A Soldier’s Footwear

…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)

Achilles had a teeny, tiny problem with his foot. The hero of Greek myth had a body that could not be injured, except for a little spot on his heel. Back when Achilles was a baby, his mother, Thetis, tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the river Styx. The magical water gave total protection to anything it touched. But Thetis held her baby by his heel, and that part of Achilles’ foot was not touched by the protective water.

Achilles grew up to be the mightiest warrior among the Greeks. He joined the Greek forces in the campaign against the kingdom of Troy and defeated every enemy he faced. He conquered various villages and killed Troy’s fiercest warriors, including the mighty prince Hector. No weapon could hurt Achilles. No warrior could beat Achilles. But then Prince Paris of Troy shot a poisoned arrow that happened to strike Achilles at his only weak point, that teeny, tiny spot on his foot. The poison did its deadly work, and that was the end of Achilles. He died.

Shaquille O’Neal had a teeny, tiny problem with his foot. Such a small problem on such a big man wouldn’t seem to matter. In 2002, the giant basketball star had just led the Los Angeles Lakers to a third straight championship, and looking ahead to the new season, a fourth championship seemed almost certain. But the Lakers began the season as losers, with Shaq on the sidelines. He had only one small problem: a bad toe. The toe had required surgery, and Shaq sat out the first twelve games of the new season. Shaq still stood over seven feet tall and weighed over 320 muscular pounds, but that didn’t help as long as his toe needed to recover. No opposing player could stop Shaq, but the toe stopped him. The world champions suddenly looked as bad as any team in the league. Playing without Shaq, they lost nine of their first twelve games. Even after he returned to the court, the Lakers lost 19 of their first thirty games. Eventually the toe recovered, and Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers again became a force to reckon with. The difference between being champions and losers was one toe.

Small weaknesses can cause huge problems. That’s true not just in Greek myths or professional basketball but in spiritual warfare as well. Satan is always looking for a weakness to exploit. He looks for ways to turn small sins into big problems that destroy people forever. Something starts as a small doctrinal error, and Satan finds a way to turn it into a huge heresy. Something starts as a careless choice, and Satan finds a way to make it a deadly addiction. Something starts as a little quarrel between husband and wife, and Satan turns it into a grudge and a divorce. Something starts as a minor disagreement between nations, and Satan turns it into a war. Something starts as a little step away from God, and Satan turns it into the highway to hell. Satan is an expert in this. He looks you over, searching for a weak spot. It might seem small and unimportant, but Satan can use it to bring you down.

With an enemy like that, partial protection isn’t enough. You need total protection. When the Bible talks about spiritual warfare and the armor of God, it doesn’t just say to put on a few parts of the armor to protect what you think is most important. It says to put on the full armor of God. It says to use every piece of equipment, covering even parts of the body that might seem less important—such as the feet. Ephesians 6:15 says to have “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

Proper Footwear

For a soldier in biblical times, it was dangerous to have unprotected feet. The main danger was not a poisoned arrow in the heel, as in the legend of Achilles—that didn’t happen very often. But there were other dangers for a soldier with unprotected feet. If you were in a fight and you slipped and fell because of bad shoes, your opponent might kill you before you could regain your feet. If you were marching barefoot over an area with thorns and sharp stones, your feet might be so torn up that you wouldn’t even make it to the battle front. If you charged an enemy position that was fortified with short, sharp stakes in the ground, unprotected feet would be pierced, you would fall to the ground in pain, and your enemy could easily finish you off. If you marched in an area that had scorpions or poisonous snakes and didn’t have proper protection, a bite or a sting could lay you low. If you had to march in mud or cold weather without proper footwear, cold and wetness could make you sick. Fevers and other illnesses destroyed many soldiers.

Strong armies understood the importance of a soldier’s feet. The bottom of their footwear had thick soles, enabling them to walk in dangerous areas without injury. Often this footwear also had spikes on the bottom to provide firm footing, prevent slipping, and help the soldier hold his ground. What a soldier wore on his feet might seem less important than how he protected his head and chest, but wise generals and soldiers knew that a foot problem could be as bad as any problem. It could lead to death, and even if a soldier didn’t die, injured feet or illness could make him totally useless for combat, more of a hindrance than a help to the cause he was serving. A soldier’s feet needed proper protection to help him survive and to give him mobility to go wherever his commander told him.

When the Bible talks about spiritual warfare against sin and Satan, it urges us to put on the full armor of God, including the right footwear. There may be areas of life that don’t seem very important, but if we’re careless in little things, Satan can use them to destroy us or to make us ineffective in the service of Christ. To stay on your feet amid Satan’s attacks, to hold your ground against the devil, to march wherever Christ calls, and to triumph in the Lord, you need proper footwear. You need “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

A soldier needs proper footwear not just for defensive reasons but also to go on the offensive. The goal in warfare is not just holding ground but marching forward, not just survival but victory. Some of the great military campaigns of history depended on the ability of armies to move faster and farther than their enemies thought possible—and the ability to march was helped by equipping soldiers with excellent footwear. The armies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar had brilliant leadership and excellent weapons; they also took good care of their feet. This enabled them to move swiftly and surely, to outmaneuver opponents, and to win amazing victories.

