In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.Ephesians 6:16
Now we come to the first of the accessories, or the added weapons of warfare that we take up. Most of them are defensive as in the case of the shield. We use them to defend ourselves against the wiles and deceit of the enemy. It is interesting that Paul doesn’t include arrows or darts in our arsenal, even though the Romans used them. It is not for us to fire off negative or barbed comments to people. Paul is selective when it comes to the weapons of warfare and the defensive armour he includes in this list. For the full list of what was available to the Roman soldier, look back at Gem 701. What are the fiery arrows (darts) of the enemy? Do you really need me to tell you? You know them. We have all felt them.
Our own negative thinking, spurred on by the devil. There are thoughts that pass through our minds and thoughts that seem to come back again and again. Thoughts we can’t seem to get rid of. These are the thoughts that they devil uses to throw at us like darts. How is that we can hear nine comments of praise in a day and one brickbat and what is it that goes over and over in our minds? That’s right, it is the brickbat. Often the negative comment may well have been meant positively or as helpful criticism to enable us to see what needs changing but when we replay it in our minds the negative aspect is magnified.
There are also things that we are worried about. Some of them are genuine concerns and some of them are little issues that become magnified out of all proportion. Our worries about money, the current world economic situation, the future, disease, the Big C that many of my friends are struggling with, or closer still that which has gained a hold over my body, my work, the bully I face every day at school (at work, in my home where it should be safe), my so-called friends who don’t seem so friendly anymore and only call me when they want something, etc etc blah blah blah. I know that sentence is too long but I deliberately let it grow long because that is what happens in our minds. It is like the devil takes over. I don’t say blah blah blah to make light of the factors that trouble us. I say blah blah blah because there seem to be no end of troublesome thoughts that plague us. Where do they come from? Well there are three sources to these things: the world, the flesh (our own thinking), and the devil. I would include “external input” or circumstances that get us thinking these things in the first place in the category of “the world”. It is all designed to get our thoughts turning toward the negative and dwelling on it. Designed to pull us down.
How do we deal with it? Paul says carry your shield with you. Put up your shield and take the arrow or dart on the shield. Let it “shield” you from the effects of an arrow or dart. [a dart is little pin prick, a little troublesome thought the devil will expand into an arrow, a spear, a missile. Many ancient armies used fiery darts, formed of cane filled with combustible material or fill with pitch or tar which were ignited on the head of the dart. Or alternatively these darts were wound with some combustible material which was set on fire and then shot slowly at the target. They were fired at woodwork or at tents to ignite them and drive those inside to flee. How apt that Paul should remind his readers of these. This is what happens in our lives to these little fiery thoughts that ignite our passion or enflame our anger or feelings of revenge or desire to repay evil for evil and fire such darts back again.
The shield on the other hand was covered with animal hide that had been soaked in water or covered in a coating of alum, crystals which were ancient fire retardants. Paul calls the shield, a shield of faith for a reason. What is it that we utilize to quench these fiery darts? We don’t have a real life shield but we have faith: faith in Christ. Faith in Christ to ultimately save us. But we need something more than that long term perspective at the time of the attack. Faith is also that which disarms the fiery darts. All those negative thoughts I listed above come to nothing when we cover them with our faith. When I truly have faith in Him I know that nothing will happen to me which is outside of His intention for me, his permissive will for my life or His shield of protection for me. We often spend more time worrying about some supposed eventuality which could happen when it never does. Don’t let the fear that you feared come upon you. Learn to deal with such fearful, fretful thoughts in faith. Your faith and trust in Christ that He has it covered and nothing will get past His guard or shield over your life. Believe it; it’s true. Learn to rest under His covering and it takes the stress away.
One more thing before I draw this Gem to a close. There is much talk as to whether there was armour on the back of the soldier or not. I have heard preachers say in sermons that there was no armour for the back of the Roman soldier. That is not essentially true. The breast plate did wrap around. But there were occasions when certain squads of Roman soldiers did not wear mail on their backs. They were the elite SAS troops who travelled lighter and were quicker to take action and get into strategic positions: traveling light, wearing less heavy chain mail armour and wearing their Nike Air shoes. But their strategy was to have long oblong shields which covered the length of their whole body. They stood back to back and protected one another’s back and even had one shield spare within their formation to provide against aerial attack in the form of a roof. Now that is an interesting image filled with meaning. Soldiers traveling in small squads of highly mobile attack forces who cover the back of each other. Mmmm – home groups? Ponder on the analogy some more.
Go practice using your faith to extinguish the fiery darts hurled at you by your fellow man and by the devil. (Some of you have asked why I don’t spell satan with a capital S or devil with a capital D. I don’t want to give him any honorific.)
Sticks and stone may break my bones but names will never hurt me. What a lie! Words do hurt and wound, sometimes life long.Anon
Worry is the dark room in which negatives can develop.Anon
Insults are the last resort of insecure people trying to appear confident in their weak position.Rick Warren
Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.Ian Vail
Faith Is Not The Denying Of My Circumstances… It Is Acknowledging God’s Truth Concerning Them.Robb Thompson
Faith means believing in advance, what will only make sense in reverse.Philip Yancey
To grow, faith must be stretched.Anon
Clean up your verbal act! Decide to detect, reject and eject all negativity from your vocabulary.Anon