“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”
In addition to the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness, Paul now adds the next element of spiritual armor: shoes that give us the ability to stand firm. A good pair of shoes/boots allows the soldier to be ready to march, climb, fight, or do whatever else is necessary.
Christ demands the same readiness of his people. The verse speaks of a strength and steadfastness which the gospel gives to those who believe, like the firmness which strong boots give to those who wear them.
Our “boots for battle”—our ability to stand firm—is found in the gospel of peace. It is through the gospel of peace that the guilt of the past is forgiven, the challenges of the present are overcome, and our destiny in the future is eternally secured. It is through the gospel of peace that we live by vision, not by circumstance.
Similar to the two kinds of righteousness, Scripture also speaks of two kinds of peace: Positional peace that has to do with our standing before God, and practical peace that has to do with how we apply the reality of that peace to the circumstances and situations we face in life.
Our positional peace is expressed clearly in Romans 5.1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” We who trust Christ are redeemed and declared righteous by faith. Our sins are forgiven, and we have peace with God. That was God’s wonderful purpose in salvation.
It is from this foundation of peace that we must fight the enemy. If our heart is troubled and fearful, we will not be effective in the day-to-day battle against the devil. The peace that Jesus provides is what gives us the strength to stand our ground and hold our point in the battle.
We already have positional peace with God. Now, in order to do battle with the enemy, we must activate that peace.
Scripture makes it clear that the presence (or absence) of peace directly affects your heart/mind, and thus your mental state, and thus your ability to function effectively. When you are operating from Spirit-empowered inner peace, your heart and your mind are protected and you function at the highest level of effectiveness. You see more clearly and make better decisions. You lead more effectively. You solve more problems. You achieve at a higher level. You listen better and speak more clearly. You are more productive.
But when the peace of Christ does not occupy your heart & mind, then you operate from fear, anxiety, and frustration. You are more stressed and you function at a much lower level. You are not nearly as effective at doing your job. This is especially true in response to challenging situations.
It is for this reason that certain professions—special forces, commercial pilots, surgeons—invest a great deal of time training themselves to remain calm & focused when dealing with crisis situations. The effectiveness of their decisions and actions is greatly enhanced when their heart and mind is “at peace” in response to stressful events. They have trained themselves to see and evaluate situations dispassionately, determine the most effective course of action, decide and act, and make adjustments as they proceed.
This kind of mental discipline is precisely what God calls us to develop in our lives. Like all of the elements of armor listed in Ephesians 6, it is something we must “put on.” It is not something that just happens to you because you are a Christian.
Peace as a condition of heart and mind requires active faith and acquired skill. When the trained warrior takes the field for battle, his mind is clear, calm, and confident. He feels some anxiety and fear, but the fear is subordinated to his confidence in his training. But when the untrained warrior takes the same field for the same battle, he is paralyzed with fear. His mind is dominated by thoughts and images of defeat and death.
We are warriors, and we must train for battle. Trust God, do the work, and stand strong in the gospel of peace.