Raise the Shield of God

How to Stop the Evil Against You

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Guest Contributor

Almost seventy years ago, five missionaries entered the Ecuadorian jungle in an attempt to establish contact with the Waorani. As Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian prepared to embark, they worshiped together by singing the hymn “We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and Our Defender.” They knew the journey ahead was filled with earthly peril, yet their faith was fully in God as their shield and defender.

The men would never return from the journey. Instead, they passed “through the gates of pearly splendor” when they were killed on a sandbar on the Curaray River.

The “Ecuador Five” (as they came to be called) may be the most famous missionary martyrs of the last century, but they aren’t the only ones. The missionary endeavor, especially in the hardest-to-reach areas of the world, is fraught with danger. What compels men and women to sacrifice their safety for the gospel? What gives them the courage to risk their very lives? And what can give us non-missionaries similar courage to risk comfort and security for the name of Christ?

Only faith in the one “who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).

Taking Up the Shield

Taking up the “shield of faith” is necessary for every Christian, not only for missionaries in foreign and dangerous lands (Ephesians 6:16). Paul is careful to say we should take up the shield “in all circumstances,” whether good or bad. A soldier who left his shield behind was susceptible to attack, even when the battle wasn’t raging and all seemed well. A good soldier is prepared for attack at any time.

The Christian life is riddled with trials and persecutions. Our salvation does not exclude us from the temporal difficulties of a fallen world. In fact, trials and persecutions only increase as we seek to live a faithful Christian life. Wise Christians, then, are always prepared for an attack from the enemy.

When Paul tells us to take up our shields, he calls us to continually and actively place our faith in God and all he has promised to us in Christ. This is not a passive faith. It is neither lazy nor fatalistic. This faith leads Christians, in the words of William Carey, to “expect great things, attempt great things.” Knowing that our God is sovereign and that he will establish his kingdom allows us to walk boldly in the face of opposition. This is the faith that has led many Christians to take bold risks for the sake of the gospel, some of them even losing their lives in the process.

What Is the Shield of Faith?

A soldier’s trust in his shield is insufficient, however, if the shield itself is faulty. A shield made of feathers isn’t dependable. Regardless of the soldier’s own action of picking up the shield, the substance of the shield really matters. So, what is our shield?

The shield of faith is God himself — it is he who thwarts the plans of the evil one. As Iain Duguid writes, “Paul is not saying that faith in itself has remarkable defensive power against Satan. Rather, he is saying that faith protects us from Satan’s attacks because faith takes hold of the power and protection of God himself.”

“The Christian’s shield is nothing less than the omnipotent God of the universe.”

The Christian’s shield is nothing less than the omnipotent God of the universe: he who spoke the world into being and who now upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3; 11:3). Neither “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” can separate you, Christian, from God’s love (Romans 8:35).

Every Arrow Extinguished

Notice also the shield’s efficacy. The shield doesn’t just deflect the enemy’s flaming darts. It extinguishes them (Ephesians 6:16). It renders them impotent and obsolete. The sovereign God of the universe, the object of our faith, extinguishes the hell-bent attacks of Satan.

The world, and more specifically Satan, the prince of the power of the air, want to take you off course and tempt you to return to the trespasses in sins in which you once walked (Ephesians 2:1–2). Whether you’re tempted to be disunified, drunk, bitter, sexually immoral, selfish in your marriage, or angry with your children — all temptations Paul addresses in Ephesians — trust that the God who has saved you will sustain you and protect you from the enemy. When tempted to wander, cling to the shield of faith and believe that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Christian, the enemy’s attacks will never ultimately prevail — even if he takes our lives. When God says he will do something, he will surely do it — and he has promised that the full number of the elect will be brought into his kingdom. This assurance leads us to lay down our lives for the sake of the gospel. And when God uses even the death of his saints to gather his chosen people and expand his kingdom, evil is extinguished.

The death of the Ecuador Five was the spark that led to the eventual conversion of a number of Waorani. Those precious believers would one day pass through the gates of splendor and live forever with the very men who were killed so that they might be reached with the gospel. Flaming darts — extinguished!

Taking the Shield Together

When God calls us to put on his armor, he doesn’t expect us to do so alone. Just as an isolated soldier is prone to attack, so is a Christian separated from his community, the local church. I remember watching a movie in which a number of soldiers were surrounded by a far superior number of enemies. The soldiers locked their shields together and covered themselves from all angles — front, back, and even above. The soldiers were stronger together. If one soldier dropped his shield, the others would adjust their shields to ensure the group was covered.

We sometimes grow weary from the battle. We often need others to lock arms with us for reinforcement. When we gather in our local churches, we sing together, pray together, read the Scriptures together, and sit under the preaching of those Scriptures together. We hold each other accountable and take part in the ordinances together. We worship God together and confess our sins together. We remind each other to take up our shields of faith and put our trust in the God who saved us and united us to his Son. Like the missionaries, we sing,

Thine is the battle, thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with thee, through endless day.

The Ecuador Five knew that they were not promised safety and security in this life. But they did know they were promised safety and security for eternity. The spears of men may have taken their earthly life, but their active faith in God carried them through the gates of splendor to rest with Christ for all eternity.