The Urgent Matter of Being Strong

September 6, 2015 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: How Then Shall We Live?

Topic: Spiritual Warfare Passage: Ephesians 6:10–13

This passages teaches us that beneath all the surface appearances of your life, the devil is scheming against you. Whether you know it or not, you are in a personal combat with unseen spiritual beings. Paul calls them “rulers and authorities, powers of darkness, and spiritual forces of evil”. This conflict is not something you can look out your window and watch. It is mostly felt in your heart and mind and spirit. But it is as real as any battle that took place in World War II or in the Vietnam War.

Everything that God wants for your life, the devil seeks to ruin. God wants peace between husbands and wives, Satan works to sow discord and strife. God wants you to be filled with the Spirit, Satan works to make you unaware of the Holy Spirit. God want you to have joy, Satan works to oppress you. God wants you always giving thanks, Satan works to make you discontent. God wants you to be holy and happy, Satan wants you to sin and be miserable.

Every blessing that you have in Christ, (forgiveness of sins, the riches of God's grace, a glorious inheritance) Satan will try to minimize or make you think it is nothing to get excited about. Everything that you are in Christ, (justified, accepted, beloved, righteous, dead to sin,) Satan will say you are a fool for believing it. Everything God wants you to do (to love, forgive, to live in unity and purity), Satan will seek to pull you away from.

He works to lead you into sin, to discourage you from serving the Lord, to pull you away from the body of Christ, to burden your mind with things you don't need to carry, to make you feel worthless, hopeless and alone. He is working to depress you, spiritually. He is working to make your faith fail!

You cannot really even begin to understand life, if you don't know this reality. Your problems are not purely psychological, or circumstantial; they are not purely issues with other people. Lurking behind the all these things is your adversary, the devil.

It is not difficult to prove the truth of this passage to those who have lived in the Spirit. Your own experience confirms this unseen battle. Sooner or later we find out that life is a struggle. Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep among wolves”, “if the world hates me they will hate you”, “in the world you will have tribulation”. If you want to obey God and follow Jesus, you are in for a struggle. It is the best and most blessed life there is - but it is a fight. People fall, people get wiped out, defeated. This is serious stuff!

One of my favorite Christmas tunes is Have yourself a merry little Christmas. But I cringe at the line that says, “Let your heart be light, from now on, our troubles will be out of sight”. That just does not happen. There is always some threat to your health or prosperity, or happiness. There is always some threat is to your soul.

We sing that song that says, “Kneeling on this battleground, seeing just how much you've done, knowing every victory was your power in us. Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say.... Never once did we ever walk alone”. The song focuses on God's faithfulness, yet it also portrays the reality that we have scars and struggles, that life is a battleground. The first time I heard that song, tears welled up and ran down my cheeks because, it brought to mind so powerfully memories of my own spiritual battles, with “scars and struggles on the way”.

Paul tells us in this passage that we all must be prepared for “the day of evil”, or “the evil day”. The purpose for you to be strong in the Lord, and to put on the whole armor of God, is to make you able to stand in the day of evil. In one sense all days are evil. But there are specific days of intense trial, conflict, temptation; days in your life when the battle is especially fierce, when you are under great pressure, or confronted with overpowering disappointment. You must be prepared to stand in THAT day! You must be prepared to stand in the worst of times. (Some believe the phrase “evil day” is a reference to the intense Satanic warfare against the saints during the end times. But whether it is the evil of today, or some season of intense struggle ahead, or the evil of the end times, you must be ready to stand.)

Not every day is a day of great spiritual struggle. There are many days that we are blessed with peace and happiness both in circumstances and in our soul. As James said , “Is anyone cheerful let him sing praises”. But you need to be ready for those days of conflict. YOU MUST PERPARE FOR THE DAY OF EVIL NOW – not after it comes upon you! We rejoice in good times, but we are ready for the day of evil.

There may be some here who are thinking, what is he talking about, my life is going along pretty well. But this is a warning - there will come seasons in your life when you are under attack from hell (and I don't that is putting it too strongly!) The devil is a slanderer, an accuser, a schemer. He is wicked and he is clever and he hates you.

It is BECAUSE of the day of evil that Paul say, “FINALLY, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might”. Because of the fierceness of the attacks that are against you, or will be against you, you must be strong! This is not the only place is says this! 1 Timothy 2:1 Paul said to Timothy, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus!”. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Paul said to the Christians at Corinth, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, BE STRONG.” Joshua 1:9 God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.” Haggai 2:4 “But now be strong, Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD. 'Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the LORD, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the LORD Almighty”.

