Finally, 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. Eph 6:10-12
His adversaries complained that “Wilberforce jumped up whenever they knocked him down.” One of them in particular put it like this: “It is necessary to watch him as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that Enthusiastic spirit, which is so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows.” [Quoted from John Piper’s “Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce, p.47]
Our son Chad is preparing to enter the Officer’s Candidate School of the Marines. Last night I watched a video that showed what it takes to be a Marine officer. However, as I watched it I got the distinct sense that it was really designed to scare the bejabbers out of anyone who was casually thinking about going through the process. The volunteers who dare to commit to the process are beaten up and beaten on and what is left is beaten out. The man or woman who survives the things we saw will have an unbelievable confidence in their ability to face any weapon al-Qaeda could throw at them. Not only are their bodies and minds pushed to the limit, their character is revealed and strengthened. When they graduate they will definitely be prepared to lead our troops into the most challenging of missions.
At first glance, the process appeared extreme and cruel. But, trainers that applied the pain were not a band of ogres who liked to see how much stress they could inflict upon these young recruits. No, they are veterans of war. They know firsthand that war is hell. They know that the enemy is evil, powerful, and crafty. They know what it takes, not just to be a survivor, but to be a victor. They know that to accomplish their mission, these young Marines must be prepared for any attack the crafty enemy would devise against them. So, they deliberately designed a training program that would produce hardened, tested and confident warriors.
In our previous article on spiritual warfare, we learned that we are also soldiers in a great battle. This is one of the most important things we need to know. As friends of Christ we are enemies of the devil and his allies. If we are not convinced of this, we will not be prepared for the evil days the enemy has designed for us. We will not have the resources to win the battle for faith and joy in Jesus. We will see our struggles in terms of normal accidents and tragedies instead of spiritual challenges and opportunities. That is why Paul, like a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, sets about to prepare his young recruits for spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6:10-20, he writes down the manual for defeating the devil in battle. As a seasoned and anointed veteran, he details the spiritual weapons and tactics that will transform helpless civilians into fearless soldiers.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Paul wants us to know that the life of faith is much more than knowing a few doctrines and attending a good church. At the end of his life he declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” [2 Tim 4:7] The struggle we are in calls for fighting, exertion, and persevering. The enemy is crafty, evil and committed to keeping us from being victorious. He and his cohorts will use temptation, pain, pleasure and any other tactic necessary to keep us from honoring Christ with our lives. The spiritual forces we battle are more devious, deadly and determined than we can imagine. The barrage of blows we will receive on the battlefield will knock us down unless we prepare. So, Paul warns us: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
Paul makes it clear that our victory is linked to Christ’s victory on the cross. In Colossians he wrote, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” [Col 2:15] God in his wisdom has permitted the devil to continue to come against the Church with his “flaming arrows” of evil and darkness. So, we are all soldiers upon a battlefield and will face real and substantial obstacles along the way. We must put on a soldier’s mentality. We must prepare and discipline ourselves. We must not be discouraged when the battle rages. We must learn to exercise and harden ourselves in preparation for the “evil days” ahead.
So, what does it mean to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”? That is the crucial question that must be worked out in clear and practical ways. “Be strong” means that we must do something. Winning will not come from “letting go and letting God.” It is not passive. It is aggressive. It is active. It is decisive. If you are in a fight for your life, you do not just sit around and wait for the next blow to pound you. You prepare yourself. You arm yourself. You strengthen yourself. For the Christian soldier, all of his preparation focuses upon Jesus Christ. Not only did Jesus defeat the enemy on the cross 2000 years ago in history, he defeats the enemy in our lives today in our history. How does that happen?
First, we become strong in the Lord by knowing what he has done for us and what he promises to do in us. That is why the Word of God is essential in our battle. If you do not know and understand the Scriptures, you will not know its Author. God speaks to us through the Bible. That is why we read it, study it, memorize it and meditate upon it. It is our primary weapon in our battle for faith. Like the Marine recruit, we must learn that our weapon is our friend. We cannot go on the battlefield without it. We must discipline ourselves to think long and hard over the truth so that we understand how it works and how it can be effectively deployed against the varied schemes and lies of the adversary. God has given us a mind to grasp and apply the principles there. Five minute devotionals will not get it. To effectively resist the devil we must stand firm in the faith. [1 Peter 5:9]. It means having the promises of Christ in our mind so that they can powerfully strengthen our heart in the fight.
Second, we become strong in the Lord by calling upon the Lord for help. The battle we fight is the Lord’s. Although we must act, he acts within us. Prayer is an act of faith whereby we turn to our Victor in faith. He is honored when in our day of trouble we call upon him [Psalms 50:15]. When He delivers us, we get the joy and He gets the glory. By prayer, the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and makes it powerful and practical in our conflict with the enemy. It is prayer and the Word that enables us to be strong in the Lord.
Third, we become strong in the Lord when we are bound together with other soldiers in a “band of brothers.” God has given us the Body of Christ for encouragement and support in times of pain and pressure. If we are not in a network of loving and caring believers, we are vulnerable to the schemes and scars of the enemy. Paul repeatedly thanks the Lord for the people God has given him who love him and support him with prayer and encouragement. We become strong in the Lord as he ministers through the group of believers that are our spiritual support whenever or wherever we do battle on this earth.
Finally, we are strong in the Lord when we, in the power that he supplies, stand in the midst of pain and affliction. Trusting in what Christ has promised in his Word, we refuse to give in or give up. When the battle rages we do not shrink to self-pity and complaint, but we rise in confidence and courage. We are filled with joy for the privilege of fighting for the greatest cause known to man: the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Buoyed by the fact that we serve the One who has never lost a battle, we know we will be more than conquerors through him who loved us. We may face great obstacles but we will overcome them. The Marines have a saying: “Obstacles are everywhere. Get over it.!” When the fight of faith confronts us with a great obstacle, we will not quit or fall back. It comes with the territory. So, by God’s grace, in the strength He provides, for the joy set before us, we will get over it.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
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