A PAIR OF STOUT SHOES
Now, let us be careful that we do not “throw out the baby with the bathwater”. Yes – we believe that behind every evil action on this earth is our enemy, the devil – the liar and the father of lies. However, this should not make us sit back and say “it is not for us to face-up to the problems of this world – our job is to fight the one who is behind all these evils”. We have a God-given responsibility to do our part in managing His creation well. We should support ecological and environmental actions. We should have laws for the sake of a peaceful and ordered society. We should support education for the sake of a literate and effective society. We should promote social reform for the sake of a just, compassionate and decent society. So, let us keep on doing good and seeking to change the world – but let us remember that behind all the evil in this world is our enemy, the devil.
On the 14th November 2013 the UCB “Word For Today” (written by Bob Gass) said the following:
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center in September 2001, we thought it was accidental. When another plane hit it, we knew New York was under attack. Dr. Robert Jeffress says: ‘Knowing the source of the problem is crucial…a navigational accident demands one response. A hostile strike requires a completely different strategy. Every day our world is invaded by what we consider random events. Couples divorce, so we develop marriage guidance; drug use increases, so we educate our children to “just say no”; pornography among Christians rises, so we organise accountability groups; churches threaten to split, so we employ arbitrators to help with conflict resolution; Christians battle depression and suicidal thoughts, so we medicate them with the latest drugs. Please understand, I’m all for [such programmes], but what if the source is more than random events and we’re under enemy attack? Would we change our strategy? Through Scripture we discover there’s an unseen world and it’s at war. Paul writes: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…spiritual forces of wickedness.” You can’t just shrug your shoulders and say, “I don’t have a horse in that race.” You’re living in the crossfire of this spiritual war…the enemy’s determined to destroy everything and everyone important to you. And those who dismiss such words as being over the top-do so to their own detriment.’ Martin Lloyd Jones said, ‘Not to realise you’re in a conflict, means you’re so hopelessly defeated and you don’t even know it. We’re in a very real war, the stakes are high, the enemy skilled, armed, and determined. The possibility of losing…is real. You must be aware of what’s happening and be prepared to fight.’
A PAIR OF STOUT SHOES
We are called to put on the full armour of God in order to resist our enemy, the devil. In each session we are looking at one piece of the armour – in this session we are looking at the boots:
Stand firm then…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6: 14-15)
When you have a job to do you need the right pair of shoes to do the job. You don’t wear wellington boots to climb a mountain, but neither do you wear crampons to dig a muddy field!
When a soldier goes out to fight he (or she) needs to wear the right shoes for the battle.
As the British found out in the Falkland Islands – wear the wrong boots and you get “trench foot”. The right military boots will see you stand your ground in the battle.
The Romans understood this well – and their footwear explained their ability to stand when attacked at close-quarter by a larger army. Look at their boots: strong leather to protect the foot; effective straps to hold the boot on; metal studs (maybe even spikes) in the sole to provide sure and firm footing both on the march and when an enemy was trying to push you backwards – strong shoes that would withstand the “landmines” of the day – razor sharp sticks just sticking above the surface to pierce the foot of one who was not so protected.
In order to understand what the Spirit is saying to us through Paul, let us break down this section bit-by-bit:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “STAND FIRM”?
When the enemy attacked in force and arms clashed against arms, the Romans used their studded boots to stand firm and would not be pushed back!
In this time of moral collapse, doctrinal compromise, and humanistic challenge, the call is for us to stand firm. Are we ready to “stand” for what we believe in – or will we just keep quiet for an easy life? Our enemy, the devil, wants the church to be pushed back by liberalism, compromise and collapse of Biblical morality with a growing permissiveness of “if it feels good then do it”. We MUST stand firm on the Truth of the Bible!
The UCB “Word for today” – for March 22nd 2019 – puts it like this:
Standing on the threshold of the Promised Land, Joshua realised there were seven nations and forty kings to be conquered before he could possess it. So God told him, ‘No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life…I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Joshua 1: 5). When you’re in God’s will the forces and resources of heaven are behind you, and that means you’ll ultimately win. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to fight, but it means you’ll win! The movie Ben Hur won more Academy Awards than any other movie in history. Charlton Heston, who played the hero in this movie, had to drive a chariot for his role. He was supposed to win the climactic chariot race, but there was a problem: he was having trouble learning to drive the chariot. He walked over to his director, William Wyler, and said, ‘Mr Wyler, I can barely stay on the chariot. I can’t win this race.’ Wyler looked at Heston and said, ‘Son, your job is to stay on the chariot; my job is to make sure you win.’ Every time you head to the office, or walk into a pressure-packed meeting, or job interview, trust God. When you make that dreaded doctor’s appointment, or confront a friend who has done you wrong, trust God. Stay on the chariot. Don’t quit on God and don’t stop trusting in Him. Your job is to obey; His job is to make sure you win. And when you do your part, you can be sure that He will do His.
I love this description of Charlton Heston in “Ben Hur” – our job is to “stand firm”; God’s job is to bring us the victory. But, the question for us is: “how do we stand firm?” The answer is in the next phrase of our text – we need to put on our spiritual boots!
OUR SPIRITUAL BOOTS – “THE GOSPEL OF PEACE”
The “Gospel” is the “Good News”.
Only the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can break the grip of the “bad news” of our enemy, the devil.