Likewise, in spiritual warfare, the goal is not just survival but victory. The aim is not just to avoid defeat but to drive back the evil one and take territory away from him. To put it another way, the aim is not just to resist Satan and avoid hell personally but also to spread the message of eternal life to others, win them to faith in Jesus, and bring more parts of life under Jesus’ life-giving rule. “The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” is vital for defense and for offense: it enables you to stand firm and defend yourself when Satan attacks, and it enables you to go on the offensive and march forward to victory under Jesus’ direction.

When Ephesians 6:15 says to have “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace,” what does it mean? For a soldier of Christ, readiness means that you are ready to stand firm and fight off Satan, and it means you are ready to move into enemy-occupied territory, win victories for Jesus, and carry out the mission he gives you. Where does such readiness come from? The gospel of peace. The word gospel means “good news” or “glad tidings.” In Isaiah 52:7, the Bible says, “How beautiful … are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say…, ‘Your God reigns!’” The gospel is good news because it is the glad message of peace: peace with God, peace in your heart, peace spread to others.

Peace With God

In spiritual warfare, a soldier of Christ must wear combat boots of peace. Isn’t that a contradiction? How can war bring peace? How can the footwear of peace serve as combat boots? Well, sometimes the best way to enjoy lasting peace is to first win a war that gets rid of a constant threat to peace. And sometimes the best way to win a war against a strong enemy is to make peace with a different enemy who is even stronger and who then becomes your ally in the war you need to win.

Suppose you’re a weak nation being attacked by a cruel, aggressive nation that won’t leave its neighbors alone. The only way to have peace is war. The only hope of peace is to defeat that nation and be free from its aggression. But what if you’re not strong enough to win this war? Well, suppose there’s a third nation that is strongest of all. It’s a good, peaceful, free nation, and it has the power to defend you and defeat your attacker. If that nation were your ally, you’d win for sure.

There’s just one problem: you’re not at peace with the good nation. That nation has never wronged you, but you still resent that nation; you’ve gone against its interests many times, and you’ve done various things to make yourself its enemy. This nation doesn’t wish you ill. It isn’t eager to destroy you, and it certainly isn’t on the side of your evil enemy, but why should it help you if you remain at odds with it? If it wanted to punish you, it wouldn’t even need to attack you directly. It could simply leave you to the cruelty of your vicious enemy. To win a war against the nasty enemy, your only hope is to get on peaceful, friendly terms with your good enemy. Peace with the good enemy is the key to winning the war with the evil enemy.

Satan is an aggressive enemy. War against Satan is the only means to lasting peace, and making peace with God is the key to winning the war against Satan. Satan is stronger than we are, but God is stronger than Satan. The Lord will defeat Satan for us, but only if we’re at peace with God.

But how can you have a peace treaty with God if you’re his enemy? People who sin and go against God’s will—that’s all of us—are by nature “God’s enemies” (Romans 5:10). Once we’ve made ourselves God’s enemies, we’re doomed, unless God deals with our offenses, forgives our sins, and makes us his friends again.

This is exactly what God has done through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the price for our offenses, “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you [made you his friends] by Christ’s physical body through death” (Colossians 1:21-22).

Even after we’ve gone against God and done all sorts of damage, the Lord chooses to pay for the damage himself instead of requiring us to pay. He chooses to offer us a peace treaty instead of wiping us out or letting Satan wipe us out. This peace treaty, this new covenant, is how we can stop being God’s enemies and be his friends instead. In this friendship, this alliance, we no longer face Satan on our own. When we have peace with God, the Lord fights on our behalf. Peace with God is the key to winning the war against Satan, and once that war is won, we will have eternal peace and joy with no more grief or pain.

Do you have peace with God? Have you accepted his peace treaty through faith in Jesus’ blood? Peace with God and an alliance with him is entirely the work of Jesus. Accept his treaty by trusting Jesus. It is a horrible offense against the Lord to despise and reject his peace treaty after he has paid for it with his own blood. If you reject Jesus, you have no protection from Satan, and no defense against God’s anger. So trust God’s treaty. Accept by faith what Jesus has done, and God will be your ally and defender. Scripture says, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). God is no longer an enemy but our best friend. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Even Satan himself can’t stand against us.

The good news of peace with God equips our feet with readiness. This readiness is like wearing footwear with spikes. Dig in and stand firm against Satan. Don’t slip and slide around. Be sure of the gospel. Don’t change your mind; keep believing in Jesus. Don’t change your mood; keep rejoicing in peace with God. The sturdy footwear of readiness enables you to dig in your spikes and stand firm.

This footwear also enables you to march against Satan in all types of territory. Go on the attack against the evil one. Rescue others from his clutches. Enlist them in God’s army. Scripture says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Always prepared! Always ready! Have your feet fitted with readiness to share the gospel of peace with others. Tell how they can escape Satan’s attacks and defeat him by accepting peace with God through faith in Jesus.

