Given that we are more than matter (atoms and genes), given that we are caught up in a struggle of cosmic proportions (spiritual warfare) and given that there is a fight going on for men's souls, it matters that we learn how to use our shield. Granted, there are a lot of 'givens' in the above, too many for some people, but I do take them all as read.
I didn't once but I do now.
The worst thing anyone can do in a fight is forget that they're fighting, to take off the armour, to put away the sword, to relax - certain doom, curtains. One of the worst things I can do as a Christian is to live only with an eye on the material world. To be taken in by the enchanting comforts, the short-sighted living and the secular philosophy that surrounds me. I see it in myself, I'm susceptible to it. I wrestle with this world, my flesh and the devil as much as the next Christian. I win some lose some but I always aim to make it my resolve not to simply 'get by' as a believer, not to become neutralised in the fight.
I know that what I really want is to live out with increasing consistency and faithfulness the implications of the empty tomb of Jesus. In accepting the reality of the empty tomb and all that that means for human history and civilisation I also find myself accepting the Bible's conclusions that the Christian life is a battle, that we have an enemy. Being a Christian isn't simply 'hard' then, it is vehemently opposed. Whether I'm a doctor, accountant, soldier or church worker it doesn't matter, I'm a target. We all have unique battles to fight but we all have just that - battles.
So I return to the title of this post: the shield of faith. I must do what I can to obey Paul's instructions to take up the shield of faith. For me this means regularly going to the things that rebuff the lies of the enemy, fight against the schemes of satan and do battle with the all that would sap my faith and cause me to become what I don't want to be, neutralised, ineffective, half-hearted and luke warm. I see no place for these in the Christian life, they are as alien as a fish living on dryland and yet at the same time they are always right around the next corner, the outcome of the latest compliment or pay rise or hearty meal or session of indulgence or aim of the latest advert.
So where do I go? To begin with I go here:
1) The empty tomb and the existence of Christianity, the issue demands an analysis. The existence of Christianity requires a response.
2) The deduction form the natural world as to the likely existence of God. I don't believe in the likelihood of infinitely small probablity nor do I accept the mulit-verse idea.
3) The moral law and the God-likeness of humanity. I am interested in asking the questions 'what makes us different from animals'. We are different, and that difference is more than biological. We bare God's image and likeness - discuss.
4) The supernatural I've seen. The breaking of natural laws in healing and other miracles that I've seen and heard about. These range from impressive though open to theories of psychosymatics right through to jaw-droppingly stick-it-on-your-mantlepiece-like-a-trophy impressive - people being born deaf now hearing simply as a result of prayer, kind of examples.
5) The 'work'ability of Christianity. Given that Jesus' teaching and Christian teaching has been around for two millenium and is still life-transformingly effective, it deserves to be heard. This includes both practical life wisdom (my life is fulfilled, contented and purposeful because of following Jesus' teachings) and the authoratative claims of Christianity about human nature, it's diagnosis and cure.
6) The fact that I live in relationship with God and enjoy his joy giving presence, experience answers to prayer and have the privilege of knowing God and knowing what that means. The (for want of a better word) subjectiveness of following Jesus.
That's the first six steps my mind takes in rebuffing Satan's schemes and dousing out his firey darts. It's not perfect but it's mine and it's what means I can continue standing in my life of following my saviour in a world that hates him, mocks his followers and (worse still) silently pities me.
That's how I take up the shield of faith.
At least for the moment anyway.