The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus – what He has done for us. And this is so many things! But, in this context – that of the “battle” – the Gospel is that “peace” has been given to us:
- Peace with God – we are no longer at war with Him but have now surrendered to Him, accepted His forgiveness through the death of Jesus Christ, are now on His side and so He has made peace with us. Hallelujah!
Romans 5:1 tells us: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
For 70 years Colin was at war with God. He would not see it as such, but such it was! He did not believe in God and was angry at everyone who did believe in God. He would argue with them and call them foolish. He would reject everyone who spoke of God and would have no mention of God in his house. However, as he lay dying, he lay in fear of the dark and of what would become of him. And in that terror he was told about the Light of the World that he had rejected for so long. And in that hour he made peace with God. He stopped fighting against Him. He surrendered to Him. And in that moment he found a peace that he had never experienced before. Colin died a few days later. But, he died knowing that he had made peace with his God.
- Peace with each other – there is no longer any need to be fighting with each other – no need for jealousy, no need to defend ourselves against other’s taunts and accusations. We are at peace with all men.
Paul encourages the Roman church – in chapter 10 and verse 18 to: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”
- Peace in our hearts – we no longer need fear for the present, or the future, or eternity – for:
the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 7 RSV)
In the deepest, darkest, days of the “Blitz” in 1940-41, when people were full of fear, not knowing what was going to happen to them, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill would speak to the nation on the radio. He would speak of the moral high-ground, of courage and strength, of ultimate victory and the assurance that all would be alright. And then people could have inner peace in the midst of the explosions of the bombs.
THIS “GOSPEL OF PEACE” HELPS US STAND FIRM
Just as a Roman soldier “dug in” to the earth when the enemy pressed in hard – a bit like those in a tug-of-war contest, so we dig in with the Gospel of Peace when our enemy, the devil, presses in hard.
As the song says:
“When the enemy presses in hard do not fear – the battle belongs to the Lord”
THE “GOSPEL OF PEACE” HELPS US STAND FIRM AGAINST THE DEVIL’S ATTACKS
And what are these “attacks” that we need the Gospel of Peace for?
He, our enemy, will use his weapons of depression, disillusionment, distraction, deception and doubt, to seek to take our peace away. If we are frightened – of God, of what man can do to us, with fear in our hearts – then we are knocked down spiritually, weakened, “taken out” of the battle.
So, our enemy, the devil, the liar and the father of lies, will seek to convince us that we are NOT right with God – that He is NOT at peace with us – a lie; that man IS our enemy and is out “to get us” and that we need to get revenge on our fellow man – a lie; that we SHOULD be afraid of the future for we are NOT worthy of heaven – a lie!
IS “PEACE” NOT IN CONFLICT WITH “WAR”?
It has been pointed out that we are going into battle – a spiritual war – but are being told to put on “peace” – and that this sounds totally contradictory!
Not so! The best fighters are those who are at peace where the opposite is fear. The Bible tells us to fear no one except God. If we are afraid in the face of an enemy then we are more likely to break and run, more likely to be weak before them, more likely to have no hope of victory.
But, we are told that we need not be afraid. We are told that the victory is ours. We can have total confidence in our commander-in-chief. So, we can have peace – rather than fear – in our hearts when we go out to fight against our enemy, the devil.
WHAT IS THE “READINESS”?
Being “ready” speaks of being prepared and being aware of what is going on.
Remember – we are told that we are “not unaware” of our enemy’s designs and attacks (2 Cor 2: 11)
Let us not be spiritually “sleeping”. Rather, let us be “on guard” at all times.
Being “ready” also implies being ready to do whatever is needed, whatever is right. Are you ready to move in new directions? Are you ready to do new things to meet the new challenges of a changing society? Are you looking carefully at yourself to ensure that you are not “stuck in the mud” of “we have always done things this way and if it was good enough then, then it is good enough now”, or “we have always sung it this way and I don’t like the new ways”? The Truth does not change, but the way it is presented to the world does – are we ready to change?
We are to be ready to “stand firm” and we are to be ready to “go forward” into the attack, into the battle.
You see, once we have stood firm against the attacks of the enemy, then we are to be ready to go forward – to take the Gospel of peace to the world. This is what God spoke to the prophet Isaiah about:
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation (Isaiah 52: 7)
Are you ready?
FOR FURTHER STUDY – EITHER AS AN INDIVIDUAL OR A HOUSEGROUP
Paul is making it very clear that our spiritual footwear – enabling us to stand firm against the attacks of our enemy, the devil, is the “Gospel of Peace”.
- Can you remember – and list – the three areas of “peace” in our lives that are given to us by God?
- In your personal experience how does our enemy attack YOUR peace in these three areas?
- If our spiritual “boots” are the areas of peace that God has given to us, then HOW do we stand firm in reality when our enemy, the devil, sows those thoughts in our minds or brings others to us who make us question the peace of God?
- We have peace with God when we surrender our lives to Him. Have you surrendered EVERY part of your life to Him? If there is any area of your life that you haven’t then this might explain why you don’t feel at perfect peace with Him.
- Listen to “I’m giving you my heart… I surrender” (Lincoln Brewster) and have a look at the following verses: Gal 2: 20; James 4: 7; Matt 26: 39; Rom 12: 1-2; Prov 3: 5-6; ! Cor 6: 19-20; Lk 9: 23-24; Mk 8: 34-35 – all of these speak of surrender. How does all this make you feel?