Ephesians 6:10-17 & Phil. 4:4-9

Rev. C. Dan Brand

We continue this morning our series on the Paul’s “full Armor of God” We have examined two pieces: (1) The Belt of Truth and (2) the Breastplate of Righteousness. This morning, Paul asks us to put on shoes that will help us proclaim the gospel of peace.

This word “peace” is a very illusive rare commodity.  Now we are confronted with the Apostle Paul’s admonition to include in our spiritual armor—that equipment that will help us in our day-to-day struggles—some special footwear: As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”

What is the gospel of peace? I remember the story of the little girl that was working so hard on her homework that her father became curious and asked her what she was doing. She said that she was writing a report on the condition of the world and how to bring peace. Her father asked her if that was not a pretty big task. “Oh, no,” she answered, “don’t worry. There are three of us in the class working on it!

I may be wrong, but I believe that the Ephesians passage is the only place in all of scripture where we find “gospel of Peace”.  Of course, we find references to peace everywhere.   According to the concordance, the word appears 258 times in the NRSV.  Most of them have to do with peace as the absence of conflict between individuals or nations.  But the ancient Hebrew word SHALOM which we translate as “peace” means more than that—it conveys a sense of wholeness, health, safety.  It forgives the deep sense that “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.” This is what Jesus meant in the Upper Room when he told the twelve, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.” In other words, not just the casual “Shalom” greeting that, even today, is the Middle Eastern equivalent of “Hello,” but the deep reality that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, everything really is all right.  That is why Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi would describe it as the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”

All right, now combine that with “gospel.” As we learned early on in church and hopefully Sunday school, “gospel” means GOOD NEWS. And again, going back to the earliest Sunday school, we learned that the gospel in a nutshell is found in the truth of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  The GOOD NEWS OF PEACE then is that the God who is in charge of this world also Loves this world, and through Jesus, Is going to make things come out right.  Paul says to equip yourself with whatever is necessary to grip that foundation.

There is an interesting thing that we need to note about this peace in the context of armor to protest us in battle.  An oxymoron? You know what an oxymoron is two contrasting words put together like “Jumbo Shrimp” or “Government Enterprise”. I don’t think that this is the case here. The Roman soldier who is Paul’s model for all this armor talk wore heavy-soled sandal which had metal studs on the bottom for good footing on difficult terrain—uneven or slippery ground.  Perhaps the reason that Paul chose this metaphor is that without the stability, the solid foundation, the “both feet on the ground” of knowing that God is in control of this world, that God loves this world, and that God will make things come out right, our defenses are inadequate. “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”

Would you like a pair? Let me try to fashion some for you.  These, after all, are not one-size-fits-all.  That is why the scripture says, “…put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”  For one person, it will be one thing, for another, something else.  Let me offer a list.  No particular order.  Just listen, and “if the shoe fits..”

If you want a sense of peace to stabilize your life, you will keep a positive outlook.  In the Philippians passage where we find Paul’s words about the “ peace that surpasses all understanding,” we find a command to rejoice. Obviously, everything in life is not cause for rejoicing, but the message is, if we want this sense of peace in our lives, we had better accentuate the positive enough so that we have reason to rejoice.

It is also true that if we maintain a positive outlook, we will remember that no matter how horrible, how awful, how miserable the situation becomes, this too shall pass. Some problem or concern that today seems a matter of life and death may next week either be completely forgotten or merit only a chuckle.  It is hard to see that when in the midst of the mess, but 20/20 hindsight will always put things into perspective. Remember: All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. No, everything that happens is not good, but one of the grand miracles of heaven is that, no matter how awful a situation might be, God can do wonderful things with it.

So what are some good rules for keeping on the positive peaceful side. DON’T GET RUFFLED, YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYBODY, KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR, LIVE THE MOMENT, and the most important PRAY.  Keep the lines of communication open. Making use of the “armor of God” metaphor, imagine this scene from some old movie about King Arthur and the Round Table: a squire keeps his round-the-clock vigil just prior to becoming a knight.  With sword in hand, he kneels before the church altar and prays.  He looks to God for strength and courage in all the battles to come.  He arises from his knees with a sense of PEACE.

If you want a sense of peace to stabilize your life, you will KEEP A POSITIVE OUTLOOK.
Another lesson – as stress-filled as life often is, thoughts hark back to words of wisdom from Rudyard Kipling who apparently understand stress a hundred years ago as well anyone today. Remember this?
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run–
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

Picture this—it is the middle of the night, and a violent storm blows up.  The wind howls, the thunder cracks, the lightening flashes.  A little child in her bed cringes beneath the covers, scared half to death.  But she musters up just enough courage to run into mommy and daddy’s room and crawl into bed with them.  Now she knows she is safe.  Let the wind roar and the thunder crash.  Nothing can harm her.  Snug and warm, she falls asleep.

I love the illustration that Billy Graham uses about a little bird that is nestled in the crevice of a rock on the sea shore. The winds are blowing, & the waves are crashing against the rocks, & the rain is pelting down. But here is this little bird in the crevice of the rock with his head tucked beneath his wing, oblivious to it all.

That’s exactly what Paul is talking about – about a peace that keeps you calm even though all the circumstances around you are changing. Even though people are critical, even though events are changing, you have the peace of Christ. And there is no peace like that found anywhere else, except in Him.

For you and me, the peace of God is like that.  Yes, we are in a world that is stress-filled, and seems to be getting more so every day.  But we are invited to protect ourselves with the armor of God, and we wear shoes that give incredible stability—the good news of God’s peace.  When the going gets tough, remember who you are and whose you are.  In everything—in everything—God is working for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.  Believe it, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we echo the prayer of St. Francis:

Lord; make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Father, grant that we may not seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.