Inner Peace

Peace with God is an objective reality based on the work of Christ and the new covenant treaty established by God. This objective reality also produces the subjective experience of inner peace. When you know God is your friend, you have peace inside that is beyond anything words can explain. The Bible says, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

The inner feeling of peace depends on the outer reality of peace with God. Some people try to make you feel better without actually making anything better. They like to say, “Peace” when there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:10). Nothing can really set your heart at peace except to know that you are right with God. William Gurnall’s classic The Christian in Complete Armor says:

It would not help a condemned man on the road to execution if you put a fragrant rose in his hand and advised him to smell the flower and feel better about everything. He would still see the gallows just ahead. If a messenger from the prince should press a pardon into his hand, though, he would be overcome with joy. But this is the only thing that could change the man’s heart. Anything short of pardoning mercy is as insignificant to a troubled conscience as that flower would be in a dying man’s hands.

Peace with God is the key to inner peace. If you’re not right with God, if you’re his enemy, you can’t be truly calm. “The Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life” (Deuteronomy 28:65-66). Inner turmoil is often a symptom of being at odds with God. “‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 48:22).

Peace with God is crucial to inner peace. If you’re torn up inside by guilty feelings, God’s pardon can bring peace. If you’re full of anxiety and despair about the future, God’s strength can give you peace. Lack of peace with God can sometimes move you to do things that are self-destructive or harmful to others. Something inside us tells us that if something is wrong, somebody’s got to pay for it—so we either put ourselves through needless suffering or make other people suffer by being cruel to them. But if we know that Jesus has suffered for us and paid the price to give us peace with God, we have inner peace. This inner peace replaces guilt with assurance, anger with compassion, fear with courage, despair with confidence.

When God makes a peace treaty with you and you feel his peace in your heart, you become a fearless warrior for God. Satan loses his ability to intimidate you. Satan will attack your heart, but if your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, your inner peace will stay strong. Thorns and sharp stakes and cruel snakes cannot pierce feet that are protected by peace. Jesus says, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:19).

Spreading Peace

As we receive peace with God and experience inner peace, we must spread this peace to others. Wear those combat boots of peace! Stand strong against Satan, march forward against him, and bring to other people the good news of God’s peace treaty.

In spreading peace, begin at home. Make sure you are at peace with God and that your heart is ruled by peace, not by restlessness and combativeness. Make sure you are at peace with family members and fellow Christians. You can harm yourself and others if you go on the march in campaigns for various causes without the footwear of peace. Your only result may be to upset others and to get upset yourself. When you’re truly at peace, you might still upset people, but not as often, and only for the right reasons. The Bible says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

In a war, it’s especially important that you be at peace with others who are on your side. Fight the enemy; don’t fight each other. If members of a military unit are lobbing grenades at each other and shooting at their fellow troops, how can they ever defeat the enemy? They are defeating themselves. The Bible tells church people who bring lawsuits against each other, “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already” (1 Corinthians 6:7). William Gurnall says that church people bickering with each other are like navy shipmates arguing with each other while an enemy is drilling a hole in the bottom of their ship. Satan loves to stir up disputes among Christians.

Arguments with fellow believers might not always seem so serious—a little gossip here, a little grudge there, a little dispute over music now and then. But remember Achilles’ heel and Shaquille O’Neal’s toe. A teeny, tiny foot problem can turn a champion athlete into a loser and a military hero into a dead man. A teeny lack of peace in the conscience, a tiny lack of peace with fellow Christians, can make our feet vulnerable to injury and disable our effectiveness against Satan. God’s people must be at peace within their own hearts and at peace with each other in order to stand up to Satan’s attacks and march against him.

Christians, let’s unite with each other and proclaim God’s gospel of peace to the world. Are your feet fitted with readiness to take back territory from Satan and win people for Christ? Don’t be slowed by those who say you shouldn’t call people of other cultures and other countries to Christ. Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Don’t be held back by those who say all religions are equally helpful and who say you should leave everyone to their own religion and not try to lead them to faith in Jesus. Jesus does not say every religion works equally well. Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Not everyone agrees with that, but that’s what Jesus says, and I’m not about to contradict the Son of God.

Religion doesn’t give peace with God; only Jesus does. Religion doesn’t give lasting inner peace; only Jesus does. Religion doesn’t have power to defeat Satan; only Jesus does. Religion doesn’t give eternal life; only Jesus does. Religion doesn’t have the power to bring world peace; only Jesus does. World peace will occur only after Satan has been defeated, his lies have been debunked, and Jesus comes again to bring the whole world under his reign of peace. True peace comes only through the gospel of peace.

Believe that gospel, and then go on the march to spread it everywhere. Jesus is on a mission, and he calls you to join his mission. The Bible says, “He himself is our peace… He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:14,17). To all whose feet are fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, the Bible promises: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).