The Christian's Helmet
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Shield of Faith
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The Shield of Faith
by C. H. Spurgeon
"Above all, taking the Shield of Faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked..." Ephesians 6:16
Like the Spartans, every Christian is born a warrior. It is his destiny to be assaulted, his duty to attack. Part of his life will be occupied with defensive warfare. He will have to defend the Faith once delivered to the saints. He will have to resist the devil. He will have to Stand against all the devil's wiles, and having done all, still to stand. He will, however, be an ineffective Christian, if he acts only on the defensive. He must be one who goes against his foes, as well as [one who] stands still to receive their advance. He must be able to say with David, "I come to thee in the Name of The LORD of Hosts, The God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied." (1 Sam. 17:45)
He must wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. He must have weapons for his warfare, not carnal, but "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." (2 Cor. 10:4) He must not be content to live in the stronghold, though he is well guarded, and munitions of stupendous strength are at his disposal; but he must go forth to attack the castles of the enemy, pull them down, and drive the Canaanites out of the land.
There are many ways in which the Christian may, to a great degree, forget his military character. And alas, there are many who know very little of that daily warfare to which the Captain of our Salvation calls His disciples! King David's truest soldiers were willing not only to be with David when he was in Saul's court, with his fingers amid the strings of the harp, going in and out before the people so that "all Israel and Judah loved David (1 Sam. 18:16); but also to go with David into the Cave of Adullam, when he was outlawed, when his character had become a stench in the nostrils of every proud hypocrite, and when Saul the King hunted David to seek his life. Those who are willing to follow Christ in the midst of an ungodly and perverse generation, must be like the men of Naphtali, who hazarded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
You will remember that Jonathan, one of the sweetest characters in the Word of God, is one of whom, after all, there is little to be said. Jonathan's life was inglorious from the very time he forsook David, and his death was among the slain of the Philistines upon the dewless mountains of Gilboa. Alas, poor Jonathan, he could give David his bow, but he could not draw the bow for David; he could give David his garments, even his armor, but he could not put on the armor of David. The attraction of his father's court was too much for him, and there he stayed. In that Book of Chronicles, where the Holy Ghost has recorded the names of the mighty men who were with David in Adullam, we find not the name of Jonathan.
There are Christians of that kind today. They have a soft religion which shuns opposition, a reedlike religion that bows before every blast, unlike that Cedar of Godliness that stands aloft in the midst of the storm and claps its boughs in the hurricane, for the very joy of triumph. Such men, like those who shunned David in Adullam, lack the faith that shares the glory. Though saved - yet their names shall not be found written among the mighty men who, for our Great Commander's sake, are willing to suffer the loss of all things and go forth without the camp bearing His reproach [Heb._13:13].
Those Christians, too, who have separated from the world and are diligently engaged in building up the church will have to fight more than others who are rather buiilt-up than builders. You remember, in Nehemiah's day, how the Jews accomplished their work when they built the walls of Jerusalem. With one hand they held the trowel, and in the other they held a weapon. "The builders every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded (Neh. 4:18).
Moreover, there were master masons along the wall, and the laborers all actually engaged, yet here and there you might see a sentinel ready to sound the trumpet so that the workmen might prove warrriors, rush to the battle, and drive away their foes. If you are diligent in your service to the church of Christ, you shall soon have reason to defend your cause. The Lord's blessing will entail Satan's curse; the smile of God will necessarily incur the frown of man. According to your nonconformity to the world, your daring to be singular, when to be singular is to be right, according to your diligence in building up the walls of Jerusalem, you shall be compelled to recognize your soldierly character. To you the text shall come with great emphasis, "Above all,
take the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
Understanding the Metaphor:
Faith is here compared to a shield. There are four or five particulars in which we may liken faith to a shield.
