STRONG IN CHRIST
There is strength and there is strength.
A strong young apprentice at a building site was bragging he could outdo the strength of anyone, and was making fun of one of the older workers. After a while, the older worker had had enough.
“Put your money where your mouth is,“ he said. ”I bet a week’s wages that I can carry something in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding, that you won’t be able to wheel back.”
“You’re on, old man,” the braggart replied. “Let’s see what you got.” The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to the young man, he said, “all right, get in.”
There is strength of body and strength of mind. There is also strength of spirit. Allow me to paraphrase the story we find in Genesis 39, about Joseph and the wife of Potiphar:
The Lord was with Joseph and prospered him in Egypt. His skills and reputation was so good that Potiphar, his slave master, placed him in charge of the entire household, trusting him 100%. The Lord then blessed Potiphar because of Joseph. Jospeh was young , athletic, and very good looking, and soon caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife, who began flirting with him. Eventually she asked him outright, come to bed with me. He refused. She asked him many more times, until one day, she literally tried to force herself on him, and he ran away from the extreme temptation, leaving his cloak in her hands. She then framed him with attempted rape, and Potiphar was crazy with anger, throwing Joseph into prison. But the Lord was still with Joseph, and soon the prison warden was trusting and relying on this upright man to organise just about everything in the jail.And theBible reminds us that Joseph was ‘strong in faith, which counts for more than physical strength’.
Let me share a few significant scriptures with you, about real strength …
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” I Timothy 4:8
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” II Timothy 2:1
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28–31
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4
Our real strength comes from the Lord, His Word and His Spirit! In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul tells what it means to be strong in Christ:
1- We must access God’s armour
2- We have to recognise God’s enemy
3- We need to serve God’s children
I. WE ACCESS GOD’S ARMOUR
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 13 Therefore put on the full armour 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10–17
Put on the full armour of God. We don’t know much about putting on armour but back in the OT times the people put on armour to fight against the enemy. We must do the same, only our armour is not metal or material, but rather spiritual. Joseph’s armour was spiritual and so with Daniel, the three Hebrew boys who were thrown in the fiery furnace, etc.
I am an ordained minister, which allows me to style myself as Reverend Mark Taylor. It’s a big deal to some people. A sign of respect for others, or an object of ridicule for the ignorant! I know some who have been ordained and who also have doctoral degrees in theology or biblical studies, and they are immensely proud of calling themselves Reverend Doctor. Sometimes I will get a letter addressed to The Very Reverend, and I search the entire house to check if we have anyone like that living in our home!
My point is that being a Reverend may lend me some credibility or authority or deference, but the title does not give me any more strength or authority from God. Not one little bit. Being a reverend does not make me any stronger in God’s eyes, or even in the eyes of Satan. Because, all our spiritual strength comes from the Lord himself. It is our body, but his body armour, His provision, His gift, and His enablement.
We are told exactly what armour we need to wear to be strong in the Lord: truth, righteousness, readiness to share the gospel, faith, salvation from Christ, and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. We get our strength from Him. If we don’t, we have no strength, because human flesh and spirit will fail.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9–11
II. WE RECOGNIZE GOD’S ENEMY
12 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. Ephesians 6:12
Occasionally, other people give us trouble. Maybe at work or elsewhere, but we must realise: THEY ARE NOT THE ENEMY. They are not even our enemy. They may act like they are, but in reality, they are not. Our enemy is the devil.
In another time and place, I was in a meeting of the local minister’s fraternal. We meet periodically for fellowship and to pray for one another’s ministry. Except that one day, a new gut showed up, and all he wanted to do was to tell the rest of us how his church was right and ours were wrong, how his doctrine was spot on and ours was not biblical, how people in our churches were destined for deception whilst his flock were getting saved. Every one of us got a brow beating with his proof-texts and sharp tongue.
Do you see what a fool he was? Here he was at a meeting of like-minded pastors, all bent on sharing Jesus with as many people as possible. HE DIDN’T KNOW WHO THE ENEMY WAS! He was fighting with ministers who believed strongly in the Lord Jesus — they just did not have the same church practices as him! I wondered what God thought of him. And I wonder about us, when we fight with other believers!
Always recognise the real enemy! Non-believers may not be the enemy. They may play into the hands of enemy but they are not our enemies! They need Jesus! We must always recognise who the real enemy is.
III. WE SERVE GOD’S CHILDREN
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
We serve God’s saints through prayer, which brings great strength. The more you pray for others, the stronger you get spiritually. Strength comes through service. A friend of mine called me on Thursday. He lives in Wales, but gets our weekly email. He got his date wrong but called to find out how our upcoming service for Bob & Angela went. He told me that he and his wife pause to pray for this chapel, every Sunday at breakfast. I need prayer like that.
**“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ** Matthew 20:26–28
If Jesus came to serve, what should we do? If He lowered Himself to serve then we must do this as well.
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
There is power in being a servant, as we saw exemplified in Mother Teresa, who simply wanted to be a servant to others! JUST LIKE JESUS. Jesus wielded great power because He was a servant!
With what God has given you, how the Lord has provided for you, and in all you have experienced and learned along the way, how might God work through you in someone’s life, this week?
A kind deed, a thoughtful action, a forgiving or patient attitude? Caring more about a person’s heart before you get an opportunity to confront the mind. With a servant heart, we become the loudest of evangelists, for the love of Christ received through us, speaks volumes to a thirsty, hungry soul.
Kindness builds bridges for others to receive a touch of love from God. Help people to want to be a part of the chapel family, because we are a warm and genuine and friendly bunch of people. Make sure they get invited, again and again, and again. Why? Because we hope and believe that here, people may hear, believe, receive the words of truth than can set them free.
Its simple, practical, effective, inexpensive, and fun! For years now, I have seen the power released in people’s lives as they discover the power and impact of “showing God’s love in practical ways,” and I’ve seen relationships with God born from these simple acts of kindness in Christ’s name. Mother Teresa once said: **“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” **
Strength comes through serving others.
To be strong in Christ: Firstly, access God’s armour, secondly, recognise God’s enemy, and thirdly, serve the children of God. The only way to be strong, as we age, is to find our strength in Christ. This is the strength that will never fail us!