Strengthening the Shield

The pastor of my church has been preaching a sermon series on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6), and he recently focused on the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. The shield shown in the picture is a replica that might be used for ceremonial purposes, while an authentic, period correct knight’s shield like this would likely be found in a museum. Notice how nice and shiny and pristine this shield is.

A real shield that’s seen combat looks nothing like the one in the picture. A shield that was used in warfare by an ancient foot soldier is going to have creases, dents, dings, scratches, gouges. I say this because if my own shield of faith was an actual metal shield right now, it would probably more closely resemble the hood of a car after a north Texas hail storm.

Jesus taught in John 15,“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” And He finished that teaching with a reference to Psalms 35 and 69 that speak of one who is hated for no reason. I’ve experienced some of that recently along with some other things I just don’t understand. I’ve experience hatred from people I hardly know. I’ve been blamed for things I had no hand in. And we’ve had to deal with some pain within our family. My shield of faith and helmet of salvation have taken a beating the past few months, and I ask you to pray and ask God to hammer out some of the dents.

As I’ve come to learn, the very things that attack our spiritual shield of faith are the things that make our faith stronger. How so? With an actual metal shield, dents and creases do not weaken the metal. They make it stronger (though aesthetically, it may not be much to look at after a couple of battles). The dents and dings and creases caused by repeated blows from swords and hammers and axes and clubs would actually increase the strength of the metal through a process called work hardening. It’s a process that’s still used today, though with much more modern  tooling. The more a piece of metal is bent and creased and hammered on, the harder and stronger it becomes. Over time, ancient metal smiths learned how to work harden metal using hammers and dollies and anvils as a means of adding strength to objects like…….shields, and helmets, and swords.

The same principle apples to our spiritual shield of faith. As we go through the battles of trials and adversity, our faith in God is made stronger. Bad news from your doctor, a betrayal by a friend, the loss of a job, an adult child who no longer speaks to you; all of these can feel like hammer blows to your shield of faith and let there be no doubt, Satan tries to use these kinds of trials to get you to drop your shield, to throw away your faith. Remember, the stresses that bend and stretch and compress a piece of metal make it stronger and in the same way – so long as we hold onto the shield of faith – God can use the stresses in our lives life to draw us closer to Him and to strengthen our relationship with Him. The trials of life increase our dependence on His mercies and grace, and they teach us to rely on His strength instead of our own.

James wrote that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, or patience as other translations state. A knight’s shield in a museum on static display is representative of a faith that has never been put to the test. It looks good but it’s never been battle tested. Likewise, a shield used for ceremonial purposes is like faith that is for appearance’s sake only. It’s all for show and like a museum piece, it really has no function. God allows trials and adversity to come into our lives NOT because he wants to hurt us or punish us. He allows them in order to test us. And ultimately, He allows them in order to strengthen us. Men and women of strong faith, in the power of God, use that bad news from the doctor to minister to others. People of strong faith pray for the friend who betrayed them. People of strong faith turn to God for provision when their jobs end suddenly. People of strong faith give grace to an adult child who has cut off all contact.

James went on to write, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The hammer blows against the shield of faith come by way of trials and adversity and hardships. Sometimes we may wish there weren’t so many or that they could come a little less often. But when they do come, we can be assured it’s not because God has left our side, or because He has abandoned us. The scripture is very clear on that. God will never leave us or abandon us. No. For the faithful, committed Christian, when the hammer blows come against the shield of faith, it’s a sure sign that God is by our side!