In part three of this occasional series on the armour of God, we look for ‘prints of peace’ amidst life’s fiercest battles.
The national Covid-19 lockdown has provided us with a great illustration for this instalment of ‘Heavy Metal’. The world has been fighting a powerful, unseen enemy, and, as Christians, we are not immune from attack. But we’ve had a great battle strategy: stay close to home. And while that might sound straightforward, logical and even quite simple, it certainly hasn’t been easy for some of us.
While this forced lockdown has been a welcome invitation to stop and rest and reflect, with many of us embracing the opportunity to read that book, do those odd jobs, learn something new, create something different, spend more time with family and actively deepen intimacy with God; for others, however, lockdown has magnified triggers and exacerbated the intensity of the battle for those fighting against addiction, mental illness, historic trauma, present abuse, relational breakdown, unforgiveness, failure and even spiritual darkness. Some of us feel overwhelmed, filled with anxiety, worried and unbalanced—robbed of peace. But this is not what God wants for us—this is not what God has promised for his people!
As Christians, we sometimes struggle to find and experience peace because we’ve been sucked into the world’s flawed definition of peace. We’ve been fed the lie that peace is a stress-free state of security and calmness that comes when there’s no fighting or war, and everything co-exists in perfect harmony and freedom. This sort of definition couldn’t be further from what the Bible has to say about peace. God promises us his peace—even amidst the fiercest of battles.
In her 2015 study, The Armour of God, Priscilla Shirer explains that the familiar Hebrew word for peace, shalom, which is used throughout the Old Testament, does not mean the absence of chaos, but rather refers to an overall, deeply entrenched sense of harmony, health, and wholeness in the midst of chaos.
‘True peace is best detected and measured against the backdrop of commotion and confusion—when instability abounds, yet you remain steadfast; when disappointment and confusion are near, yet you’re still capable of walking with Spirit-infused confidence, stability and steadiness. That’s how you know your feet are fitted ‘with the readiness of the gospel of peace’—a peace beyond comprehension,’ explains Priscilla.
As Christians, we sometimes struggle to find and experience peace because we’ve been sucked into the world’s flawed definition of peace.
Ephesians 6:14–15 says, ‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace’.
In part one of this occasional series, we explored the truth about lies and affirmed the importance of putting on God’s truth like a belt every day, as a foundational spiritual practice. Knowing the truth about God’s peace and how it differs from the world’s perception is a great example of using truth to combat lies!
In part two, we established the benefits of being right with God—when we wear God’s righteousness like a breastplate, we can move forward with confidence, rather than reacting defensively. We fight by being right with God.
It’s no accident that the next piece of armour the Apostle Paul draws attention to is a Roman soldier’s footwear. That Paul attaches peace to shoes may seem odd, until we understand how distinctive these war-boots were, and their critical contribution to battle-readiness.
While civilians wore soft-leather outdoor shoes, called calcei, Roman soldiers wore heavy military sandals that were almost boot-like, called caliga. The upper part of the shoe was made up of straps, which allowed for ventilation and easy adjustment. Parts of the boot that might rub (toe joints, ankle, big toenail) were cut away. What made these shoes so essential for battle, though, were the soles. Hobnails were worked into several layers of leather, providing a firm grip on the soil underfoot. These hollow metal studs kept the soldier sure-footed, and able to stand firm when holding his ground or advancing against the enemy. Such shoes certainly gave a soldier the necessary peace of mind that he would not stumble and fall when it mattered most.
Maybe you’re thinking that a mere change of shoes couldn’t possibly make a difference to the turmoil you’re living with, and you’d be right. But the shoes God is offering are God-designed! And when you wear shoes rendered by God, prints of peace will begin to appear all over your life.
When it comes to accessing God’s peace, we need to remember that the Apostle Paul links peace to the gospel. The Good News of the gospel is that the separation that existed between us and God has been bridged in Jesus Christ. Hearing, receiving and believing the Good News gives us peace with God—his gift to us. God’s peace is promised to us in Christ through the gospel! But wait, there’s more—we also receive the peace of God through the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is peace! Staying close to God, then remaining in Christ—regardless of the chaos we may be in—enables us to stand firm, and even advance and share the gospel with others.
God’s peace is promised to us in Christ through the gospel! But wait, there’s more—we also receive the peace of God through the Holy Spirit.
When Paul talks about the shoes of the gospel of peace in Ephesians 6, he’s reminding readers of what he’s already explained throughout his letter about peace. There are 49 verses in Ephesians devoted to the topic of peace! Priscilla explains that it’s not hard to see why. ‘The strong, tangible presence of peace in our personal lives and our relational interactions is perhaps our most vital spiritual commodity in threatening the success of the enemy’s plans.
‘Remember a backdrop of commotion is the best place for the peace of God to be put on display. So, if the enemy has been wreaking havoc all around you, and the chaos he’s instigated has seemed to swallow you whole, don’t be discouraged. Our God can, and will, anchor your soul, tethering it to the security found in his gospel, the good news of His beloved son. Hang on. Peace is on the way.’
So, don’t let the enemy rob you of the peace that is yours in Christ. Press into God, put on his peace, stand firm in it, and advance!