Many times in our lives, we undergo periods of extreme pressure and stress. Circumstances occur that seem completely out of our control. We can become frustrated and feel that the whole world is coming down on us. In these situations, feeling helpless, we often ask ourselves, "Why are these things happening to me?" Understanding that all things happen for a reason, we also ask, "How are we going to get through this?"
In desperation, we cry out to God, "Lord, give me strength!" When we do this, what kind of strength are we asking for: physical, mental, or moral and spiritual?
Webster's New Encyclopedia of Dictionaries defines strength as "the quality of being strong; capacity for exertion; ability to endure; power or vigor; physical, mental, or moral force." Most of us have been put to the test in an area of physical stress. Some of us must force our bodies just to get up in the morning to begin the day and get ready for work. Our bodies do not always want to cooperate, but we must have strength and make ourselves climb out of bed.
Just as a wrestler strains against an opponent, we must wrestle with our physical bodies and with our environment. It can be any number of things. During the winter, snow lies on the ground, and we have to get out the shovel and wrestle the snow aside. Such work takes the strength of our muscles, exerting enough force to overcome the snow's weight. Age or weakness may limit our ability to move, yet to get the car out of the driveway, that snow must be moved out of the way.
The Bible tells us to love God with every fiber, muscle, bone, and sinew—our entire being.
Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment." (Mark 12:29-30)
Ecclesiastes 9:10 commands us to do everything with our might, all of our vigor and strength. Where does this strength come from? From food or exercise? No! Ultimately, God gives us our strength. Everything we are comes from Him, giving us the ability to work and play. Notice Psalm 68:35: "The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!"
God provides the power to gain strength through training, through discipline. Just as bodybuilders train with weights, doing what is called "resistance training," so do we, as we resist the selfish pulls of our bodies. In resisting, we become stronger.
We also need mental strength. The secular society we live in has its own agenda, one that promises freedom, but which is really license in rebellion against God. At the same time, powerful forces also want to restrict the ideas and activities of Christians and traditionalists. Political and cultural groups try to convert others to their way of thinking and acting, even going so far as vigorously pursuing and pressuring them. Due to such pressure, many have weakened and been caught off-guard, unable to provide sound reasons for following what is right.
However, God wants us to be strong, to resist and guard our minds. The apostle Peter writes, "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." We need to be strong because behind these forces and groups is Satan, the god of this secular world. He uses them to wear down all of mankind.
But God gives us strength and power, as promised in II Timothy 1:7: "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." God supports us by His Spirit. We must be of a willing mind to accept God's way of life, making the changes in our thinking that will give us strength to resist those who would try to bring us down. Mental strength comes through exercising our mind with the Word of God. The more of God's Word we read, absorb, and practice, the stronger our minds become.
We need moral strength too. Every day we are bombarded with immorality. A co-worker may make a statement about gross immorality. A television show we watch may make fun of infidelity. Our boss may lie to superiors regarding an important project. We may hear of an abusive spouse or parent. The news may have a story about a politician accepting bribes for personal gain. These sins are all caused by a lack of moral and spiritual strength.
We are stricken by the lack of moral and spiritual strength in this society. In Ephesians 6:12, the apostle Paul informs us where it comes from: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places." This evil influence is all around us. The overwhelming effects of this immoral and debased society have touched each of us.
Righteous character is rare these days, yet we are admonished to be strong. How? We must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We cannot fight against this prevailing tide in the culture alone. We must stand against it in faith, trusting in what God supplies.
We will not be able to endure if we try to face it with our own strength. We must rely on God as our source of strength, as David did: "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Psalm 18:2). He writes in Psalm 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer."
We are all striving toward the same goal. We should all be doing our utmost to have the same spiritual mind, as Paul admonishes us in Romans 15:5-6: "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We are to become strong and overcome in these areas. Physically, to use our strength and capacity to worship God in all we do, going all-out. Mentally, to be sober-minded and resistant to the constant pressure on our thinking to distract us from the mind of Christ. Morally and spiritually, to resist the evils around us and use the spiritual strength God supplies against this society's ways and the wicked powers in high places.
We must move forward in strength one day at a time. Every day, we need to be aware of the forces arrayed against us and of our need for God's strength to carry us to victory. It is an excellent practice to begin each day in prayer, asking, "Lord, give me strength."
- Gary Montgomery
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