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“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

As we visited Busch Gardens’ one day, I observed a toddler patting the glass of a wildlife enclosure. A lioness sprang toward him from the other side. Massive canines flashing, she pounced again and again. Huge paws engulfed the outline of the child’s hand. He grinned over his shoulder into the camera’s flash, as if playing pat-a-cake with the alpha predator.

If not for the glass shield, the lion would have devoured him like a cupcake.

With the exception of sunscreen, we tend to give little thought to shields these days. Few of us encounter large predators outside the zoo. Battles rage in distant lands, where armored vehicles and fortified bases matter far more to others than to us.

First century military officials knew the importance of defense equipment all too well. An effective shield could win or lose the war. If a soldier lost his scutum, as they were called, he became a walking target. Warriors often chained or strapped their ultimate means of protection onto their forearm, lest they lose their grip.

Roman shields remain legendary icons in military equipment design. Curved to deflect arrows and layered for strength, the scutum was large enough to cover a man and overlap the next shield in reptilian shell formation. Centurions also used shields as an offensive weapon to charge enemy lines.

With faith, we can break through enemy strongholds. Matthew 8 records examples of faith breaking through to the disenfranchised and excluded. The next chapter reveals how the faith of our friends can bring us out of hopelessness into the presence of Christ.

Faith deflects enemy arrows hurtling toward our souls each day. Lies, toxic attitudes, and insecurities glance off the surface when we hold up our faith against them. The King advises us to huddle together in formation so the enemy cannot find any spaces open for attack. Christ’s victory seals our triumph in the protection of our unified and mutually fortified trust in Him.

We must not let our guards slip and get caught playing pat-a-cake with this lion. So let’s strap on our trusty shields and snuggle in close, fellow soldiers. We’ll keep our faith out front and charge onward.

Silas twisted on the uneven stone floor and squinted through the cell’s dank shadows.The rough hewn stocks chafed at his swollen ankles. Pain raked across the raw flesh of his back as his shoulders rolled into a sticky puddle–his blood mingled with Paul’s, no doubt. Sour and metallic odors weighted the air between their bodies.

With trembling hands, Silas pressed the grimy floor to sit himself upright. His wrist shackles clattered as he pressed the throbbing lumps on his skull. Scurrying noises echoed around a grate near the corner. Furry creatures as long as his thigh squeezed through the bars. Tails whipped like scourge cords behind them. Crimson dots flashed near the wall. He blinked. An army of rats crept toward them, sniffing.

His heartbeat clinched his throat and pounded into his ears. Silas squeaked a whisper to his friend. “Do you see them?”

Paul’s wrist chain jangled as he clutched onto Silas’ hand. “It’s time to pray and sing. We praise and worship You, Lord…”

Silas closed his eyes. The nibble at his toes faded out of his thoughts as they sang in praise. Light filled his mind. He sang in harmony with Paul’s rattling voice, but another melody chimed in. From the back of his mind, he pictured a thousand gleaming soldiers who joined their song. The angelic voices lilted like the sounds of ethereal birds floating on island breezes.

A deep rhythm stirred beneath them. The ground shook the floor, walls. Silas opened his eyes to a brilliant flash. The stocks and chains exploded from his limbs. A roar of voices swept through the room, blasting the bars from the cell.

He and Paul stood, legs quivering. They strode out of the shadows toward a wailing man. Now, to set the jailer free…

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

-Philippians 4:4-8

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