In the Christian warfare against the forces of evil faith is a defensive weapon. Not only was this reflected in the lives and experiences of the ancient worthies according to the Scriptures, but the term “shield of faith” as used in a figurative sense by St. Paul explains it all. Without it no worshipper of God can withstand the assaults of the devil. That a Christian, old or young, should be armed with faith is therefore a matter of necessity.
Faith according to the Holy Bible denotes strong, unquestioning confidence or trust in God and His word, and in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Though we have not seen God or Jesus Christ the evidences of Their existence are abundant and warrant absolute confidence. By this there is the assurance and conviction that God will fulfil His promises. Thus, St. Paul stated, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1.
For the reason that some people believe only in what they see or are able to see they, to their own disadvantage, have no faith in God or in His word. Unbelief is a major setback that separates a person from his Maker and reduces him from honour to dishonour like beasts that are not endowed with intellect. A Christian by virtue of his spiritual rebirth through repentance and conversion lives by faith and is confidence and full of hope. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”, said St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5:7). And to the Hebrew Christians he wrote: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6.
God Who has vested power in His Beloved Son Jesus to crush His enemies is at war with the forces of evil and rebellion headed by satan the devil. A true Christian, having taken sides with God and Christ must be aware of his involvement in the conflict. He should expect attacks from the enemies of truth and righteousness. It is for this reason the need for a follower of Jesus Christ to be fully armed with both offensive and defensive weapons cannot be over-emphasized.
However, the battle being spiritual the weapons needed must obviously not be carnal but spiritual too. Said St. Paul “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Paul the apostle was a valiant fighter and a renowned defender of the Christian faith. In spite of the fierce attacks he received from the devil and his agents in all fronts he fought with indomitable courage and faith. He did not only conquer through Jesus Christ our Lord, but also won the “crown of righteousness” which is the highest price that places its recipients even above angels. He successfully accomplished his mission and he, in complete ease, contentment and glee, gave this testimony: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7,8.
Apart from the aspect of divine inspiration in which St. Paul was highly talented, his personal experience added to his knowledge of what is involved in the spiritual warfare. He described his experience at Ephesus as one in which he had “fought with beasts”. In order to make the Christians know the seriousness and intensity of the battle as to get themselves fully equipped he wrote to those at Ephesus in this vein: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” - Ephesians 6:11, 12.
The apostle went on to elucidate or throw more light on what constitutes the “whole armour of God” with which a Christian can wage the war and withstand the vicious attacks of the enemies. He stated, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – verses 14-15,17.
A soldier may have all the weapons necessary to launch an effective attack on the enemy but he must not lose sight of his protective devices. The enemy always looks for areas that are vulnerable. This accounts for St. Paul’s emphasis when in that epistle to the Ephesians he touched on the point of defence. Said he, “Above all (that is, more than anything else), taking the SHIELD OF FAITH, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” – verse 16.
Before Christ’s first advent, when physical combat was the order of the day and carnal weapons were employed, FAITH still proved to be of greater strength in defence than anything else. A striking example which is of particular interest to Christian youths, is the case of David, who was himself a youth described by some translators, as a handsome, “nice little red-cheeked boy”, and who by faith in the name of the God of Israel defeated woefully and disgracefully Goliath, the giant of Gath, in a contest. – Read 1 Samuel chapter 17.
Faith was David’s armour of defence. His utterances and everything he did was based on faith. He, after narrating to Saul how he slew a lion and a bear that attacked his father’s flock, said, “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine (Goliath).” (verses 34-37). David rejected the heavy armour of Saul that was intended to ensure his safety and success. Rather, he put his whole trust in God for deliverance victory, and he was proved right.
When he approached Goliath simply with a staff, five smooth stones and a sling, and without a helmet or coat of mail, the giant thought David had no protection and would be an easy prey, not realising that his faith was a mightier defence than any carnal armour. He asked David, “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?” He cursed him by his gods and boasted that he would give his flesh to the birds and beasts. David’s reply was firm and a clear demonstration of tremendous faith: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” – verses 45,46.
The outcome of the gruesome contest is already history. David smote and slew the giant of Gath, cut off his head with his own sword and the Philistines fled in disarray. Thus. faith triumphed and God’s name was vindicated and glorified.
THREE FAITHFUL JEWS
There is also the instance of the three faithful Jews, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, popularly known by the Babylonish names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who in exercise of their faith in God refused bluntly to serve the king’s golden image. And when Nebuchadnezzar the king was unreasonably drunk with power, and in fury threatened to throw them into a burning fiery furnace, faith echoed and re-echoed from their answer: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not worried about what will happen to us. If we are thrown into the flaming furnace, our God is able to deliver us; and He will deliver us out of your hand, Your Majesty. But if He doesn’t, please understand, sir, that even then we will never under any circumstance serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have erected.” (Daniel 3:16-18, The Living Bible) Indeed, faith kept them undaunted.
The king did carry out his threat and the three young innocent faithful Jews were bound by the strongest men of the royal army and dumped into the roaring flames. Because the fire was made so hot at the request of the king in anger the soldiers were killed as they threw them in. But the protective might of faith derived from our Father in heaven manifested itself in the young men who came out of the fire alive and unscathed. The king, his prices, governors, captains and counsellors in astonishment saw the wonders of faith on these Jewish youths “upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither was their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” – verses 24-27.
What about the case of Daniel, a young Jew carried as captive to Babylon? He had many experiences which showed his trust in God. Under king Darius of the Medes and Persians his colleagues out of jealousy because of his success plotted to destroy him. For no other reason than that he was tenacious, holding tightly to his faith in and allegiance to God Almighty he was cast into the den of lions. His enemies rejoiced but the king, knowing he was innocent, was worried and very displeased.
The lesson of great interest to be learnt from this incident is that FAITH as a weapon of defence did not disappoint Daniel. Rather, faith invited God to his aid. And he got it. He was miraculously protected from the powerful jaws of the lions. The king himself was excited and amazed. His joy knew no bounds. Daniel in his dialogue with him while still in the den, said: “And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.” (Daniel 6:20-23)
Seeing how God Almighty manifested His power in vindicating Daniel, the king ordered his accusers to be thrown to the lions. The Bible says, “And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den. Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” - Daniel 6:24-28.
The power of faith and its benefits are therefore self-evident. When we have faith in God He will also do great things for us by His grace and, above all, save us in the end. – Matthew 21:21,22; 24:12,13; 1 Peter 1:9