I was just about done.
This was the dumbest cross country course I had ever run.
Normally we had reprieve from the heat of the sun and the flat courses as our path darted into the woods. We could climb our way up hills and trudge through the mud.
But someone thought it would be a brilliant idea to host this meet in a huge open field. In order to get 2 miles in, we had to run around the field three times.
I was over it.
But so was the girl in front of me as she bent over and walked slowly on the course. It wasn’t that odd to see competitors walking in these meets. But it was odd to see that she was barefoot.
Then I noticed why—she was holding Converses in her hands. She had attempted to run this race in . . . Converses?
I don’t know how much you know about running shoes, but Converses are the last shoe that you want to use to run these races. They’re flat with zero support. They’re not even pretending to be a running shoe. It’s an injury waiting to happen.
I raced past her and lapped her (since we had to run in circles) and never saw her again after I crossed the finish line.
What was she thinking wearing those shoes? Didn’t anyone tell her she shouldn’t wear them? Why didn’t her coach say something? Wasn’t she ready for this race?
The Right Pair of Shoes
Shoes are important. If shoes are your favorite article of clothing, you get me. There is something to be said about wearing the right shoes for the perfect occasion.
Each sport has a particular shoe to help you move and play in your specific environment. We wear shoes for different seasons and occasions.
Wearing the right shoes for the right occasion can make or break your experience. When you have the right shoes on, you’re ready to take on whatever comes your way. That’s why it’s no surprise that Paul, the writer of this Armor of God passage, assigns the gospel of peace to the shoes on the soldier:
“and, as shoes for you feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
Are you ready to handle anything that comes your way?
Or are you trying to run a race in Converses?
You see, the Gospel changes everything. And knowing the Gospel can be the difference between running a race in Converses and running a race in Brooks.
What is the Gospel?
There’s a lot I can say to fully explain the Gospel. It is simple, yet so complex for our human minds to comprehend. But I think this passage sums it up well:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Though Jesus was God in human form, he did not use that power to his own advantage. He did not use that power to gain wealth or fame or political status. He didn’t conquer Rome and establish an earthly kingdom like many people had expected.
Instead, Jesus quite literally emptied himself to become a human. He willingly took on human limitations as he stepped into the full human experience. He then voluntarily laid down his life so that we could be free from the chains of our sin. Our pride, our selfishness, our inadequacies—all that separated us from our holy God.
Now Jesus is in his rightful place: in authority over all of Creation, leading in love and reigning in grace.
We are at peace with God forever.
It’s this truth that gives us the readiness needed to face anything that may disrupt our lives. This truth protects us as we trudge through this world and this truth holds up even through the mud and mire of our lives.
A Gospel-Centered Life
Many of you may “know” the Gospel, but it’s simply become a nice addition to your life. It’s more like an activity than it is the very truth that dictates the way you think, speak, interact, and act.
To many of us, the Gospel is some simple saying you may have learned in Sunday school, or something you can recite with very little enthusiasm.
“We are sinful. We needed a savior. Jesus died in our place. He rose to life three days later. We have life in him if we accept this.”
This is not wrong. It’s not necessarily insufficient, either. So why doesn’t this equip you with what you need when a loved one dies unexpectedly? Why doesn’t it seem to be enough when you don’t make the team? Why doesn’t it matter when your girlfriend breaks up with you?
It’s almost as if we have different sections of our lives. We have a section where religion exists and we have the rest of our lives. They can’t possibly overlap or intermingle too much, right?
The difference between someone fitted with shoes of the Gospel and someone else fitted with no shoes, but the knowledge of the Gospel is . . . Everything, actually.
Here are some examples of what it could look like to put on the shoes of the Gospel:
You get an injury that ruins your football career both for high school and college. Instead of sliding into a pit of depression or fighting the lie that your life is now meaningless, you focus on ways you can love and support your team. You’re there—faithfully and joyfully—as a friend to every single player on that team. You focus on sharing the love of Christ with them in a way they’ve never experienced.
Your boyfriend breaks up with you. Instead of falling into jealousy, being plagued by the thoughts that you aren’t good enough, comparing yourself to the new girl he’s with, and watching endless romantic comedies with your friends, you’re actually ok. Sure, you’re sad, but with those shoes of the Gospel, you were relying on Jesus for the love and fulfillment you needed. So when he breaks up with you, you don’t question your worth. You don’t compare yourself. You move on and joyfully continue to rely on and love Jesus.
You are diagnosed with a chronic illness. Instead of walking away from God or becoming bitter and angry, you use that illness to bring glory to God. You draw nearer to God in prayer. You look to God for strength. You see the way God will use your illness and you bring hope to those who have none. You continue to trust in God when it seems impossible. People come to see God because of the way you’re trusting Him.
Beware: this does not mean you will be incredibly (and creepily) happy all of the time. That is not at all what the Gospel teaches. If you want proof, look at Jesus as he mourns the death of his friend Lazarus in John 11 or Jesus as he is about to head to the cross in Matthew 26. These are just examples of sadness, pain, and grief. Jesus went through all of the range of human emotions in their fullness — yet he was without sin. When we let the fullness of the Gospel determine our steps, we are not without the full range of emotions as we encounter all of life’s up and down circumstances.
The difference is those who aren’t wearing the Gospel Shoes are very caught up in their life circumstances. If something goes “wrong,” it’s devastating. If something goes well, everything is ok. When we aren’t wearing Gospel Shoes, we are a slave to our circumstances. Our emotions, our reactions and our relationships are all dependent upon our circumstances.
But when you are fitted with Gospel Shoes, you are a slave to Jesus. And being a slave to perfect love, peace, grace, and mercy is actually a good thing. We are no longer tossed back and forth by the waves of life, instead we are steady. We are ready for the tactics of the enemy, the temptations of the flesh and the pain of the world.
The Gospel brings peace in the storm. It brings hope to the hopeless. It brings justice to our oppression. It brings light to our darkness. It brings healing to our scars. It brings love to our weary souls.
So what about you?
Are you going to put on the shoes that bring you everything you need to face this life? Or are you going to go out barefoot because it’s a lot easier to trust yourself?
You can be ready for what tomorrow brings, if you’d only put on the shoes.
How Do I Put Them On?
There are a lot of ways we can put on these Gospel shoes, but one way is to spend time studying the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Read all four accounts of it in the Bible in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Read the book The Fisherman—a fictional account from the perspective of Peter, based on the facts of his life and his friendship with Jesus.
Read other books that explain the Gospel like This Changes Everything.
Write the Gospel in your journal every day.
Start off your prayer time focusing on the Gospel. Try using this acronym:
Praise — Praise God for who he is and what he has done
Repent — Repent for the ways you have run away from God
Acknowledge/Ask — Acknowledge what Jesus did to bring you life, Ask for what is on your heart
Yield — Listen to God
Practice sharing the Gospel with friends and family.
We need to be preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily, hourly, minute-ly. It is only then that we will be able to gear up to fight the battles and storms that come our way.