Around 11 p.m. on Christmas Day in 1776, George Washington and his troops famously crossed the Delaware River (looking as gallant as all the portraits display, I’m sure), heading toward a camp of unsuspecting Hessian forces. Having partied a little too hard, the Hessians were sleeping off the night’s festivities and were not at all ready for an attack. They were defeated, and that battle proved an important morale boost for the Patriots. Turns out lying down and being super groggy is not a great way to go into battle.
The apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Ephesus and to all Christians today:
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Did you notice the verb used throughout those verses? I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t “lie down” or “recline” or “relax” or “take a break” or “rest up.” Nope. Stand. Stand firm. Take your stand. Stand your ground. Stand. Standing implies action. Standing implies readiness. God implores us to be ready at all times so that we can stand our ground … not just against an earthly force like Patriot troops but against the spiritual forces of evil. If we are lying down and resting, groggy and unaware, it is so much easier for the devil to creep in, cross the Delaware, and take us by surprise. But if we are standing, muscles taut and alert, looking for the enemy, we have a much better chance of defending ourselves against whatever he throws at us.
But God doesn’t just tell us to stand and be ready and then head on out with a “Good luck!” thrown over his shoulder. Nope. He gives us the tools we need to stand our ground—a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. The full armor of God! His Word. His promises. His protection. His power. We can stand and be strong, not relying on our own prowess in battle, our own aim, our own swift feet, or our own sinewy muscles but relying on “the Lord and in his mighty power” and “with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Wait, peace? Weren’t we just talking about being battle ready? Armor and flaming arrows? Where does the peace come in? Seems like it shouldn’t fit into this section of Ephesians … and yet. This “gospel of peace” gives us the proper footwear to advance onto the battlefield unafraid, because we carry the good news of what Jesus already won for us. No matter what the spiritual forces throw at us, we can have peace in the midst of battle because of a war that has already been fought on our behalf. Jesus came to this world to win the greatest war of all time, and when he rose from the dead, he claimed the ultimate victory for us. And you know what he did after the war was won? Sat down. His stand was over. Now he could sit because his work was finished.
But when [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. (Hebrews 10:12,13)
We can’t sit down just yet. Our battles here are still raging. We still need to stand … we still need to read his Word daily, continue to gather with our fellow Christian soldiers, and outfit ourselves with all the armor that God gives us. The shield, the breastplate, the helmet, the sword. But don’t forget the footwear. Don’t forget the gospel of peace that we carry into battle with us. Don’t forget that Jesus has won our salvation and he is saving us a seat … complete with a footstool.