“Watch!, Stand fast in the faith, Quit you like men, Be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13)
“Finally, my brethren, Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might" (Eph 6:10)
In other words, be continually strengthened - like the branches connected to, and receiving strength from, the vine (John 15)
Remember that God can do anything!, and
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13)
In Gen. 18:14 God asks Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
We need to be Strong in Wisdom (spiritual discernment) (Eph. 6:12)
Ecc. 9:18 tells us that “Wisdom is better than weapons of war”
James 3:17 tells us the importance of the wisdom that is "from above"
We need Wisdom to faithfully use the tools God has provided (Eph. 6:13-17)
We need Wisdom to consistently Pray (continually; not as a last resort) (Eph. 6:18)
We need Wisdom to "watch" - Standing Guard (Eph. 6:18)
Part of our job description as Christians is to do sentry duty - in particular, Guarding our hearts – Prov. 4:23 warns us – “Keep (guard) thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
1 Peter 5:8-9a warns us: " Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith,..."
It takes strength of endurance to remain vigilant, watchful – to stay awake at the wheel (remember Peter, James & John in Gethsemane - Matthew 26:40-41)
The strength that we need most is not physical strength, but rather spiritual strength - the strength of the Spirit of God shown through a willing and yielded vessel. We read in Zech 4:6 “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts”. This does NOT = “Let go and Let God” but rather a caution to yield and submit to God and NOT to trust in number of men, strength of chariots, etc.
"Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent." Rev. 3:2-3a
WHERE DOES STRENGTH COME FROM ?
Physically – Diet, Exercise, Training, Activity
Spiritually – much the same – (by God’s design)
Feeding on the Word of God, (Man shall not live by bread alone…Matt 4:4) (Our faith grows as we feed on His Word!)
Exercising ourselves unto godliness (1 Tim. 4:7),(Too many saints are overfed and underexercised - both physically and spiritually.)
Training/preparing/etc. – including chastisement – see Hebrews 12:11 ,
Activity – doing what we have trained to do further develops our muscles, etc. (God generally works IN us before He works THROUGH us - He prepares us for what He has prepared FOR us)
Obedience to God results in strength
Deut 11:8 – “Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, THAT YE MAY BE STRONG, and go in and possess the land…”
Yet, strength is needed in order TO obey - Josh 1:7 “Only be thou strong and very courageous, THAT THOU MAYEST OBSERVE TO DO according to all the law….”
Purity (separation?) results in strength (no syncretism, which weakens – like bad breeding and bad grafting?)
Ezra 9:12 – “Now, therefore, give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth forever, THAT YE MAY BE STRONG, and eat of the good of the land…”
And so Paul writes in 2 Cor.6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”
James 1:27 tells us that pure religion involves keeping ourselves unspotted from the world!
Strength comes from KNOWING God
Daniel 11:32 – “…the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
Strength comes as a gift from God
Psalm 29:11 – “The Lord will give strength unto His people…”
Psalm 68:35 – “”O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places; the God of Israel is he who giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.”
So, STRENGTH is more than just a concept. It is REAL / TANGIBLE , and necessary - and THERE IS A SOURCE OF STRENGTH,
God gives strength; yet, things we do and don’t do affect our strength
FOR WHAT PURPOSE(S) DO WE NEED STRENGTH
STRENGTH OF CHARACTER
To Be Potential energy (strength in reserve, ready for use) – how often people face a crisis in life and have no depth of resources stored up to allow their faith to be strong amidst the turmoil – those are times to draw upon your faith, not to get faith. (you can’t really ‘store up’ faith like a reservoir, but you CAN draw from previously developed strength !)
Character - see 1 Kings 2:1-4 [example of character building ]
STRENGTH OF CONVICTIONS
We live in a world that does not believe in Truth or Consequences!
When you abandon Truth, you cannot build character!
Spiritually, hard to have strong convictions in an age of tolerance where
You can be excited about things, just don’t be dogmatic about anything.
To Withstand Strength to Stand and to withstand
Eph. 6:11&13 “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” “Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Eph. 4:14 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (rather be rooted and grounded, solidly anchored)
Col. 2:8 “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Rom 12:2 – don’t be conformed, forced into the mold/shape of world ; peer pressure ! ! ! !)
[ Re: tradition – cf. Mark 7:9,13 traditions make us look strong on the outside – but they can actually weaken our faith and our dynamic relationship with God ]
See Zech. 3:1-2 we see the accuser of the brethren.
James 4:7 says “resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
STRENGTH OF CONDUCT
Deeds - see 2 Chr. 15:1-7 - to work
1 Sam. 4:9 – “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you; quit yourselves like men, and fight.”
2 Chr. 32:7,8 – “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude who are with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord, our God, to help us, and to fight our battles….” (same experience Elisha and Gehazi had in 2 Kings 6:15-17)
even our “strength” is weakness
Deut. 31:23 – Moses’ charge to Joshua – “…Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore to give unto them, and I will be with thee.”
EXAMPLES of STRENGTH
Who are some strong men in Scriptures ?
Samson - physical strength – not just circus strength, but useful
sin (disobedience) ruined his usefulness to God (castaway)
Abraham – Romans 4:20 – strong in faith (faith in God, not in faith) [contrast Thomas ? ]
Nathan – 2 Sam. 12: strong to confront sin (pointing the finger could be fatal)
Uriah – 2 Sam. 11:9-11
See Hebrews 11:32-34
STRENGTH NEEDS MOTIVATION (i.e. motivation to USE your strength)
Love for God (constraining us) (Obedience without love is drudgery!)
2 Cor. 5:14 - “For the love of Christ constraineth us….” dual meaning -
Love motivates ! ! ! (e.g. a mother, father, spouse, fiancée, etc.)
Causes people to devote time that they might otherwise use elsewhere
Causes people to do things they wouldn’t necessarily choose to do (diapers)
Causes people to forego things they “like” for the ones they “love”
See 1 Chr. 29:1-3,-5
Think great thoughts – rise above, not just to level of peers (or to level of incompetency)
David (vs. Goliath) – it was a great thought to think this boy could slay the giant when Israel’s soldiers feared to try.
Nehemiah - people had a mind to work (mindset, will, determination)
It seems so much better to live with a sense of purpose, direction, to have opportunity to work for something (Someone) bigger than just you
Have great ambitions for God
Caution (not an excuse) – Jer. 45:5 “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them!”
i.e. self-centered ambition is always wrong.
Lucifer – Is. 13-14 "I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt MY throne; I will sit upon the mount; I will be like the Most High". –
yes, ambition CAN be evil, but not ALL ambition is evil
1 Tim. 3:1 “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good thing ! ! !”– in Paul’s day, the office of overseer was not one of prestige, but one of danger (there were risks) and great responsibility. [It is not the ‘office’ (status, etc.), but the function (ministry) that is noble]
CHALLENGE - Desire to be effective in the service of God and realize the highest potential of your life ! Want more than to just “get by” – whether it’s grades in school, etc.
“The true spiritual leader is concerned infinitely more with the service he can render God and his fellowmen than with the benefits and pleasures he can extract from life. He aims to put more into life than he takes out.” (Spiritual Leadership, p.20)
This is contrary to today’s thinking.
We expect much, but give little (e.g. employers, GOD)
STRENGTH NEEDS FOCUS
VISION FROM GOD - Faith begins with a revelation FROM God
Prov. 29:18 – "where there is no revelation from God, the people cast off restraint"
VISION OF GOD - Faith grows out of a relationship WITH God
Is. 6:1 I saw the Lord ! ! ! !
But what about having a VISION FOR GOD - Faith motivates us to do the will of God.
Nehemiah 2:1-5 (SEND ME TO BUILD )
Summarize 2 Samuel 7:1-3, 4-11, 12-13
2 Chr. 6:7-8 “Now it was in the heart of David, my father, to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. But the Lord said to David, my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, THOU DIDST WELL IN THAT IT WAS IN THINE HEART;”
Faith results in reward from God - "Well done thou good and faithful servant"!
see 2 Samuel 23:15-17 where wishes were treated like commands – sadly, we often treat God's commands as if they were merely "wishes"!
STRENGTH NEEDS AN OUTLET
WORK – not all activity/busyness is work. Work is productive, to bring about fruit.
Energy – Prov.26:12-16;6:6-11
Col 3:23-24 – “And, whatever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
Rom. 12:11 – “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.”
Wholeheartedness - Eph. 6:5-8
2 Chr. 31:20-21 – “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord, his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, HE DID IT WITH ALL HIS HEART, and prospered.”
Excellence – God does all things well - shouldn’t we TRY to do same (not perfectionism)
STRENGTH NEEDS TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES
There are Many
1 Cor. 16:9 – “For a great door, and effectual, is opened unto me, and THERE ARE MANY ADVERSARIES.”
Who are they?
Self (e.g. Moses)
Ex. 4:10 - “I am not eloquent”.. “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
Where are they?
Some are in the camp !
Fear (Joshua & Caleb and report of the spies) –
Numbers 13 (faith vs. doubt)
Opposition is strong
ENCOURAGEMENTS – (Challenges)
What kind of men? - Unsung Heroes (Hebrews 11:36-38)
Disciples were "unlearned", fishermen, tax collector,
1 Samuel 22:2
Distressed not popular, favored, etc.
Debtors not rich,
Discontented, restlessness, unsatisfied with…
Col. 3 – set your affections on things above
Neh. 6:15 “and the wall was completed”
Eph 5:16 - “redeeming the time, because the days are evil”
make the most of your time. (good stewards)
Luke 19:13 Jesus called his servants to himself and said, “Occupy till I come.”
"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21