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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Be Strong in the Lord

Be Strong in the Lord


Scripture tells us to “Fight the good fight of the faith.”  (1Timothy 6:12)  To “Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation.”  (Matthew 26:41a)  To “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)  And to “Refute every argument and reason and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5a)  In other words we are called to be an “all the way” Christian, not a “half-way” Christian.


The Bible tells us that we are in a heavy duty spiritual battle and we will have to be aggressive in the fight for the faith if we want to stay out of the valley of despair.  The Lord will give us the victory over the devil, but we have a part to play.  We will need to take action and get involved.  No sitting on the sidelines.  God will answer our prayers but our part is to actively work and watch and believe and pray.


We read in the Bible that this battle we are fighting isn’t against other people but against spiritual powers.  Ephesians 6:12 says: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (people) but against principalities and against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”  And  it is a violent battle, this battle between good and evil.  Matthew 11:12 reads: “From the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured an aggressive assault and violent men seize it by force.”


Because we are in an aggressive spiritual battle we will need to stay alert and be ready for action.  The minute we feel angry or hurt or whenever we are tempted to do wrong we need to stop and quickly call upon our Father in heaven for help.  We are not to react to situations by the way we feel, but by what God’s Word says.  Scripture says: “…Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5b)     


A young pastor in our church told us about the first time she preached a sermon to the congregation.  Afterwards she was feeling good about the experience and believing that the message had blessed the people.  But these warm feelings didn’t last for long.


 Soon after the service was over a church member came to her and told her that she had scratched her hip while she was preaching and that it didn’t look good and many in the congregation were laughing and making fun of her for doing that. The critical person pretended to go through exaggerated motions of scratching his hip to show her how bad it had looked. And that one little criticism took away all of her enthusiasm and devastated this young woman. 


She had been so excited about her ministry for Christ but now she wanted to run away and hide.  For a day or so she let the critical remark bother her.  She replayed it over and over again in her mind.  Maybe this man thought he was better than her?  Maybe she didn’t like this person because he had picked on her.  Maybe everyone in the congregation didn’t like her?  Maybe she shouldn’t be a pastor after all!  This new pastor sat around passively for awhile worrying about what people were thinking of her and feeling defeated and angry.  And the devil had her just where he wanted her.  The longer she thought about this remark the worse she felt.  And after a few days the problem seemed to have grown bigger and she had lost her joy and peace!. 


We need to be aggressive when we are tempted and we need to pray immediately before there is time for disappointment to grow into despair and temptation to grow into sin.  Our young minister forgot that and spent miserable days feeling defeated before she brought her anger to God.


 Scripture says that when we are angry at someone or something that we should not let the sun go down on our anger.  (Ephesians 4:31-32)  I think that means that we should immediately bring the situation that makes us angry to God and not let a day go by trying to deal with it by ourselves.  Scripture says: “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16)  God is a very present help in time of trouble. 


The Bible instructs us to give all of our problems to God and then not worry about them. Do we do that?  Scripture says: “Be anxious in nothing but in everything make your requests known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6) We are promised peace in this verse but how many of us miss out on that peace because we miss out on bringing all of our worries to God.


Finally several days later our young pastor remembered to pray!  And finally she gave her anger and confusion and her reputation over to God.  It seemed as she prayed that the Lord reminded her of a Scripture verse: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)  She prayed for this man and for the people who he said had laughed at her and she asked the Lord to love them through her.  She took her mind off of her problem and set the focus of her heart and mind onto God. And only then did her joy and peace in the Lord return! Scripture instructs us to be strong in the Lord and take control of our thought life (by prayer and reading the Word) and to think about positive things.  (Philippians 4:8)


We will have disappointments and set backs in this life.  That is just the way it is in a sinful world.  Scripture says: “People are born to trouble as the sparks of a fire fly upward.” (Job 5:7)  We know that when we are outside standing around a bonfire we can count on the sparks from the fire rising upwards.  So let’s not be surprised when troubles come. 


 Some of us put too much confidence in other people when we know that all humans make mistakes and may disappoint us.  The only One who will never let us down is Jesus.  He is our Rock. (Psalm 18:2)  So let’s hold onto our Rock.  Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)  We can be strong in Him.  And we can also remember that the Lord loves us all the way so let’s love Him back all the way. 


We don’t have to be a strong and joyful all by ourselves.  God through his Spirit gives us gifts (of joy and faith and hope and gentleness, etc)   And we also have many precious promises in Scripture to hold onto.  One of my favorite Scripture promises is: “Now to Him (Jesus) who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. To Him (Jesus) be glory in his followers (us) by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”  (Ephesians 3:10-21)   When we meditate on these promises in Scripture and not on our disappointments we can’t help but be strong in the Lord.   












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