August 29, 2017

Shod to Study (The Armor, part 5)

Ah, winter! Cold, crisp air, snow, and… ice. Personally, I’m not a fan of cold weather (give me July any day!), and ice on the ground is only one of the reasons why. The statistics for winter weather-related accidents are startling. We all know that driving on icy roads is inadvisable: 116,000 injuries every year, along with 1,300 deaths.

What many may not realize is that there are a disturbing number of serious ice-related injuries every year while walking. Over one million Americans are injured by slips and falls every winter, and that’s only the reported cases. Over 42,000 of those injuries result in at least one day of absence from work, and a staggering 82% of those injuries are on flat, level ground. Get a full rundown of the statistics HERE.

The lesson? If you must be out and about during icy weather, make sure your tires and footwear have plenty of traction.

The same lesson can be applied to our spiritual lives and our daily walk with Christ. The Apostle Paul uses the imagery of a Roman soldier’s shoes (caligae) when urging the believers in Ephesus to put on the full Armor of God. If you read my previous article, you may remember that the sole of the Roman military “sandal” is studded with hobnails which provide excellent traction in virtually any situation. Our biggest concern, as always, is how to actually apply Biblical symbolism in a practical way. The best place to begin, as always, is with scripture. In this case, let’s examine Ephesians 6:15.

15 “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;”
Notice the word, “preparation.” Now, if you are planning to go out walking on ice, your preparations might (and should) include choosing a pair of boots with excellent traction. Likewise, if you must drive on icy roads, you might prepare by adding snow chains or studs to your tires. Paul realized that Roman soldiers also put some time into caring for their caligae, including periodic cleaning and oiling of the leather to keep it in good shape. In fact, these soldiers did at times have to deal with cold weather, snow, and ice. In those conditions, their preparations included adding heavy wool socks to their feet in order to keep warm.

So how do we prepare ourselves to face the world every day? How do we prepare ourselves to be ambassadors of Christ? How do we prepare to walk with the Lord?

There are, of course, numerous things we can and should be doing regularly which aid in our preparations. Prayer is definitely one of them. Avoiding sin (remember, this is how you put on the Breastplate of Righteousness) is definitely high on the list. But notice that Paul specifically mentions “the gospel” in this verse. We must prepare ourselves with the gospel: the good news that Jesus Christ has provided a way for our redemption from sin, bringing us peace with God the Father.

We must be diligent with our preparations, spending time studying the Word of God every day, but we have to avoid the temptation to wade comfortably in shallow waters. Our reading must not be simply skimming over the text or going through our favorite verses over and over again. Just as we require a varied and balanced diet in order to remain physically healthy, our spiritual health is dependent upon nourishment from the whole Word of God. Spend time studying not just familiar passages like Psalm 23 or John 3:16, but delving into some of the more difficult books such as Leviticus, Numbers (all those lists… ouch!), and Revelation. Dig into the deep theology found in the book of Romans. Explore the prophecies of Daniel and the wisdom of Proverbs. Paul gave Timothy some great advice when he said…

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The Amplified Bible elaborates upon that passage: “Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.”

Paul understood the value of having a thorough understanding of scripture. This is not surprising, as Paul himself was quite a learned man and spent countless hours in study of the scriptures. Many of us put a great deal of effort into memorizing scripture, and that’s a wonderful idea! However, even then we must be careful that our memorization is not simply a list of words. We must understand that which we commit to memory in order to use it correctly. No doubt Paul was familiar with Old Testament passages extolling the importance of godly knowledge and wisdom such as the following:

“Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.”

“…For the Lord is the God of knowledge…”
~1 Samuel 2:3 (NKJV)

“And Hezekiah gave encouragement to all the Levites who taught the good knowledge of the Lord”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
~Proverbs 1:7 (NKJV)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
~Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)

“The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly…”
~Proverbs 15:2 (NKJV)

“The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”

We all know that time is precious, and it is not an unlimited resource. Society pushes us to do more, stay busy, be “productive”, and do it all as quickly as possible. Preparation always takes time, but it seems like time is always in short supply. We have to prioritize, and it can be tempting to skip our time in prayer and study "just this once" in order to make time for some other pressing concern. 

The problem is, letting other matters interfere in our spiritual preparation time "just once" can lead to doing so "once more." We can easily fall victim to the snowball effect, until we are going out into the battlefield of life each day completely unprepared to face the challenges which lie before us.

We could all stand to take a lesson from the lives of soldiers, which are often very regimented and disciplined. A soldier's days are typically planned in advance, and activities are scheduled ahead of time. Common tasks are incorporated into a routine that ensures completion of chores that might otherwise be overlooked. In short, the best thing we can do to ensure we do not neglect our time of preparation, prayer, and study is to make a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. Make your preparation time a priority, and make it part of your routine.

Surely the driver who is about to venture forth onto wintry roads understands that putting on the snow chains is worth the time it takes to do so. As you prepare to do the work of the Lord each day, know that your time spent in study and prayer is worthwhile.  It may seem like you’re pressed for time, but always remember that it’s far wiser to step out onto the treacherous roads of life after you’ve put your boots on.


The Final Cut (The Armor, part 18)

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