The Full Armor: War And Peace

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Ephesians 6:15

I must admit, I found this piece of armor to be the most perplexing and obscure of them all. My mind immediately referenced Romans 10:15, " beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace..." and paralleled "shod" with preparing the way for the gospel. But, as we examine each piece of armor, they are presented as state of being, not a function. So, the Romans 10 parallel is inaccurate. Taking note that this is the only time in the New Testement that the word "preparation" is used, we will find this particular piece of armor to be of special significance. With armor's purpose implying war, we first uncover that war must often precede peace.

If you were to take a look at the sandals of a soldier during this period in history, you would find they were much more than a piece of flimsy material. These were heavy duty material, studded with nails, that allowed a soldier to have a strong foothold as he stood his ground. In order to have peace, we must stand for peace, plant our feet, and refuse to grant the enemy what is rightfully ours.  No enemy, whether human or spiritual, can take your peace; only you can decide to give it away.

In this passage, the word gospel (euaggelion) doubles in implication, pointing both toward salvation and its common meaning of "glad tidings." The word peace (eirēnē) is both the peace of God, and tranquility between individuals. Understanding the etymology allows us to see that those who wear the armor of God stand firm in pursuit of peace. Peace both with God, and with man. To surrender our peace to the enemy is to render every other piece of armor useless as our life goes crashing to the ground.  The WHOLE armor was given to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to STAND.  Each piece of armor is built upon our stand. 

Satan and those he influences march in opposition of peace, because peace can only come from God; and God is not the author of confusion.  Take for example the demoniac of Gadara in Mark 5.  Here we find a man in torment.  By virtue of his description, he serves as the polar opposite of peace.  Parallel passages in the gospels indicate that no man could bind him,  so they ceased from passing that way.  Jesus brought to this man the gospel, and the city came out to find him at peace.  Logic would suggest this city would be excited to know a threat no longer existed in their lives.  Rather, a city of people who knew not the gospel of peace requested Jesus depart from their coasts.  What they could not control, they chose to ignore, until God supplied peace.  Those who have no peace cannot tolerate those who do.  In fact, it scares them.

Daily we must prepare and secure our feet on the foundation of the gospel, knowing that the enemy will strive to rob us of our peace.  The greater your peace,  the greater the battle.  My great-grandfather used to tell me every Sunday morning as he shined my shoes and his,  "you can tell a lot about a man's character by looking at his shoes."  Though this made little sense upwards into my 8 years of knowing him, I now fully grasp the spiritual depth of his astute observation.  It is more than scuffs or polish.  If a man's feet are quick to spread discord,  his mission is not of the Lord.  

Daily there rages a war against peace; desiring each piece of you.  Your mission is simple, to stand; Don't retreat.  Each moment, put on that shoe. 

Dealing With Difficult People

The book of Nehemiah serves as the personal narrative of a man filled with focus and facing foes.  As we journey with Nehemiah in chapters one through five, certainly we find some extraordinary circumstances.  As cupbearer to the king,  his role was vital to the safety of the empire.  Considering that the king not only allowed him to disband his post, but also funded the project for a culture in captivity defies all human logic.  But isn’t that just like God?

As with any noble project, rebuilding the walls would not come without opposition.  Any time God is up to something, the enemy will down it from the start.  In Nehemiah 2:10 we find Sanballat and Tobiah hearing about the potential project and it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

Right there is where many of us would stop.  “Oh no!  Someone does not like what I believe God is calling me to do.  That must be a sign.  I certainly don’t want anyone to not like me!”  But verse 11 is one of my favorites in this narrative. “So I came to Jerusalem…” 

  1. Opposition will always accompany opportunity
No pause.  No second thoughts. As we read between the lines, we see that Nehemiah gave no consideration to those who had a problem with his vision. God’s calling is not contingent upon the concert of others.  When you are presented with an attack, consider the source and selfish motivation behind the attackers.  Then keep moving. If you don’t have any enemies,  you probably aren’t doing it right.