It is clear from Ephesians 6:10 and from all these verses, that YOU take the initiative to be strong in the Lord! This is something you do. This point is so important that if you miss this nothing else here really matters! If you just take life as it comes and follow your feelings and tendencies as they come you will go down in defeat! The Pulpit Bible Commentary said, “To be strong is our duty, to be weak is our sin”.

When we feel weak and vulnerable or crushed, most of us don't like to be told to snap out of it. But this is kind of what the Bible says to us. We might think it is unrealistic or even unkind to just tell people to be strong in the Lord. But Paul clearly believed there is SOME WAY YOU COULD DO THIS! You CAN be strong “IN the Lord”. And he clearly believed this is something believers need to be told to do! It is like the most important thing he wants them to remember at the end of this fantastic book!

You are certainly in a battle with the Devil and demons but nothing is more certain in your battle with the Devil and Demons, than that you CAN be strong. You CAN face troubles and stress and concerns and evil and remain composed and stand strong! You do not have to be living in fear and weakness in these circumstances. From prison, Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. That was not was not just a motto to him. Not just positive thinking. He REALLY believed there was strength in Christ so that he could handle anything that came along!

In our culture we hear things like “Be Strong. Live strong. Only the strong survive. You gotta be strong.” What is TOTALLY UNIQUE is the command to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might. This is a strength completely outside yourself.

You are not strong without the strength of his might. There are things that happen in life that are completely beyond you. There are times when there is nothing you can do or say to fix what is happening. The point of this passage is that you are in a battle that is beyond your strength, wrestling with rulers of darkness, forces of evil. You can either be completely overwhelmed by life and the schemes of the devil. Or you learn to be strong IN the Lord.

Therefore being strong, has nothing to do with how big the problem is, or how weak you feel, or how inadequate you feel. It has everything to do with a simple act of faith in your soul to turn to God, and look to his strength. THIS IS HOW YOU BE STRONG IN THE LORD! Psalm 25:1 “To you O Lord I lift up my soul!” You become strong by something you do in your heart. You choose to be strong by lifting up the eyes of your heart off your circumstances and onto the Lord and his strength. In your battle, whatever it is, you give the Lord all the attention of your heart. I have had problems that I could not afford to even think one moment about them outside of the Lord's strength and promise. Or I would go down to the pit of despair!

You are strong in the Lord by making confessions like this: Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is the strength of my life”. (A confession is something you say with your mouth and believe in your heart!) Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield”. Nahum 1:7 The Lord is a stronghold in the day of trouble. You place yourself by faith, into his Powerful strength. You take refuge in the Lord. Again.. This is a spiritual act. It is something you do in your heart and spirit. You choose to NOT see yourself by yourself, you chose to see yourself within God! You MAKE the Lord your strength and your fortress. Psalm 73:28 “I have made the Lord God my refuge”.

Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” This is what you do in that day of evil - you RUN to the Lord! You don't mull over your trials or consider your temptations, you get into presence of God as fast as your heart can get you there!

Being strong in the Lord comes from unshakeable confidence in God's strength. It comes from going to God with your situation and placing absolute trust in him. It is abandoning your self, your future, your problem, to his power.

It is believing that the battle is NOT yours but God's. It is living in the faith that you are surrounded by the Lord, protected by his power. You say, “I am strong because my God is strong and he is mine”. Psalm 91: 3 “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my strength, my God in whom I trust.” When you really trust in the Lord, then you have that kind of strength and confidence.

Something that will really help you is to strengthen your faith in the Almighty power of God. The love of God means everything to me. But I also must know that my God is mighty, that he is a warrior, that he is a God of awesome power. It says “be strong in the strength of his might” or the power of his might”.

The power of his might is the power that created the heavens and the earth. The power of his might is the power that parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites to pass through. The power of his might is the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the power of his might that delivered Daniel from the Lions den. You are to be strong in THAT STRENGTH. It will really help you to know the scriptures, the stories, that tell of his might.

Elizabeth Elliott said, In one of the China Inland Mission homes in China there was a motto on the wall that said, “The sun stood still, the iron did swim. This is our God forever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death”.