The natural idea that lies upon the very surface of the metaphor is that faith, like a shield, Protects us against attack:
The ancients used different kinds of shields, but there is a special reference in our text to the large shield that they sometimes employed. I believe the word that is translated "shield" sometilmes signifies a door, because the ancients' shields were as large as a door.
They covered the man entirely. You remember that verse in the Psalms that exactly hits the idea, "For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield" (Ps.5:12). As the shield enveloped the entire man, so faith envelops the entire man, protecting him from all missiles wherever they may be aimed against him.
Faith protects the whole man. Let the assault of Satan be against the head, let Satan try to deceive us with unsettled notions in theology, let him tempt us to doubt those things that we have truly received. Unsettledness in our thoughts generally springs from a weakness of faith. A man who has strong faith in Christ has a hand that gets such a grip of the doctrines of grace that you could not unclasp it, do what you would. He knows what he has believed. He understands what he has received. He could not and would not give up what he knows to be the truch of God, though all the schemes that men devise should assail him with their most trecherous art.
While faith will guard the head, it will also guard the heart. When temptation to love the world comes in, faith holds up thoughts of the future and confidence of the reward that awaits the people of God and enables the Christian to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt [Heb.11:25-26], and so the heart is protected. Then when the enemy makes his cut at the sword arm of a Christian, to disable him, if possible, from future service, faith protects the arm like a shield, and the Christian is able to do exploits for his Master and go forth, still conquering and to conquer in the name of Him who loved us.
Suppose the arrow is aimed at the believer's feet and the enemy attempts to make him trip in his daily life, endeavors to mislead him in the uprightness of his walk and conversation. Faith protects the believer's feet, and the believer stands fast in slippery places. Neither does his foot slip, nor can the enemy triumpt over him. Or suppose the arrow is aimed at the knee and Satan seeks to make him weak in prayer and tells him that God will not hear his cry. His faith protects him, and in the power of faith, with confidence, he has access to God and draws near to His Mercy Seat, Or let the arrow be aimed at the believer's conscience and let it be winged with the remembrance of some recent sin, yet faith protects the conscience, for its full assurance of atonement quenches the fiery darts with that delightful text:
"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
So there is no part of a man that is not secure. Although Satan will certainly attack the believer in every direction, yet let him come where he will.
Not only does faith protect the whole man, but the Apostle Paul suggests that Faith also protects the man's armor:
After recounting variousl pieces, Paul says, "Above all..."
The man of God is to put on the belt and the breastplate, and he is to be shod, and he is to wear his helmet. But though these are all armor, yet faith is a defense for is defenses. Thus, faith shields not only the man, but also the man's graces. You may easily perceive how this is. Satan sometimes attacks our sincerity; he tries to cut the belt of truth. But faith enables us to be fully sincere, like Moses who forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, and refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter. Then the enemy will often make an attack against our righteousness, trying to batter our breastplate. Yet faith comes in and enables us like Joseph to exclaim, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9). Or like Job we cry, "Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me." (Job 27:5).
You see how faith guards the breastplate and the belt. All our virtues are incomplete of themselves; they need grace to preserve them, and that grace is given us through faith. Are you meek? Cover your meekness with faith, or you will give way to a hasty speech. Are you full of determination? Let your decision be shielded with confidence in God, or your determination may waver and give way. Have you the spirit of love and gentleness? Take care that you have the shield of faith, or your gentleness may yet turn to anger and your love be changed to bitterness. All must be shielded by this all-covering, all-triumphant shield of faith.
Let me also suggest that faith, like a shield, Receives the blows that are meant for the man himself:
Some people, instead of using the shield of faith to bear the blow, sneak away to the place of cowards. Ashamed of Christ, they make no profession of Him; or having professed Christ, they hide themselves by conformity to the world. Perhaps they are even called to preach the Gospel, but they do it in a quiet and gentle way. Unlike John the Baptist, they are "reeds shaken with the wind." No one speaks badly about them, because they do no damage to Satan's kingdom. Against them Satan never roars why should he! "Let them alone," says he, "thousands such as these will never shake my kingdom."
