“in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” Eph. 6:15
Trials come in all shapes and sizes. Trials change over the years. In the early years of marriage most of our trials were financial, where would we get money to pay rent? When kids come along, there are different trials. Our faith can be tested with the pain of a wayward child. Our faith can be tested by illness. Our faith can be put in the fire through infidelity, or emotional distance. When that one relationship, which should be closer than any other, has grown cold, our faith can be rattled. The devil knows all of this and he knows our weaknesses. The devil has his schemes. He probably puts some preparation into what Paul calls “the evil day.” How does a marriage survive the “flaming arrows of the evil one”?
The picture of our warfare here is a missile or projectile, dipped in pitch, set on fire, then launched into the air. What a scary scene! Flaming arrows flying through the air. These fiery arrows are sent by the evil one. That evil one is truly the most malignant being in all of God’s universe, and he is “armed with cruel hate.” Satan’s desire, as pure evil, is to destroy all that is good. “His pleasure is our harm.” So what are some of these fiery arrows which are designed to hurt us?
The enemy’s fiery arrows may be a specific temptation. The temptations to sin in marriage are manifold. There can be the temptation to be unfaithful, to lust after another woman or man, to lie about money, to be discontent with our spouse, to start daydreaming about the greener grass elsewhere. There can be the temptation to become disaffected with our spouse because we’ve been disappointed. There can be the temptation to withhold affection or intimacy to get even. There is the temptation to revenge. The list could go on. But there are also the fiery darts of listening to the lies of the enemies. Satan can put people in our path who make sin sound so good; people who give wicked counsel. “You know, I wouldn’t put up with that, neither should you! Divorce isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.” Sometimes Satan puts people in our paths who are bad influences, leading a spouse down a path they would have never considered before. Then there is false teaching about marriage, false doctrine, that can plant seeds of unbiblical thinking and actions. There can be the fiery darts of despair, doubt, conflict.
These fiery arrows are designed by Satan to destroy, to consume, to lodge in us and destroy us and our marriage. Paul’s counsel is that “With all these,” that is, in conjunction with the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, and Gospel footwear, we take up the shield of faith. The shield Paul has in mind was impressive. The shield, called a scutum, was about 4 feet tall and 2 ½ feet wide. The Greek word for “shield” is very close to the word “door” and for good reason. There were two layers of wood fixed together, covered with animal hides, and then strapped with iron on the top and bottom to give added strength. Often the shields would be soaked with water to quench the fiery arrow lodged in the wooden planks.
This shield is the shield of faith. The word “faith” in the NT can mean faith in the objective sense, “the faith,” the content of truth, the content of what we believe as Christians (Jude 3, “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”). But it can also refer to my personal trust or confidence in God and His Word. The truth is that our personal faith is only as good as its object. To take up the shield of faith is to personally appropriate the truth of God (the faith), by faith (personal trust). I take hold of all that God has said and is for me in Christ, and I utilize that resource of truth with confidence that God will indeed be faithful to every promise. The shield of faith is my hiding place. It is my safety. When the arrows are shot through the air, I find protection behind the shield of faith, which stops the arrows from killing me, and extinguishes the arrows and prevents them from consuming me. This is the life of faith, taking God’s Word and preaching it to myself, praying it, believing it, acting upon it. This is the life of faith, defending against the lies and temptations of the one who hates me and wants to harm me.
How do we use the shield of faith in marriage? When Satan hurls one of his fiery arrows at us, let’s say a temptation to despair that my marriage will never be any better, then I take up the shield of faith and defend against the arrow with the promises of God. “He who began a good work in us, will complete it until the day of Christ.” “Lord, you started the work in me, you started the work in my spouse. I know you will complete it. Give me the patience to stand still and see Your salvation.”
Let’s say Satan puts “a friend” in my path who tells me of “the worldling’s pleasure,” the shield of faith exposes the lie and defeats the lie with truth. This means I need an arsenal of promises and even threats. When temptations come, the shield of faith is the only way to survive the onslaught.
But there is more. This is not just me using the shield of faith. Many times, during an attack, Roman soldiers would lock shields together in order to provide for greater defense. In marriage we need to learn to do the same thing. Praying together, in faith, using the promises of God, is the way to strengthen our defenses. Whatever the fiery darts, face them together, face them as one. Put your shields together. Look to Christ together. Claim His promises together. Fight the good fight of faith together. When trials come, this is the only way to survive.