William Grunall, “It is the Christians duty, not only to believe that God is almighty, but also to strongly believe that this almighty power is theirs, that it is engaged for their defense and help”. IE believe that the power of the Almighty is there for YOU, to always bear you up, to come to your aid in every trial, and temptation

You don't have to go somewhere to get this strength. You don't have to fast for weeks to get it. You don't have to get some special training or some special information. You don't need to know some secret spiritual formula! You become strong by placing your faith in the reality that God is strong and God is with you, NOMATTER what you are facing! Isaiah 30:15 says, “In quietness and trust is your strength”. In “rest”... In the physical realm you are strong by fighting harder, or by out muscling another person. In the spiritual realm you are strong by resting! By trusting!

There is no strength in being upset. There is no strength in inner turmoil. Yes, we all feel upset at times but we turn from that to trusting in the Lord. There is strength is inner quietness and trust!!

Being strong in the Lord does not mean that YOU always FEEL strong, or that you feel like, you could conquer the world today! Sometimes we think thoughts like this: “I feel really crummy today – I guess I can't be strong in the Lord today!, I guess all that stuff about power and strength in Jesus doesn't work!” No! You are trying to feel YOUR strength. That's not the way it works. It is OK to feel your weakness. In fact Paul said this works best when you do feel weak. “I have gotten to the point where I accept my feelings of weakness, when I am insulted, or in hardship, or persecuted, or in difficulty. Because when I am weak then Christ's power is perfected in me.”

If someone or something disappoints you, you are going to feel disappointed. If some insults you, you are going to feel offended. If someone seriously violates you, you are going to feel anger. The question is, are you going to bow down to your feelings or be strong in the Lord through those feelings. You may feel crushed, you may feel weak and vulnerable, but God is not overwhelmed, not crushed, not weak and he is with you! So you chose to BE STRONG in the power of HIS might. (Not yours!)

David said to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel!”. It is all about WHOSE strength you are living in!! There was no question that Goliath was stronger than David. But the question was not how strong David was but whose strength he was living in. In whose strength did he place his confidence. You cannot be strong as long as you are focusing on whether you feel strong or not. FEELING strong is overrated. It is all about WHO your confidence is in.

David said, “My strength and my heart may fail me but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”. IE It doesn't really matter that my strength fails or that my heart and emotions falter, because I don't trust in those things anyway! When you feel flat, and empty, and useless, and powerless, you can say, “So what!” God is the power of my life and my heart!

You can choose to wallow in your feelings of weakness, of being overwhelmed, OR choose to go forward trusting in the Lord's strength. God told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. IE Go and BE courageous and you will find that I am with you! Be strong by faith and the Lord will back you up! Be strong, counting on, venturing on, banking on HIS strength.

**Do you get the seriousness of this message? (Not mine, but God's message) God's message to you is this: You need to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil! The purpose of these first three verses is to motivate you to be battle ready! Put on the WHOLE ARMOR SO THAT....! Paul saw how the Roman soldiers were protected from head to foot, and he said, Christians, I want you to be like this. I want you to think like this, to be prepared like this.

You need the whole armor of God. So that you can take your stand. As we said at the start: Life is war. People fall, people get wiped out, defeated. There is spiritual depression, apathy, discouragement, sin, spiritual shipwreck. You must have a passion to be fully equipped! We are not going to get into the pieces of armor today. This portion of the passage is to move you to put on the WHOLE armor. Take up EVERY protective truth, every spiritual weapon you have and STAND.

I went to a seminar on preaching and the only thing I remember from it was put in the form of a question: How long does it take to prepare a life changing message? And the answer is, “all the time you have and then some”. I will say that on a Saturday afternoon after I have been working on a message for hours.... Let me ask you this question: How much should you do to prepare yourself to stand firm against your adversary the devil? The answer is all you can, and then some.

*The goal is to stand! Vs 11 Be strong in the Lord and put on the whole armor of God, why?...“SO THAT you can TAKE YOUR STAND against the devil's schemes”. So that when the day of evil comes, “YOU MAY BE ABLE TO STAND YOUR GROUND”, and “after you have done everything, TO STAND”. Don't fall, don't quit, stand!

The key strategy of Satan is to disorient and destabilize you. Your goal is to stand! To not cave in to fear, and oppression, or despair, to not cave in to sin and temptation, and old habits, to not succumb to the seductive pull of the world, but to stand! The goal is to NOT cave into condemnation, and false guilt. The goal is to NOT cave into ANYTHING SATAN THROWS AT YOU, but to stand firm in the Lord.

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