Others use the shield of presumption, thinking all is well when it is not. Seared in their conscience as with a hot iron, they do not fear the rebukes of God's law. Deadened even to the voice of love, they will not bow before the invitations of Christ. They go on their way, caring for none of those things. Presumption has made them secure. Their shield lets them go through the world quietly, saying, "Peace, peace," where there is no peace. But ony uplift the shield of faith, bearing the blood red symbol of the cross, and there are plenty of knights of hell who are ready to unhorse you.
On champion, on, in the name of Him who is with you! No lance can pierce that shield; no sword shall ever be able to cut through it; it shall preserve you in all battle and strife; you shall bring it home yourself; through it, you shall be more than conqueror. Faith, then, is like a shield because it has to bear the blows.
Faith is also like a shield Because it must be strong:
A man who has some cardboard shield may lift it up against the foe; the sword will go through the shield and reach the enemy's heart. He who would use a shield must take care that it is a shield of strength. He who has true faith has such a shield, that he will see the swords of his enemies go to a thousand shivers over it every time they strike. And if their spears but once come in contact with this shield, they will break into a thousand splinters or bend like reeds when pressed against the wall they cannot pierce the shield but shall be quenched or broken in pieces.
You will say, "How then, are we to know whether our faith is a right faith?" One test of it is, it must be a single piece. A shield that is made of three or four pieces in this case will be of no use. Your faith must be all of a piece; it must be faith in the finished work of Christ. You must have no confidence in yourself or in any other man, but must rest wholly and entirely upon Christ; or your shield will be of no use. Then your faith must be of heaven's forging, or your shield will certainly fail you. Then you must see to it that the spear can pierce. You must take care that your faith is aligned to God's Word, that you depend upon true and real promises and not upon the fictions and dreams of men. And above all, you must mind that your faith is fixed in the person of Christ, for nothing but a faith in Christ's divine person and in His proper manhood when as the Lamb of God's passover He was sacrificed for us no other faith will be able to stand against the tremendous shocks and the innumerable attacks that you must receive in the great battle of spiritual life.
There is a sacred art in being able to handle the shield of faith. Let me explain to you how that can be.
You handle it well if you are able to quote The Promises of God against the Attacks of your Enemy:
The devil said, "You will one day fall by the hand of the enemy." "No," said Faith, "for I am persuaded that He that began a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." "But," said Satan, as he shot another arrow, "you are weak." "Yes," said Faith, handling his shield, "but 'My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." "But," said Satan, "your sin is great." "Yes," said Faith, handling the promise, "but he is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by him." "But," said the enemy again, drawing his sword and making a tremendous thrust, "God has cast you off." "No," said Faith, "He hates putting away; He does not cast off His people; neither does He forsake His heritage." "But I will have you, after all," said Satan. "No," said Faith, dashing the enemy's jaw. "He said, 'I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.'" This is what I call handling the shield.
There is another way of handling it, not merely with the promises, But with the Doctrines:
"What," asked Satan, "is there in you that you should be saved?" Up came Faith, handling the shield doctrinally this time, and said, "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom that He hath promised to them who loved Him?"
"But," said he, "if God should have chosen you, yet after all you may certainly perish!"
And then, the Christian, again handling his shield of faith doctrinally, said, "No, I believe in the final perseverance of the saints, for it is written, 'Those that thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost.'" So by understanding the doctrines of grace, there is not a single doctrine that may not in its way minister to our defense against the fiery darts of the wicked.
Then, the Christian ought to know how to handle the shield of faith According to The Rules of Observation:
"But," says the enemy, "you have fallen into sin, and God will leave you." "No," says Faith, "for I saw David stumble, and yet the Lord surely brought him out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay." To use this shield in the way of observation is very profitable when you mark how God has dealth with the rest of His people, for as He deals with one, so He will deal with the rest, and you can throw this in the face of the enemy: "I remember the ways of God. I call to remembrance His deeds of old. I say, 'Has God cast off His people, has He forsaken one of His chosen?' And since He has never done so, I hold up my shield with great courage and say He never will; He changes not; as He has not forsaken any, He will not forsake me."
