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The Armor of God. Divine Strength


By Ted Schroder

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Eph.6:10) Why do we need divine strength?

It was 104 years ago, in a hot September 1900, when a hurricane flattened Galveston, and washed 6,000 souls from this world. The study of weather was an inexact science in those days. In a Wall Street Journal review of a book on this tragedy: "Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson, Hugh Willoughby writes that Cuban meteorologists tried to warn the heedless Americans as the storm blew along their island's northern coast They were ignored. There were no satellites, airplanes or radio weather reports from ships to inform people as to its progress. The Weather Bureau in Washington thought it might curve north and then east back into the Atlantic. There was no evacuation warning. As the storm's center hit land south of Galveston, waves destroyed the first line of frame houses along the Gulf. Surf, armed with debris, smashed houses farther inland to form a glacier of wreckage that ground everything in its path to pieces as the waves pushed it across town.

Isaac Cline was the chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau's Galveston office. Willoughby writes, "Cline is a tragic hero in our technological time, undone by miscalculation, overconfidence and the chaos of uncontrollable events. In the most important forecast of his career, Isaac Cline seems simply to have misjudged. Today we forecast hurricanes far more accurately than anyone could have dreamed in 1900. We plan carefully to safeguard property and protect lives. We hope that we have thought of all the possibilities, but we know that the atmosphere, as unutterably beautiful as it can be, is full of surprises." (Sept.4 1999)

What is written about Cline and the weather can be repeated about ourselves and life. We can be undone by miscalculation, overconfidence and the chaos of uncontrollable events. We can misjudge our ability to be strong in the face of life's surprises.

If we feel that we are strong enough to handle the challenges of life we must ask ourselves why is it that we find ourselves attacked with feelings of utter hopelessness and almost depair? To what is it due? It is all due to our weakness, because we are insufficient and fallible. We know so little about what it is to stand when the evil day comes, and to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, because we have never admitted our own need. That was the chief trouble with the Pharisees. They thought they were right with God; they did not need a physician; they thought there was nothing wrong with them. We do not go to the doctor as long as we feel that all is well; we have got to realize that we are sick. But that means self-examination. People die because they put off going to the doctor until it is too late. Their condition is too far advanced for the treatment to be effective. It is only through honestly admitting our inherent weaknesses that we will seek the divine strength we need.

Human will-power alone will not be enough to enable us to stand in the evil day. A desire to live a good life is not enough. Principles of morality and ethics are not enough. All our best is totally inadequate when the hurricane of life hits us unexpectedly. We need divine strength because we face a powerful foe. We cannot face the forces of evil in our own strength alone. We need divine help.

We need God's strength because all of us face evil days in our lives when crisis and tragedy occur. We need to be strong in the Lord because we want to avoid personal failure in our faith and we become miserable and unhappy because of personal weakness. We want to find strength in the Lord and in his mighty power because we want to triumph over evil and be more than conquerors in the battles and challenges that life brings. But all too often we are spiritually weak, and when the days of evil come into our lives, we are simply unprepared for them, and find ourselves overwhelmed. What is the divine strength?

What is meant by the mighty power of God? Think of strong men or women. People are mighty because of their inherent strength and power. Power is the manifestation of might. The might is the potential, that which is inherent, which manifests itself when it is needed. It means this great reserve of strength and power actually in operation, doing something.

When we read the Scriptures we are reminding ourselves of the mighty power of God seen in Jesus: his life, his temptations, his miracles, his power through suffering and death, the power of his resurrection, the mighty power of His Spirit, and the promise of his return in power and might. A prayer of St. Paul's gives you an indication of his belief in the power God makes available to help us. "I pray that you may know ¼ his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1:19-21)

The power of the resurrection and the ascension is something we can draw on in our own lives if we are believing in Christ. To be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might is to know that this power is available to us who believe, so that when the day of crisis comes we may be able to draw on it. How does God strengthen us?

By reminding us that God is at work in the world. He is engaged in a great plan of salvation. We must be aware that we are not fighting our battles alone. We are individuals in a great army of believers. We do not decide the strategy or the tactics of the campaign. All that is in other hands. We are in it, we have been recruited by the Lord; but it is not our battle. This is not a private war. This is not a little battle which we are waging on our own. We do not have a personal quarrel with the forces of evil: "the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

We are part of the Lord's army. There is a battle between good and evil in the universe. If we fight under the Lord of hosts we can benefit from the strength of our commander-in-chief. We may feel overwhelmed by the events of life and feel completely discouraged but we can draw strength from the experience of those who have gone before us.

When a vast army came against King Jehoshaphat, he resolved to inquire of the Lord. He proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people came together to seek help from the Lord. The prayer of the King is a model for us: "O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you... If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before the temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us....For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." (2 Chronicles 20:6-12)

Can you imagine the scene, for we are told that all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord? Jahaziel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said to King Jehoshaphat and his army as they faced battle, "This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's¼ You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you." (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)

When things get bad in our lives, we need to remember that the battle is not ours, but God's. We are called to let the Lord fight the battle for us, in his mighty power, rather than merely in our own strength. We can be assured that this campaign cannot fail, because God's honor is involved in it.

It is the Lord who is leading us in our struggle with evil. The ultimate battle is the battle between God and the devil, between heaven and hell, between light and darkness. We are given the privilege of being in it, but Christ cannot be defeated. We are on the winning side. Knowledge of God's victory gives us strength.

In the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was wrestling with having to face suffering and death we read that "an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." (Luke 22:43) When we seek God's help he will send his angels to strengthen us. If Jesus needed strengthening in his time of trial, how much more do we need divine strength when we face suffering and death.

When St. Paul was attacked by Alexander the metal-smith he found himself deserted, no one came to his support. "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength... And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:17,18)

Spiritual strength comes from following the example and teaching of great Christian men and women, and being willing to adopt the habits of life that will make us strong. In the fifth set of a grand slam match the commentator said, "The fifth set is not about tennis, it is about mind and heart." The ability to endure in life depends on the holy habits of the mind and heart. That means learning the power of prayer, and using the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. No athlete can expect to win in their sport by just turning up for their match. In order to compete they have to put in a lot of training, a great deal of practice and exercise. We cannot wait for the crisis in our lives before we turn our attention to spiritual training. Every day we should be engaging in the spiritual exercise of private worship: prayer and bible reading, to be prepared to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

The testimony of the saints throughout the centuries is that the Lord Jesus Christ reveals his presence to help us in moments of extreme agony and crisis. Many have testified to this immediately before their death - the greatest crisis of all. Suddenly the Lord has appeared to them, and the people standing by their bedside have seen a smile on their faces. This is something you will find frequently happening in the last moments of the children of God. The Lord has appeared to them, and they are enabled to go through death triumphantly and gloriously and happily. This is one of the ways in which we are enabled to be "strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."

Moses, before his death, gave this blessing to Asher: "as your days, so shall your strength be." (Deuteronomy 33:25) We pray that we might enjoy that blessing in our own lives: that as long as we live, we will be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Material from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier, Baker Books, 1998


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