There’s a saying among equestrians: “No hoof, no horse.” In other words, if you want a happy, functional, athletic horse (or donkey, or mule), take care of his feet. Because any damage or weakness in even a single hoof can undermine the entire animal.
Horses depend on their feet to carry them in search of food and water, speed them away from predators, and support them as they tote a rider, pull a cart, or perform other tasks for humans. They even do most of their snoozing upright, ready to flee danger at a moment’s notice. Hence, healthy feet are vital both to their survival and mission.
As it turns out, our own spiritual “feet” are vital, too.
In Scripture, the image of feet is often used to convey action – the undertaking of conquest or a God-given mission. And the most notable of those undertakings is that of carrying the Good News of Jesus to those who need to hear it.
That undertaking is both a conquest over evil and a mission for good.
And it’s ours.
Armed to the Feet
Ancient Hebrew songs of victory were filled with images of feet. When saved from deadly situations or despair, David and others praised God for setting their feet on high, firm, open ground. When they vanquished foes or subdued kingdoms, they metaphorically trod on them. And when they sought to live by God’s standards, they set out on the footpath of righteousness.
In the New Testament, the image of victorious feet was applied to the ultimate battle: the fight between the spiritual forces of good and evil. Even though Jesus won that war through His life, death, and resurrection, He won’t claim His crown until His Second Coming. Meanwhile, evil still rages – and we all have to face it.
In the famous passage in Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul reminds readers of this spiritual war raging within and around us. He urges them to “take up the full armor of God, so that [they] may be able…to take [their] stand” (v. 13, CSB).
This spiritual armor is available to everyone who claims Christ as Lord and Savior. It includes such things as the belt of truth, helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, and sword of God’s Word.
It also includes a pair of shoes.
Not the most exciting or eye-catching piece of armor. Yet as indispensable as the rest.
The shoes’ spiritual equivalent? The exact English translation varies, but the key Greek components of the phrase are “readiness”, “gospel”, and “peace.” To quote the King James Version, Christians are to be shod with “the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15, KJV).
Some interpret this to mean “preparedness to spread the Gospel.” Others view it as “the preparedness that comes from the Gospel.” And a few take it to mean “preparedness for the Gospel.”
Regardless of your exact interpretation, one thing is clear: The Gospel belongs on our ready feet. With such sturdy “footwear” (Roman soldiers’ battle shoes sported spikes like cleats), our souls can stand immovable in the face of whatever life throws at us.
When forces of doubt, despair, oppression, false doctrine, or temptation press in, we can dig our heels into the power and clarity of the Gospel message. When the world around us shakes, we can plant ourselves on the hope and peace that come from what Christ did and has promised to do for us. And with that hope and peace bearing us, we can push into new spiritual territory without fearing what we might face.
In the Gospel, we have firm footing from which to approach life’s uncertainty. We have a high position from which to view light in life’s murkiness. We have free, unencumbered feet with which to navigate life’s mountains and mazes.
Because we know where we stand. We know where we’re going. And as long as we strap those shoes on every morning and keep them tied, we’ll get there.
A pair of good shoes can make the difference between finishing a race and pulling up lame halfway. In the Gospel, we have the best footwear for life we could ask for.
Taking It Forward
Not only are we to stand firmly on the Gospel in victory, but we are also called to tread its print wherever we go.
Jesus’s last appearance to His disciples before His ascension was spent commissioning them to carry the Gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, CSB). In an earlier sermon, He’d assured them that the world would last until every human being has heard the Gospel.
Until that day when He returns and this world gives way to the next, His commission falls to Christians of every generation and nation. After all, to quote Paul, “How can [people] believe in the one of whom they have not heard?…As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14b, 15b, NIV)
Yet we modern disciples tend to relegate evangelism to certain levels of discipleship, or special occasions. We urge children and new believers to zealously share their faith…and then we fold the topic away, airing it only at revival meetings or in an occasional Sunday sermon. After all, what more is there to say? Don’t we need to move on to more “advanced’ faith topics eventually?
Yes, I believe we need to study new things as we grow in our walk with Jesus. But I also believe we can do so without abandoning the basics. After all, a sound faith is built on the basic message of the Gospel, and every true and sound belief can be traced back to it.
I think what really dims many mature Christians’ zeal is a lack of vision. When we first don our Gospel shoes and set out to follow Jesus, our faith is “new” news that our whole world is waiting to hear. The need for our message is obvious, and opportunities to share it shine in our every encounter.
And eventually, our whole world does hear it (and it should). And then, unless our world changes, we’re left feeling like there’s no one else to tell.
Suddenly, evangelism seems like an elite venture for missionaries and Christian public figures. People with time and resources to travel, speak, write, or broadcast the message. People with influence. After all, how can our own small, mundane, burned-out lives possibly be fruitful mission fields?
It’s true that some people are called to full-time evangelism, just as some people are called to full-time ministry or service. But most people aren’t. And yet they, too, are called to bear the Gospel wherever and to whomever their own callings take them.
So do whatever God has asked you to do, wherever He has asked you to do it. Work that job. Raise those kids. Care for that parent. Fight that medical battle. Live your life.
And as you do, look for ways to point the people you interact with to Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit for opportunities to share His love and truth with them – and then keep your ears and eyes open to what He shows you.
One more thing: Sometimes we lack the pull to share the Gospel because we’re surrounded by people who’ve already received it with open hearts. We spend so little time around non-Christians that the call to share loses its relevance.
Don’t get me wrong: Strong bonds with fellow believers are vital to our spiritual health and part of God’s design for His family. We should seek them, treasure them, and invest in them.
But to share the Gospel – to grow that family – we have to reach outside our Christian circles. We have to intentionally and meaningfully connect with people who have no connection to the family of God. We have to deliver God’s invitation to those who haven’t yet RSVPed. Like the Good Shepherd Himself, we have to seek lost sheep wherever they’ve strayed – and that won’t be in the sheep-pen.
So after you’ve fellowshipped and worshipped with fellow Christians, step outside the circle. Serve a stranger. Make a new friend. Pray regularly and specifically for a relative, coworker, classmate, or neighbor who hasn’t yet accepted Jesus. Ask God how you can minister to them.
Keep your Gospel shoes on. Because you have some walking to do.
And you want all your footprints to spell Jesus.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)