Then, there is another way of handling this shield, And that is, Experientially:
When you can look back, like the Psalmist, to the land of Jordan and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar; when you can return to those days of old and call to remembrance your song in the night; when your spirit can say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him" (Ps. 42:11). Some of us can talk of so many deliverances that we know not where to end, scarcely do we know where to begin. Oh, what wonders has God done for us! He has brought us through fire and through water. His glory has appeared amidst all the villainies and slanders of men to which we have been exposed. Let us handle our shield, then, according to the rules of past experience; and when Satan tells us that God will fail us at the last, let us reply, "Now you lie, and I tell it to your face, for what our God was in the past, He will be in the present, and in the future, and even to the end." Young soldiers of Christ, learn well the art of handling your shield.
Lastly, for the matter of the metaphor, the shield was An Emblem of the Warrior's Honor,
...and more especially in later days than those of Paul. In the age of chivalry, the warrior carried his symbol upon his shield. Faith is like a shield because it carries the Christian's glory, the Christian's coat of arms. And what is the Christian's coat of arms? The Christian's best coat of arms is the cross of his Savior, that blood-red cross, always stained, yet never stained; always dyed in blood, yet always resplendent with ruby brightness; always trodden on, yet always triumphant; always despised, yet always glorified; always attacked, yet always without resistance, coming off more than conqueror. Put your coat of arms upon your shield and lift it up. Let that blood-red cross be your choice. Then when the battle is over, they will hang your shield up in heaven; and when the old heraldries have gone and the lions and the tigers and all manner of strange things have vanished from remembrance, that cross and your old dented shield shall be honorable with many a triumph before the throne of God. Above all things, then, take the shield of faith.
Enforcing the Exhortation:
"Above all, taking the shield of faith." If you sent a servant upon an errand and said to him, "Get this and that, but above all, get such and such a thing," he would not understand that he should neglact any; but he would perceive that there was some extra importance attached to one part of his mission. So let it be with us. We are not to neglect our truthfulness, our righteousness, or our peace; but above all, as the most important, we are to see to it that our faith is right, that it is true faith, and that it covers all our virtues from attack.
The necessity of true faith Is Clearly Explained by the Text:
The ancients were known to use small arrows, perhaps light cane arrows, that were tinged with poison. These arrows were called fiery darts, because they no sooner touched the flesh or even grazed the sin, than they left a fiery poison in the veins. Sometimes, too, the ancients employed darts that were tipped with material that had been dipped in some inflammable liquid and were blazing as they flew through the air, in order to set the tents of their antagonists on fire or burn down houses in besieged cities. Now faith has a quenching power. It sees the temptation, or the blasphemy, or the insinuation that is coming against it with poison and with fire in it, take away its life and burn up its comforts.
Faith catches the dart; it not only receives it, out of all the pieces of armor, But Also Takes Away its Sting and Quenches its Fire:
It is wonderful how God sometimes enables His people to live in the midst of temptations and tribulations as though they had none of them. There are times when, though everyone speaks against us, our peace is like a river and our righteousness like the waves of the sea. Truly at such times we can say, "Now I am in my proper place; this is where I should be, outside the camp, bearing the reproach of Christ." The praise of man is deadly and damnable; man's censure is good and godlike. Let it come; it cannot dishonor, it does but ennoble. Thus does it often happen that faith quenches the fire of attack; nay, more, it turns the attack into comfort, extracts honey from the nettle and sweets of joy from the wormwood and the gall. "Above all, take the shield of faith."
