"Be Strong in the Lord..."
Shep Johnson
Sunday, March 12, 2017

This week I was driving down the bypass about 6:30 in the evening near the Wal-Mart distribution center when I happened to notice that the parking lots of the two gyms in that area were overflowing.  Cars and trucks were parked everywhere.  People were inside lifting weights and running on treadmills.  Lots of folks were getting in shape that afternoon.

  Some were trying to lose weight.  Others were working to put on muscle.  They were doing exercises to strengthen their hearts, ward off illness, extend their life expectancy, and improve their appearance.  Getting in shape has become a high priority for many Americans.

  In fact, it seems like people today are more concerned about their physical health than their spiritual health.  Are you more interested in your physical heart than your spiritual heart?  The truth is that we should be concerned about our lives as a whole.  Each of us needs to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual health.

  Did you know that there is a spiritual dimension to every challenge and battle in life?  It’s true.  David defeated a physical powerhouse in Goliath because David was physically, mentally, and spiritually strong.  David was not alone that day.  God stood at David’s side as he faced Goliath.  In the end David won a great victory because he was strong in the Lord. 

  The Apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus, “ ... Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB95).

  One of the ways we can grow stronger spiritually is by trusting in God as we go through the trials of life.  James 1:2-4 (NASB95) says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance [i.e. spiritual strength to persevere]. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

  Paul told the church at Ephesus that he prayed regularly for them.  In Ephesians 3:14-21 (NASB95) he wrote, “ ... I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

  Are you working out in a spiritual sense?  Are you facing trials and trusting Christ to see you through those trials and strengthen you in the inner man? 

  John MacArthur writes in his commentary on the book of Matthew, “That is God’s plan and purpose – to use Satan’s temptations as a means of testing and strengthening our faith in Him and of our growing stronger in righteousness.  God allows testings in our lives in order that our spiritual ‘muscles’ may be exercised and strengthened.  Whether the testing is by God’s initiative or is sent by Satan, God will always use it to produce good in us when we meet the test in His power.”

  The bottom line is simple enough: faith grows as it is exercised.  We shouldn’t pray for God to remove the trials and temptations from our lives; we should pray that He would help us become victorious over them.  Whatever you must face this week, face it in faith knowing that those who stand with God will ultimately prevail.

Bro. Shep