Summary: The Gospel gives us stability, balance, mobility, and readiness for the battles we face. The Gospel message is good news for people who are ready to live.
“Stand firm…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace,” Ephesians 6:15.
A few years ago I had a tour of nearby Natick Labs. It is a most unusual Army base, with more civilians than active duty military. Their mission is: “To create the ultimate battlefield advantage for our War-fighters that ensures them the decisive edge now and in the future.” To this end, they develop equipment for troops--to include better boots. The engineers of Natick Labs want our troops to focus on their mission rather than be concerned about their feet. So they’ve designed a new lightweight, durable, hot weather combat boot for soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. These boots provide ankle stability, traction, and breathability. They’ve been tested at NTC, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, in the Mohave Desert, and they’re being shipped to forward-deployed units. In addition, improved socks are being developed.
Having worn desert boots in combat, I can tell you that comfortable boots are an indispensible item of equipment. In Desert Storm I was initially issued boots that made my feet ache; I was hardly fit for battle! Fortunately I managed to exchange them for ones that fit properly.
The Roman soldier’s hobnailed sandals or half-boots were designed for durability and protection. They were lightweight so troops could march, run, and turn in rough terrain and adjust their position rapidly in hand-to-hand combat. The hobnails served as cleats providing solid footing for offensive and defensive operations. They had to be thick-soled because enemies would plant spikes in the battlefield to cripple advancing armies. In his autobiography, General Colin Powell writes how he was injured in Vietnam this way.
But Paul has in mind a different kind of engagement. He takes his image from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (52:7). For most soldiers who go to war, it’s not to insure peace but survival. So how do we survive as members of God’s army? How does Paul’s image of battle-boots relate to us?
In the battles we face we need stability, firm footing. We need to be able to withstand attacks on our faith, as well as the many hardships that come our way. We’re not ready for war without the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Our stability comes from being grounded in God’s word. Unstable Christians will fall in battle. We need to know what we believe and why. When we have a firm faith, we will not be shaken when trials come.
Proper shoes also give us balance. Believers who focus too much on one teaching end up with an imbalanced faith, and are apt to falter because they don’t know the whole counsel of God. “They’ve taken some third-level teaching and raised it to the top level” (Mark Dever). In US war-fighting operations our military does not veer from basic tactical forward maneuvers, yet understands the need to be adaptable and innovative. This strategic flexibility makes us unpredictable, confounding our enemies, giving us a tactical advantage. Are you a balanced believer?
The shoes issued by God also provide us the mobility we need to fight. We have to be able to easily move about so we can swiftly respond to the encroachment of the enemy. One thing hindering the progress of the Gospel is believers who are standing still. We need to be on the move, actively seeking opportunities to present the Gospel message to a needy world--by what we say and how we live. We’re marching on, bearing the banner of the cross!
When the chosen people of Israel traveled through the wilderness for 40 years, God miraculously kept their shoes intact, and he will do the same for us in principle. He will make sure we reach our destination and He makes our path straight. Paul talks of Gospel-fitted feet enabling readiness—with proper preparation we’re ready to go, ready to face the foe! We’re in it for the duration. Is that how you feel most Monday mornings?
Paul says that our readiness comes from the Gospel, which is good news for people who are ready to live. We’re grounded in the Gospel. The Gospel is the foundation of the Christian life. Just as the feet support the weight of the body, the Gospel enables us to stand firm.
The Gospel message is the climax of the story of Israel and the launching of God’s renewed people. It is a message of forgiveness of sin thanks to the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ--that removes our guilt, shame, and fear, and brings about peace with God. A gospel-centered life is a pilgrimage, a faith-journey. How’s your Christian walk? Are you standing or slipping? Where are your feet taking you?