Another commendation that the text gives is that faith alone, out of all the pieces of armor, Is Able to Quench all the Darts:
The helmet can keep off only those darts that are aimed against the head. The foot is protected only by the sandals, and the breast alone is guarded by the breastplate; but faith protects against all attacks. Have all other virtues, but most of all, hav faith; for faith is the cure-all. It is good for everything, good for the timid to make them strong, good for the rash to make them wise, good for those who are desponding to make them brave, and good for those who are too daring to make them discreet. There is no respect in which faith is not useful to us; therefore, whatever you leave out, see to your faith.
We are told above all to take the shield of faith Because Faith Preserves us from All Sorts of Enemies:
The fiery darts of the wicked? Does that refer to Satan? Faith answers him. Does it refer to wicked men? Faith resists them. Does it refer to one's own wicked self? Faith can overcome that. Does it refer to the whole world? "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).
It matters not who the enemy is. Let the earth be all in arms abroad, this faith can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Above all, then, take the shield of faith. I know there are some who teach doubting as a duty. I cannot, I dare not. In the old Grecian contests, the aim of the enemy was to get near enough to push aside the shield and then to stab under the armor. That is what Satan wants to do. Take care of your shield. Do not live in perpetual unbelief. Be not always cast down. Pray to your God till you can say, "I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him" (2 Tim. 1:12). David said, "Say unto my soul, I am thy Salvation" (Ps. 35:3). "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation" (Ps. 27:1). "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Ps. 23:1). Job, too, could say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25).
Paul could speak in full confidence wherever he went. And why should we be content to say, "I hope, I trust," when they said they knew and were persuaded? Let is be so with us. Unbelief dishonors us, weakens us, destroys our comforts, prevents our usefulness. Faith will make us happy, make us useful, and enable us to honor God on earth and to enjoy His presence while yet we are in the lowlands of this present world.
A Word of Comfort:
In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Christiana and Mercy and the children come to knock at the gate. When they knocked, the enemy who lived in a nearby castle sent out a big dog that barked at them at such a rate, that Mercy fainted and Christiana only dared to knock again; and when she obtained entrace, she was trembling. At the same time in the nearby castle, there were men who shot fiery darts at all who would enter, and poor Mercy was exceedingly afraid because of the darts and the dog. Whenever a soul comes to Christ, the devil will dog him. No matter what Satan brings against you, know that there is nothing that can bring joy and peace into your heart but faith. Satan fears your faith. Throw down the lies that only encumber and expose you, rendering you defenseless to his attacks. Take up the shield of faith.
For that shield of faith, say to Satan, "In the name of God I dare believe." "You are a great sinner," says he. "Yes, but I believe He is a great Savior." "But you have sinned beyond hope." "No, there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared." But he says, "You are shut out." "Not," say you. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." "But your disease is of long standing." "But," say you, "If I but touch the hem of His garment, I shall be clean." But says Satan, again, "How dare you? Would you have the impudence?" "Well," say you, "if I perish, I will trust Christ, and I will perish only there." Have it in your soul fixed that whether Satan's accusations be true or false, you mean to fully answer them by simply trusting Christ. Then you shall have such joy and peace that nothing shall be like it.
Oh, that you would believe in Jesus now! Leave your feelings, your doings, and your willings, and trust Christ. Say to God, "I have heart that You are merciful. If there is a wretch out of hell who deserves to be in it, I am that sinner, if there is one who now feels that the earth is provoked against him and the ground says, 'Swallow him up,' and the heaven is provoked against him and cries, 'Let the lightning flash destroy him,' and the sea says, 'Drown him,' and the stars say, 'Smite him with pestilence,' and the sun says, 'Scorch him,' and the moon says, 'Let him be blasted,' and the mildew says, 'Let me devour his crops,' and fever says, 'Let me cut off the thread of his life' if there be such a wretch out of hell, I am he." Yet say to God, "I believe in Your mercy; I believe in Your promise; I believe in Your Son Jesus; I believe in His precious blood; and here I am. Do with me as seems good in Your sight" say this, and you shall have mercy, pardon, and peace.