BE STRONG

We’ve come up with a multitude of ways to say “Be strong” in our day.  “Pull up your long pants and be a man.”  “Man up.” “Put on your big girl panties.”  But it isn’t just in our culture that we use such words or ideas.  Even in Scripture there are different ways of saying this same thing.  Paul declared, “When I was a child,  I talked like a child,I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” In I Corinthians 16:13 Paul was about to close his letter to the church in Corinth when he said, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.”  Earlier translations of this verse have “Quit you like men.” Or a little later than that, “Act like a man.” The very fact that we have so many ways of saying to others that they need to have courage demonstrates the huge need for this encouragement.  In Ephesians 6:10 Paul said, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”  Fortunately he continues to show us how we can have such strength from the Lord.  Throughout Ephesians Paul has talked about the mighty power of the Lord.  He demonstrated this great power by raising Jesus Christ from the dead and seating him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.  He notes later that we have the exceedingly abundant power of God that is beyond all that we ask or even thing, available to us in God’s family. As humans we can be strong, but not from our own power.  Our personal power is limited  by extent and by time.  God’s power isn’t limited in either of those ways.  His power is only limited by His nature as God.  The writer of Hebrews said, “That God cannot lie.”  He doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have the power to lie, but that lying is so far outside the nature of the God of truth that it can’t happen with Him.  People have always come up with scenarios about God’s power.  “Can God make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it?”  “Can God force a person to live right and be what He wants them to be?”  He could but it would violate the nature of God.  He wants people to choose to live for Him, not be forced to do so. Serving an all powerful God should leave us with great confidence in doing what God calls on us to do.  He empowers us to do the things he tells us to do.  Notice in this verse in Ephesians 6:10 he uses a phrase he has used over thirty times in the short, six chapters of Ephesians.  It is the phrase, “In the Lord”.  We are to be strong “In the Lord and in His mighty power.”  Normally, “In the Lord” refers to our relationship with Christ.  It is a phrase normally applied to one being devoted to Christ and trying to live as He wants us to live.  It is used for “Christians” who are in the sphere of Jesus.  Strength out of the Lord is extremely limited.  In truth it has all the power that God allows Satan to possess. But God constantly sets limits on the power of Satan in his attacks on believers.  Being strong in the Lord means we have submitted to Him in giving our lives to the Lord and that we are faithful to Him.  But notice that it isn’t just about the sphere of our strength.  We are to be strong in His mighty power.  Often we think we can help people to “Man up” just by pushing them to do so.  We seem at times to be drawn to the artificial strength of the world instead of the mighty power of our God. Paul proceeds in these verses in Ephesians 6 to say that we need to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  Satan doesn’t overpower us.  He puts obstacles in our way.  He convinces us that compromise with the world is the best way to go. You give a little and I will give a little and we can come together.  The problem is when it comes to God’s teachings there is no room for a negotiated settlement.  Back in 2 Corinthians 10 Paul talked about this same point but made some very different points as well.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) To fight the spiritual and moral battles of life requires a strength beyond our own.  We need the full armor of the Lord.  Satan is looking for both old ideas and new notions on how he can lead people to choose the way of the world.  But God’s armor when fully applied sets us up to fight against Satan and his angels against us. WHO IS THE ENEMY?  If I were to go down the street today asking people who they consider the greatest enemy they have in the world, we would get all kinds of answers.  Some would say it is religious fanatics, terrorism. terrorist generally.  Others would declare that the greatest enemy is pornography, or human trafficking that goes on regularly around us.  Many would say it is the break down of the family, with marriages falling apart even as we speak this morning.  We might even point to media and say that the programs being aired today are detrimental instead of helpful.  Some would say it is poverty or gangs or drugs, so the list could go on and on. But God tells us the real enemy isn’t some other person.  “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.”  Paul is describing the spiritual powers in the world that have set themselves up as gods and long for people to bow down before them.  Such enemies often use the very things in life that are provided to us by God and that are meant to be good for us, but they distort and cheat to the degree Satan’s work becomes the norm. Our enemy isn’t the people doing wrong.  It is the power behind the people and their actions.  Demon possession may not be as it was during the days that Jesus walked on this earth as a man.  But Satan is often bent on pulling good people away from God and to their own things.  When we keep in mind that the evil in the world is coming from the devil and he is influencing the other person, it changes our attitude toward those whom he is using.  Suddenly instead of feeling anger we fell sympathy, hurting that Satan has been able to lead others astray, while constantly conscience he could come after me next and I might not stand any better than they did. Think of the fact when Satan controls it is about lies, false impressions, mistreatment of others and leaving us down, discouraged and depressed.  When God rules our life it means enlightenment, encouragement and trust.  He builds us up while Satan tears us down again.  We all are His people with a choice in life.  Will we follow Satan and his emissaries or will we follow God and his teachers to live in the spirit.  Where will you turn for strength when you feel weak and tired.  Don’t wait until Satan takes over your life to make a firm commitment to God.   He is the only one who has successfully driven Satan’s demons out of people to give them fresh life afterward.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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