  1. To Mock Or Malign Is Never Divine.
The project continues on, and now in chapter four, the number of opposition has grown.  Sanballat heard we builded the wall, and mocked the Jews.  Then he speaks to his brethren, the army of Samaria, and Tobiah.  The funny thing about gossipers is that their type has not changed in the last six thousand years.  They feed off spreading rumors and accusations.  Then, as they congregate together they begin to mock and call into question things beyond their knowledge:  We are never more like Satan than when we attempt to accuse the brethren.

   a.  Identity - “What do these feeble Jews?”  People who are quick to point out the problems in others often have the most to hide.
   b. Insecurities - “Will they fortify themselves?” Those with deep rooted insecurities are driven to gossip when another sets out to conquer theirs.  If someone else’s insecurities disappear,  my weaknesses will be manifested.
   c.  Invocation - “Will they sacrifice?”  The enemy would love to claim the  corner on the market of spirituality.  Pharisaical sin disguised as sacrifice is quick to question the spirituality of another.
   d.  Improvement   - “Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?” Those harboring evil thoughts against another are unable to comprehend God’s restoration.  That which they need most is often what they seek to hinder others from having. 

  1. Oh no!  Don’t Go To Ono.
Nehemiah chapter 6 holds a brand new list of enemies: Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and THE REST of our enemies!  Now that they have observed, formed their case, and rallied to themselves those who would support their cause,  they send for Nehemiah to meet in the plains of Ono.  You will never accomplish anything by entertaining conversations with those who seek to do you mischief. Nehemiah does not even give these men the time of day!  He responds via a messenger, and continues the work.  “Why should the work cease while I leave it and come down to you?”  

The enemy will not come up to where you are,  they only seek to drag you down to where they stand. “I’m hurt, angry, concerned…and you should be too!"  One study suggests that the average American will spend 32% of their brain capacity attempting to debate or sway those who have wronged them and are no longer a part of their life.  Imagine how much more we could accomplish for God if we refused to waste our time entertaining conversations with the enemy?  You will miss what is happening while chasing what happened.   When someone tries to bring you down into the gossiping fellowship of Ono… OH NO! Don’t go! 

  1.  Private Persistence Soon Turns to Public Persecution
Four different times we find the enemy calling for Nehemiah to come down to them, before the final straw.  Sanballat sends an “open letter” reading, “It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews thing to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king…and now it shall be reported to the king according to these words.” One requests to Nehemiah, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple…for they will come to slay thee."

Several things I think it is important to note about the methodology of the enemy:

a.  An Open Letter -  When anyone wrote a letter, the final step before sending was to melt the wax over the paper and give it an official seal.  God calls Christians to confront problems first privately before taking it before the church.  The enemy blasts opinion publicly in an attempt to rally like-minded haters.  “I’m sending this open letter not only to you…but to the Facebook world, twitter sphere, your friends, and your family.”  Why?  Because I’m not so worried about the recipient of the letter or the factuality of the statements. It matters more that an abundance of people hear it, and call it into question with me.

b.  “It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it..”  I’m not sure this requires very much explanation!  When an attack comes your way,  CONSIDER THE SOURCE!   Translated:  “It is reported on the internet, and Glozell said it too!” I'm not all that interested in what the heathen have to say.

c.”You think to rebel and become the king.”  We have one servant of the king, doing a great work, with intentions to restore a city and return to his post.  On the other hand we have a group of gossiping leaders trying to tell Nehemiah what to do.  I do see someone who’s heart is set on being in control, but it is not Nehemiah.  The imagination of an unrighteous attacker is limited to the bounds of their own secret sin.  Often what the enemy accuses others of is what they are battling deep within their heart. 

d. “And now it shall be reported to the king…”  When the enemy cannot get their way with you personally, they will attempt to make your life miserable. We see this principle in the life of elementary students.  “I’m gonna tell mom on you…”  It doesn’t matter how old you are,  that method is still just as immature, and ultimately ineffective. 

e. “Let us go into the temple…”  Since Adam and the apple,  the enemy has always attempted to use God as his cover and trap.  Not all who come to you with “holy intentions” have actually sent by the Lord.  More times than not, they have been hired by the enemy.  Nehemiah perceives that he was sent to cause fear, which Nehemiah labeled as sin in chapter 6:13.  If the enemy can cause you to doubt your purpose and succumb to fear, not only have they gained control of your mind,  they have caused you to sin.  There is no doubt they have been spiritually influenced,  but just as 1 John 4 says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

At the end of chapter 6 we find the enemies eyes cast down as they have to admit the work was wrought of God.  Don’t waste your time trying to convince the enemy of God’s work.  Spend your time doing God’s work, and let him be God.  The power, blessing, and presence of God cannot be faked; and in the end, consider and compare who God is blessing and using.