“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16).
Paul has been giving some closing instructions to his Ephesian brethren when he pens these words. He has exhorted them to put on the whole armor of God and to stand strong in their convictions about the Lord.
A shield for a Roman soldier was a large, oblong object that could protect almost his entire body, and the fiery darts were weapons with flammable materials on their tips—actually, firebrands—with the capability of starting a fire. This metaphor gives dramatic impact to this wonderful teaching about the power of Satan and the place a strong faith has in the Christian’s arsenal.
No Christian has ever lived who has not suffered the intensity of Satan’s temptations in his attempt to draw us away from God. The power we need to withstand such is a powerful, scripturally based conviction that God does exist and that Jesus Christ is His Son. Paul says we need this kind of faith “above all”—that is, above anything else he could name to keep a child of God faithful.
“You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,
And cannot look on wickedness.
Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,
And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours
One more righteous than he” (Habakkuk 1:13).
In complaining to God about the success of the wicked Chaldeans against the Israelites, Habakkuk asks God a question that is not dissimilar to one asked by many since that time: Why does God allow wicked people to succeed?
The Chaldeans are troubling Israel, apparently successfully. The prophet ponders the perfection of God and questions whether the punishment he is allowing Israel to undergo is consistent with His nature. Why can God sit back and allow such wicked people to be so successful against His own people?
God provides a sound answer for the prophet later where He assures him that the wicked shall eventually be brought to judgment and “the just shall live by his faith.” In this reply, he is projecting His answer not only to the Israelites then but to all who will stand before God in judgment.
It is easy for any generation to look around and observe the success of those who have no spiritual inclinations and ask the same question. It can be discouraging for people to strive to live righteous lives and to observe the apparent success of those who do not fear God and keep His commandments. The scriptures assure us that God is in control and that everything will come out fairly in the end.
“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
When the preacher talks about fear in this verse, he is talking about the fear that comes when we find ourselves in a situation where we are intimidated—that is, where we feel if we do what is right, we will be embarrassed or find ourselves in an awkward position.
In such situations, he says we should always trust in the Lord and not fear other people. We should make the decision to do what is right, regardless of the consequences.
In other words, we should never allow our perceived estimation of the power of another person cause us to compromise our integrity and yield to pressure to conform or to do wrong. We have the promises of the Lord with us at all times.
“…and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
In describing the one who has committed himself to God, Paul has just mentioned several fleshly activities and emotions that one must eliminate from his life. In this verse, he describes the other side of the coin—that is, the person who has “put on the new man” in Christ.
As years come and go, we change in behavior and actions because we gain more knowledge and because we learn from our experiences. As a result, we renew ourselves so that we can be better.
There is no better time for Christians to facilitate this renewal than at the beginning of a new year. We look inwardly so that we can determine how serious we really are about our Christianity. And if we are serious about this introspection, we will make decisions, based upon God’s word, that will change our lives and attitudes.
Once we make those decisions, it remains for us to be sure we carry through with them—only then can we realize the real benefits that will move us along in our quest for Christian growth.