“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:13-15)
In our series on the Armor God, I have most dreaded talking about the Shoes of Peace. If you had asked my why this is so a few weeks ago, I might have said my reservations had to do with finding a new way to deliver a message that has been taught so many times before. Every single Christian is taught the gospel. Jesus died for our sins. The gospel (literally: “good news”) is meant to be the foundation on which we stand, on which all other theologies and doctrines are based. How on earth can I convey that message in a new and interesting way? I might as well tell you why it is important to breathe.
I tried to find a message within the message, but it eluded me.
And then life happened, and I remembered that God is really, really good at revealing his message through life lessons.
Before I could give this message, I needed to live it.
These past weeks have been difficult and testing for me. I’ve doubted my faith, my calling, and who I am in Christ. I’ve reread my own words. I’ve read the words of others and, of course, I’ve read the word of God. I’ve prayed and sought encouragement to keep moving forward through the discouragement, disappointment and doubt.
And then I read the above passage, realizing for the first time that the word “stand” appears three times, in three different ways:
- Stand your ground – “To refuse to change your opinion or give in to an argument.” (American English Standard Dictionary)
- Stand – “To be on your feet or get into a vertical position, or to put someone or something into a vertical position.” (American English Standard Dictionary)
- Stand firm – “To remain in the same place or at the same level.” (American English Standard Dictionary)
In all my prayers begging for strength to walk, it never occurred to me until now that sometimes God just wants us to stand.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul lists the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness first, and then he talks about the Shoes of Peace. I believe he did this on purpose. Before you can wield your sword, or deflect the darts with your shield, or get close enough to the battle to need protection from your helmet, you must first sheath your weapons and surround yourself with the Truth of the word and the Righteousness of Jesus given to you through his death on the cross, and then stand on the good news that brings peace.
Before you can march in battle, you must first protect your feet so you can step without fear.
Have you ever walked on ground littered with rocks, trash or other debris? If you did it barefoot, I guarantee you were looking at the ground the entire time. Your steps were probably slow and hesitant. If you wore shoes, you probably didn’t worry about it so much and you were able to keep your gaze forward as you walked.
The same goes for our spiritual walk. Clothing our spiritual steps in the Gospel of Peace allows us to step boldly, with the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus has already conquered the debris that lines our paths. Just as you step boldly on a gravel walkway, knowing the soles of your sneakers will absorb the impact of the tiny, sharp rocks.
I find it very interesting that before God calls us into action – before we are asked to take a single step – we are called to stand. You are called to make a commitment that you will not waver in your faith and purpose when the darts start flying toward you; you will remain upright through the terrors of battle; and you will stay at that level through the fray.
The only reason you are even able to stand is that God has already given you peace. He has already won the war. He has already conquered the enemy.
Isn’t it easier to step on hot concrete knowing your feet are protected?
As you trek along these treacherous roads, I pray that you will take up the proper footwear. That you will lace up the peace of the Gospel and step boldly toward a deeper level of spiritual enrichment. When you encounter debris that slows yours steps, just keep moving forward, even your steps are smaller than they were before. But above all, stop every now and then to stand and prepare yourself for the battle ahead. Acknowledge God and watch what he is doing. As long as you are looking forward you are still moving ahead, even if your steps have slowed or stopped.
Stand firm before the battle, and then trust him to make a path for your steps.