of hovering our butts over the chair of faith, waiting for it to fall, waiting for Jesus to mess up. So that when he does (because we’re sure he will. Everyone else has failed us, so Jesus must), you can stand up and stay safe rather than completely fall on your butt because you didn’t put your full trust in Jesus’s words.
Faith is also described as “actual existence.” This points to the reality that our faith would be so strong that it points to the actual existence of everything we believe in. You would put such faith and trust in Jesus that your life would prove the existence of God.
Faith is steadfast and firm. Faith is resolute. Faith is fixed and immovable. We know what we hope for and our faith cannot be moved or shaken no matter the circumstances.
This is the kind of faith that acts as a shield when the enemy throws you lies like: God isn’t real. If God really loved you, this wouldn’t be happening to you. You’re worthless. No one cares. Everyone will always leave you. You’re unwanted. You really messed up and you’ll never change. Don’t trust anyone—especially God.
These lies are flaming arrows aimed to kill, and only our shield of faith can extinguish the arrows.
We put our full weight and full trust in Jesus so that we may never lower our shield. We fully and whole-heartedly believe in Jesus and his words and nothing can capture our attention or change our minds of the truth. We completely rely on the grace of Christ.
We will not lower our shields.
When You Do Lower Your Shield
But the reality is, sometimes we do lower our shields. Sometimes we struggle with doubts and fears and start listening to the lies.
You let the arrows pierce you.
The good news is that we are promised that even the tiniest bit of faith will grow and strengthen: “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” the Lord said, “you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:5-6 CSB).
Now, don’t go around talking to trees, because people may start to get worried. What Jesus is trying to say is that even the smallest bit of faith can contribute big things in his Kingdom.
Our faith usually isn’t equal to the task that God asks of us. Faith the size of a mustard seed and uprooting a tree with your command are not at all equal to each other, but he promises to grow our faith when we engage in the task.
We can see this as we continue reading Hebrews 11. Now, Hebrews makes these people sound like absolute heroes, but when you read about these men and women in the Old Testament, their faith isn’t all that astounding.
He talks about Abel who offered all he had to God (v. 4), but really all he was doing was giving God his best crops.
Noah built an arc because he believed God, but probably looked like an absolute fool building a boat in the desert (v.7).
Sarah had the faith to conceive Isaac, even though she was way past the child-bearing age (v.11), but she laughed at God when she first heard that she would bear a child.
And the chapter continues to list example after example of people who obeyed God in faith, but hardly any of them had big and perfect faith that we think would be required to do what they did for God.
What we do see in all of these faith stories is action. No one is just sitting there, doing nothing, waiting for God to move. Faith requires action. You don’t simply build a foundation and leave it there. You build a foundation for a purpose—to build upon it.
How can you know if you trust Jesus and his truth if you never put yourself in a position where you are forced to trust?
Faith in Action
One of the greatest experiences that served to grow my faith was my freshman year of college when I was placed on a WyldLife (YoungLife for middle schoolers) team to start WyldLife at a new school. When I got out of high school, I could barely explain the Gospel, let alone lead middle school kids to Christ. But it was for exactly that reason that God chose to put me on this team at this time in my life.
Over the next four years I found myself driving around with middle schoolers, hanging out in parks, getting Frappichinos at Starbucks, showing up at football games and play practices, starting conversations after school—all to build friendships with lost middle school girls. I went to the school 3 or more times a week and every time I felt nervous and inadequate.
But I continued to stumble through conversations about Jesus with questioning girls. I showed up in their lives when no one else would.
And over those four years I watched as our team grew from 2 leaders to 9 leaders. Our club grew from 30 to 100 kids. My relationships with girls deepened to real friendships. And most of all, girls were transformed by the Gospel and now lead YoungLife in different schools.
If I would have had faith the size of what I was asked to do, I might have high-fived myself for all that I got to be a part of. I might have patted myself on the back when kids came to know Christ. I might have applauded myself when 100 kids showed up to club. But my faith was the size of a mustard seed. And I was asked to move a tree into the sea. And through engaging in that kind of faith in Jesus and trust that he would show up when he asked me to move—my faith grew into something bigger than I would have imagined.
Your faith will never match what God asks you to do and that is precisely because he wants you to have faith in him—not in your faith in him.
I’ll say that again.
God wants you to have faith in Him, not in your own faith in Him.
So often we crave a strong faith, but our true desire is for a strong faith, rather than a deep desire for God himself.
He wants you to have faith in him alone, but many times we have faith in our own faith. We have faith that our faith is strong enough to get us through. We have faith that our faith is strong enough to accomplish Kingdom work.
No, we must have faith in God alone. Then we will find that we can rely on the perfect strength of Jesus to fight the flaming arrows of the evil one and to go forward in the Kingdom work he calls us to.