Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Ephesians 6:14-16)
I’ve been meditating on this passage for a bit. No, no, no! I don’t mean sitting Indian style while making odd little shapes with my hands and humming until I levitate. I’ve been turning this passage over in my mind, pondering it. You know, faith is so misrepresented today. I’ve heard people say things like, “What you believe you can achieve!” or better yet, “I just know God is going to do it [whatever it is] because I believe He will!” See the problem? The one who thinks like this has actually given faith the power to create reality, or move God. In other words, faith becomes the force by which we can manipulate things and others.
This should be obviously wrong to people, but shockingly enough it isn’t. In a world where relativism is the going philosophy, many find it sufficient to merely believe something regardless of what it is. The problem is belief doesn’t alter reality; it alters our perception of reality, but not reality itself. If a man on a high dive believes the empty pool below is full of water, his faith will not actually make the pool contain water. He can jump head first and believe all the way down to the bottom that he is going to make a big splash only to find that in reality he makes a big splat. What one believes is important, not just that one believes something. Faith is only as strong as the thing/individual you believe in. If what one believes doesn’t accurately correspond to reality then one’s faith is useless. Paul makes this very argument for the truth of Christianity in I Corinthians 15 “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Paul’s point is that we can believe in Jesus all we want to, but if He isn’t really raised from the dead then all our faith is pointless. Scripture clearly teaches a different faith than what many people hold today.
So what does this have to do with the shield of faith that Paul mentions? I would argue that this weapon we have called faith is vital, after all, Paul says above all things to take up the shield of faith. Imagine there was a weapon the American military had that no other nation in the world was privy to, and this weapon could successfully thwart every single attack that was ever attempted by any nation from any direction no matter what weapon they employed. This is what Paul is claiming the weapon of faith is able to do! Now seeing as I just drained faith of all inherent power in my previous paragraph, you may wonder, “how does this bring us any hope?” Let me say in passing that many settle for a false or shallow understanding of things as they think it gives them hope, but false hope is merely deception. Those who think what I said previously tears down the need for faith only think so because they’ve been thinking about it all wrong. When we think we’re leaning on a rock wall and find out its cardboard we don’t denounce the stability of all rock walls. We admit we were deceived and find a real rock wall. Some refuse to admit it, and just stand the cardboard back up insisting it is really a rock wall and calling all those who tell tem other wise liars, but this isn’t healthy either.
So back to hope… how are we to interpret and apply this passage if faith is inherently powerless? Let’s back up and briefly look at what Paul says before mentioning the shield of faith. Paul begins his armor analogy with the belt of truth, and this is the fundamental point. Truth is first. If what we believe isn’t grounded upon truth then our faith will fail us just like the deceived diver or the false wall. On the other hand, if our faith is grounded in truth then we have nothing to fear and those fiery darts are easily quenched because they do not accurately correspond to reality. Satan is the father lies, and every weapon he has is based on one thing – deception. He may mix some truth in, but fundamentally he hurls lies at his opponents. These fiery darts are not really attempts to change what is actually true, that can’t be done as he doesn’t establish reality, but he does want to change what we believe to be true. Therefore every weapon he has is essentially doubt. It may seem odd to fight weapons aimed at destroying our faith with faith, but the way to victory in the kingdom isn’t always how we think it is – just look at how our King conquered death.
Which brings me to the one point I want to encourage you to anchor everything in – the resurrection (thus includes the death) of Jesus. Stop right now and read the entire chapter of I Corinthians 15. Notice how Paul grounds everything in this one event. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that He was Who He claimed to be, He did what He said He did and the Old Testament said and taught what He said and taught. It is proof that Jesus conquered death, and the act of God in beginning new creation! The events recorded in the Old Testament are real historical events. The things recorded in the New Testament are real historical events that were actually observed by men and women (believer and unbelievers) at the time of their occurrence. Those who oppose Jesus can’t change what actually happened so they attempt to change what people think happened. So when Satan throws his fiery darts you can quench them with faith in the Resurrected Jesus. We can trust what He says. Anything that doesn’t correspond with Jesus’ teaching doesn’t correspond to reality. Why? He said, “I am… the truth”! Don’t believe that? Then go ahead and jump, but there’s no water in that pool you’re diving into. I promise.