“…in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” v.16
Let’s be clear about this, we are not fighting evil as something abstract or impersonal. This is against the wicked one. We fight real spiritual persons and beings, not some impersonal force or power. John writes: “The whole world lies in the wicked one” (1John 5:19). In other words, our culture is in the embrace of Satan. There would be no evil in the world if there were no evil persons – and there would be no evil human beings unless there were evil spiritual beings. We must be prepared for the Satanic attacks described here as fiery darts or flaming missiles. Ancient forms of combat would involve arrows wrapped with cloth soaked in pitch and then set on fire. Once they penetrate the ‘soul’ they can catch fire and do great damage.
What are these fiery darts or flaming missiles? Well, they come in various forms. Sometimes they are evil thoughts and imaginations, which intrude suddenly upon our thinking – often at the most incongruous times.
We may be reading the Bible or bowed in prayer. You might be thinking about something else entirely, then all of sudden some filthy thought flashes through our mind. What is this? A fiery dart – and it’s time we see them as such! Sometimes they come as doubts and even blasphemies! They may be sudden fears, anxieties, or a fleeting sensation that things are all wrong. We can’t seem to shake it and though we try to reason ourselves out of it, we cannot! What are some of these feelings? A sudden grip of fear. It may be the fear of something someone says or the fear of a change of circumstances. Another avenue of fear might be a sudden grip of doubt – doubt about God and His Word, even questioning the basic truths that we cherish. It may be doubt about others – do they really like me? What did they mean when they said? Or even doubt about ourselves – dwelling on faults we find, instead of trusting God.
Part of Satan’s strategy is to keep you from understanding that He is the source or the cause of these fiery darts. They often come suddenly – when we least expect it, silently – with no advance warning given, successively – often coming in a swift series destroying everything in their path, and seasonally – as there are ‘certain times’ when the enemy is unusually active, though there are lulls in the battle the ‘danger’ is always present. Whatever form they take, they are always from the same source…they are the fiery darts of the evil one. We are fools if we do not see them in that light and deal with them as such. In whatever form they come to us, they always have two characteristics:
They seem to arise out of our own thoughts – from our inner selves. We feel…‘this is something I am thinking’ and at times it’s shocking! But Satan is influencing us, but we don’t see it as such…‘How can I be thinking these things, I’m supposed to be a Christian?’ So we try to repress the thought. We think that there must be something wrong, so we try to push the thought deep into our subconscious. We feel uncertain and confused because we are convinced that the opposite of faith is doubt. We think if we have doubts, we cannot have faith…and if we have faith we do not have doubts. Therefore if we have doubts then we must not be men or women of faith. Their purpose is to: distress or distort your mind, depress your spirit and make you feel separated from God and unloved by others, and finally to discourage your relationships and make you feel alone in the battle.
They always attack our position in Christ, as the truth, our righteousness, and our peace. These things are always an insinuation of doubt about those matters, never anything else. They are an attack upon those areas of faith, this is always the way of the Devil. We see this all the way through the Bible. He said it to Eve in the Garden…‘Has God said?’ There is the implication of doubt. He said to Jesus…‘If You are the Son of God then turn these stones…’ ‘If’ – there is always the insinuation that these things are not true. This is the way he raises doubts, creates guilt, and arouses fear. These are the fiery darts of the evil one.
What are we to do? How are we to combat these successfully? Paul says we are to take the shield of faith – not the shield of belief. We have already reminded ourselves of our belief when we recall we have put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the gospel of peace. This is our belief in WHO Christ is and who He is for us and to us. But faith is more than that – faith is acting upon belief. FAITH is action, decision and resolution. Faith is saying…‘Yes, I believe Christ is the truth, He is my righteousness, He is my peace. Therefore this, and this must follow.’ Faith is working out the implications of belief – faith makes particular, specific, and dynamic the truth of God. It is taking the general truth and applying it to the specific situation and saying…‘If this be true, then this must follow.’ That is the shield of faith. Do you do that?
Our problem is that sometimes we get accustomed to believing our feelings as though they were facts. We must examine them! Don’t believe everything you think – test it with the truth claims of Scripture. We must take them and look at them and ask…‘Is this true?’ Using the shield of faith means I refuse to feel condemned or guilty. Christ is my righteousness. I am in Him and He is in me. I am one with Him. His life is my life and my life is in Him. We are married, therefore I will not believe this lie that these evil thoughts are my thoughts. They are not mine at all, they are insinuated by another evil person. God loves me and He says nothing will change that or separate us. Nothing I do or fail to do will ever change His unfailing love for me, therefore I cannot believe this thought that God does not love me or want me. You see, you cannot have both…no man can serve two masters!
Christ is the ground of my peace. Therefore, it is His responsibility to take me through everything. He is the adequate One…He alone can carry me through every situation. So I will not believe this fear that is gripping my heart, for it has only come to shake my confidence in Christ. This is what James calls – ‘resisting the devil’ – this is the shield of faith. This is refusing to believe the lie that if you have doubts you cannot have faith.
Because that is a lie – doubt is always an attack on faith. The fact you have doubts proves that you have faith – they are not opposites at all. Doubt is the proof of the reality of faith, therefore re-examine the ground of your faith. James goes on to say that, if you keep on resisting the devil – ‘he will flee from you.’ Think of that…He will flee from you, as you do it again, and again, and again! In a sense the shield of faith is enough in and of itself. It is all you need…we could stop here and forget the last two pieces of armour. But there is more – why? Why are we given more? Because we are not to be just conquerors. In Romans we read…”Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not only to win victoriously – but we are to reign gloriously!