For today's opening illustration, I'd like to relate a story that comes from "Today in the word".
Former president Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, "Do you want square toes or round toes?" Unable to decide, Reagan didn't answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days. Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn't decide, so the shoemaker replied, "Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready." When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! "This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you," the cobbler said to his indecisive customer. "I learned right then and there," Reagan said later, "if you don't make your own decisions, someone else will."
Well, we've covered most of the classic parts of the armor of God. Today, we cover the shoes. Now there are many different types of shoes. There are sandals, crocs, flip-flops, sneakers, hi-tops, wingtips, stilettos, cowboy boots, moon boots, combat boots, bunny slippers, penny loafers, pumps, mukluks, flippers, horseshoes, skates, roller blades, ice skates, snowshoes, goloshes, cletes and more. There are almost as many types of shoe as there are feet. But they all have several things in common. They all fit on your feet, of course, but they all have these five functions in various proportions, according to the nature of the shoe.
This is also true of the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, or as I dubbed them in Vic Torius, the "shoes of readiness". Before I get into the properties of the shoes, though, I'd like to talk briefly about what these shoes are. Salvation, faith, truth and righteousness are all pretty straight forward, but what is this "preparation of the gospel of peace?" This... (picks up a bible and thumps it) is the gospel of peace. Now this is also our sword. That's next week's sermon. But the PREPARATION of it is the shoes. It's not enough to just have a bible. Some books are useful to just own. A cookbook, for example,can provide instant access to a recipe. A phone book lets you look up a number. A map can tell you where you are even if you've never looked at it before. All these are reference works. The bible is not reference. You've got to actually read this thing to know how to use it properly. Read it, know it, live it. As 2 Timothy 2:15 says: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
So these shoes... how do they do the job of shoes?
In terms of protection, they provide protection against heresy. We are secure when we are standing on the word of God. Satan would have you standing on something that's going to give out underneath you. He sends heresies our way all the time. Sometimes they are blatant, sometimes very subtle. These shoes keep all of those hereseies from causing us to stumble by making them just bounce off.
In terms of traction, they prevent backsliding. They will keep you on the Rock that is Jesus Christ. If you don't read and live God's word, you're likely to slide off of that rock into the sinking sand that's all around.
In terms of support, the shoes support your faith. When someone comes up to you and says "How can you believe that a jew who died two thousand years ago can save your soul?" you'll have an answer. You won't be standing there saying "Gee, I don't know. I wonder if He really can." You'll KNOW. God never called us to have blind faith. He asks us to have faith backed with reason. Your shield is faith and your shoes are the reason.
In terms of comfort, the shoes provide spiritual comfort. There is peace in knowing that God is good. That Jesus loves you and has paid the penalty for your sin, so that you can have eternal and abundant life. Reading and knowing God's word provides that knowledge. Living God's word keeps us in a position to receive all the blessing He wants to bestow upon us. Have you ever had someone tell you that you're going to get hurt so bad that the people standing next to you will feel it? The shoes of God's armor, when kept in prime condition, radiate comfort. Wear them right and you'll have so much peace the people around you will feel it.
And most importantly, performance! Every shoe has a different function. Skates roll. Flippers displace water. Breathers puff air onto your toes. Each one is suited to its task. What are God's shoes meant to do? To aid you in the discharge of your Christian duties. The first and foremost of these is the spread of the gospel. Your sword is a formidable weapon, but it's not going to reach a mile away. A sword is purely a contact weapon. You have to get it where it needs to go. Jesus, our Captain, gives us our marching orders. We can't follow those orders if we're not prepared. The bible tells us each to do the work of an evangelist. Now you might have the gift of evangelism and lead a thousand people to the Lord. You might not have it, and so only lead a few. The point is not your ability, it is your AVAILABILITY. It may be that there's someone searching for God and you're the only Christian in the area. What a shame it would be if God could not make use of you because you never put your shoes on. As long as we are ready and willing, God will take care of the able part.
So how can you insure that you've got the shoes on? Like we said earlier, study. Don't just study the word of God, though that should be your primary source as well as the ultimate authority. Study the life lessons which God gives you. Catalogue what you learn from each challenge and review it. Study people. It's people to whom we must present the gospel. Get to understand them so that you can be the friend they need, and a good witness. Listen to your pastor. Seriously. Listen to him. And then give him a fish. The word of God is full of knowledge, but knowledge requires wisdom. Wisdom is precious. Glean it wherever you can.
This week's challenge is a homework assignment. If you aren't studying the bible daily, start, because next week, I'm going to ask you where you are in scripture.
Today's reading: Ephesians 6:10-17
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: