The title of today’s message is Strong in the Lord and it comes from Ephesians 6:10-18.
Over the past week at VBS, thanks to our Children’s Minster, Dana Stevenson and her faithful team of volunteers, our kids have been learning how to stand strong for our God. They have learned how the love of God helps us to stand strong; how our friends, family, and church can help us to stand strong for God even though we feel weak. They have also learned that prayer, trusting God and obeying His holy Word can also help us to stand strong even when life gets us down.
I’m glad that they are learning this lesson at such a young age because as we all know – those of us who have some life experience – life can be difficult. It can be extremely difficult when you try living in your own strength. WE KNOW how hard it is to smile when all you feel is pain, BUT we also know the joy that comes after we pass the testing of our faith. AMEN!
For example, on April 5th of this year, Rick Warren and his wife Kay lost their youngest son to suicide after a long battle with mental illness. Rick and Kay are the founders of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA where Rick serves as Lead Pastor. You may remember Rick Warren as the author of the bestselling book – The Purpose Driven Life. He also gave the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Martin Henderson, who is the editor and contributor for the website LakeForestPatch.com, wrote an article about the Warrens after their son died. In Martin’s article we can get a sense about how the Warrens are handling the loss of their son. At their first public address after their son’s death, Martin says that the Warrens “were emotional. But they were strong.” Martin quotes Kay Warren when she stated, “’We said at Matthew’s memorial service that we were devastated by the death of our son, but we’re not destroyed’” (Henderson, 2013).
I have no idea what it’s like to loss a child you’ve held in your arms and rocked to sleep. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that wells up inside when you think of all the birthdays you’ll never get to celebrate. But what I do know is that no matter the size of our hurt, no matter the magnitude of our pain, we can be strong in the Lord! Rick Warren admitted that physically and mentally, both he and his wife Kay were exhausted. But he goes on to say that, “’spiritually I’ve never been stronger, I’ve never been closer to the Lord, never had more confidence in God, never been more comforted, never felt more love from God…’” (Henderson, 2013). They were strong in the Lord in the face of tragedy.
Just like Rick and Kay, we too can be strong in the Lord if we remember these two things. 1) We get our strength from relying on His strength. 2) We can be strong in the Lord by taking full advantage of the resources He makes available to us. Jesus promised us that we would have trouble in this world (Jn. 16:33), but He also said that we could find rest in Him (Matt. 11:28-30) because He has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33)! Life is hard, but our God is omnipotent!
His Power & His Might
#1 – So, the first thing we must remember is that our strength comes from relying on God’s strength. In verse 10 of Ephesians 6, Paul begins by saying, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” The emphasis of this verse is properly placed upon the Lord. Be resilient, steadfast, and immoveable; endure until the end by all the power and might of the Lord! In the 121st Psalm we read,
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
You see, often times this Psalm is read like this: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help.” But that is completely incorrect! Oh, the words are the same, but the message is different. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills” the Psalmist declares, and then he asks a question: “Is that where my help comes from?” Absolutely not he reminds himself, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” We may look to the hills of our governments, our school systems, our medical professionals, and even our wealth, but we must be careful not to place our trust there. “To whom will you liken [the Lord], or to whom shall [He] be equal?” The prophet Isaiah says (ISAIAH 40:26-31). You see, at times – we will lose strength, we will get weak and tried, but we serve a God who has all the power we need! If we will wait upon the Lord and be strong in the power of His might then our strength will be renewed, then we shall mount up with wings like eagles, we will be able to run and walk without growing weary or fainting! Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!
Sometimes in the midst of our struggles we forget to look to the Lord for our strength. We might convince ourselves that we are smart enough, wealthy enough, or physically strong enough to handle life’s situations on our own, but here is a caveat from King Solomon, “unless the Lord builds the house; unless the Lord guards the city, you are spinning your wheels getting nowhere fast (Ps. 127:1)! Those folks who waste time looking to the hills for help are a people who do not know the power and might of the Omnipotent God Jehovah! Daniel tells us in the 11th chapter and the 32nd verse that “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Some of us are growing weaker by the day because we do not know how awesome the Lord is! Was it the hills that came to your rescue when you lost your job and couldn’t pay your bills? Was it the hills who helped you when your friends abandoned you because you didn’t want to live that old life style? Did the hills come down from a throne on high and take on the sins of the entire world? My help comes from the Lord!
Be strong in Him and in the power of His might!
#2 – In order to be strong in the Lord we must take full advantage of the resources made available to us. In Ephesians 6:11 & 13 Paul reminds us to put on the WHOLE armor of God.
God has given us this armor in order to protect us during the fight of our everlasting lives. He has equipped us to stand strong against our REAL enemy – the devil. Your neighbor is not your enemy – no matter how much they may get on your nerves. Your boss is not your enemy even though he/she might be making your job unbearable. Your parents are not your enemy – young folks – even though you may believe they are trying to ruin your life. Your spouse is not your enemy even though he/she may be a little insensitive at times or you think they don’t understand you. We have to realize that the war is not between us and them, but “against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual host of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Put on the WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD and press on toward the mark for the prize of your high calling in Christ (Phil. 3:14). Too often we are overtaken in this spiritual war because we are fighting against one another and we are fighting with carnal and inferior resources. Many of us lose the battle between the flesh and the Spirit every day because we haven’t finished getting dressed! Paul says to put on the WHOLE armor of God (Eph. 6:11)!
Let TRUTH be your defense against deception. Let the RIGHTEOUSNESS which flows from the hands and feet of Jesus stand you up before a just God without guilt or shame. Let the PEACE of God quiet the restlessness of your soul. Let FAITH be your shield against everything the devils throws at you. Let SALVATION be your redemption from ruin. Let the WORD & SPIRIT OF GOD be a compass to guide you through the storms of life. And PRAY that God will be glorified through your situation!
Commentator, C.W. Christian author of Discovering Ephesians: The Guideposts Home Bible Program, said that “when we put on the ‘whole armor’ of God we are arrayed in His magnificence, we radiate His power, and we are filled with His strength” (p.131). Although we are in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh. Our weapons are not man-made but mighty in God for pulling down those things Satan uses to restrain us and hold us in captivity; they are mighty in God for casting down arguments and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Our weapons are mighty for arresting our thoughts and making them submit to the will of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Take advantage of these resources and be strong in the Lord.
Conclusion: Call to surrender
Let me end with this, we all have moments of weakness in our lives. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Every person here today has a maximum tolerance for pain and difficulty. At some point in our lives we will be unable to help ourselves and at that point we can either deny our limitations and struggle hoping against hope or we can call on the Lord and be saved. God said to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, because in your weakness My strength is perfected” (2 Cor. 12:9). Jesus told His disciple in John 15:5, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him is fruitful; for without Me you can do nothing.” Without God’s strength we are weak, without God’s resources we are defenseless and we are an open target for the tragedies of life. “But those people who know their God shall be strong, they shall carry out great exploits.”
Understand this, God wants nothing but the best for you, but your sin has been a weight around your life and it keeps dragging you down. This is how we know that God loves us, Romans 5:6-10 tells us that,
“6 when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Without Jesus we are God’s enemies. No matter how much good we do, we are ungodly sinners who cannot save ourselves because we are too weak! Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!
- Maybe today you have been unsuccessfully trying to carry the burdens of your own life. As much as you’ve tried to trust in your own strength and abilities; your income, you can finally feel the weight of your problems pressing down on your shoulders and your knees are starting to buckle. Maybe today you realize that your sin has weakened you, and as you lie face down, crushed by the shame and guilt of your sin you hear Jesus telling you, “My grace is sufficient for you. When you are weak I am strong.” Maybe you hear the Lord saying come to me and I will give you rest. Take my burden, it is light and easy.” If that’s you today come to Jesus.
- Maybe today you have forsaken the Lord and instead of looking to Him for strength, instead of relying on His resources for help you have looked to the hills and other things He’s made. If that’s you come to Jesus and repent and let the Lord lift you up.