Be Strong In The Lord

By William Gurnall

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might"
(Ephesians 6:10)

    What is "the power of His might"? Simply put, the phrase means His mighty power. Sometimes the Lord is described as "strong and mighty," sometimes as "almighty." What matters is that we grasp the significance of God’s infinite, almighty power.

    How does the believer tap into his source of power? To be strong in the power of the Lord’s might requires two acts of faith. First, you must have a settled, firm persuasion that the Lord is almighty in power. This is a foundational truth. Second, you must not only believe that God is almighty, but also that this almighty power of God is engaged for your defense. God expects you to meet every trial, every temptation, leaning on His arm.

    As a father walking over a rough path offers his hand to his child, so God reaches forth His power for His saints’ faith to cling to. God did this for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faith He tested above most of His saints before or since.

    How then did God make Himself known to them? By displaying this attribute of His power (Ex. 6:3). It was all they had to keep their footing sure. They lived comfortably and died triumphantly, bequeathing the promise to their children. They never doubted, because God Almighty had promised.

Reasons for Trusting God’s Power

    1. His Past Record...Throughout history God has proven the sufficiency of His power, yet it is not easy to believe that God is almighty. Moses himself was a star of the first magnitude for grace, yet see how his faith blinks and twinkles until he overcomes his doubts. He said to God, "The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and Thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them?" (Num. 11:21-22).

    This holy man lost sight for a time of the almighty power of God, and began questioning how the Lord could keep His word. He might as well have said what he was obviously thinking: "O God, have You not overestimated Your power this time? What You have promised cannot be done!" For so God interprets his reasoning: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?" (v. 23).

    It was the same with Mary in the New Testament: "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:32). To this her sister Martha added, "Lord, by this time he stinketh" (v. 39). Both were godly women, yet they had serious doubts about the extent of Christ’s power. One limited Him to place "If Thou hadst been here…." As if Christ could not have saved Lazarus’ life absent as well as present! The other limited Him as to time "By this time he stinketh…." As if Christ has brought His remedy too late and the grave would not release its prisoner at His command. Despite their unbelief, God proved Himself faithful.

    2. His Eternal Desire...It has ever been and always will be the Father’s will that we trust only Him. God demands to be called the Almighty; He insists we place our confidence in Him. That child is wise who does as his father bids. Man may be called wise, merciful, mighty; but only God is all-wise, all-merciful, almighty. When we leave out this prefix all, we nickname God and call Him by a creature’s name, which He will not answer to....

    Our faith is so important to God that He will sometimes chastise His dearest children when they stagger in this area. He expects us to trust Him even when we come off poorly by our own standards. We are not to argue or reason; we are to submit and cling to the promise of His power poured forth for us.

    Zacharias merely asked the angel, "Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years" (Luke 1:18). And for daring to question the vastness of God’s power, he was struck dumb on the spot. God longs for His children to believe His word, and not to dispute His power. The distinguishing mark of Abraham’s faith was that he was "…fully persuaded that what [God] had promised, He was able also to perform" (Rom. 4:21).

    To encourage our trust, the Lord often intervenes in mighty ways on behalf of His people. Sometimes He allows an opposing force to arise, so that at precisely the right moment He can raise up a more magnificent pillar of remembrance to Himself. This pillar will stand in the very ruins of that which contested His power. Thus, when He intervenes all must say, "Almighty power was here!"

    Such was the case with Lazarus. Christ stayed away until the man was dead in order to give a greater demonstration of His power. God sometimes used the same method in the Old Testament. Remember the exodus. If God had brought Israel out of Egypt while Joseph was in favor at court, they probably would have had an easy departure. Instead, God reserved His deliverance for the reign of that proud Pharaoh who cruelly oppressed them that His children might know beyond doubt who had delivered them.

    God’s timely intervention is a confirmation that you can believe His almighty power is yours, engaged for your defense and help in all trials and temptations. God miraculously brought Israel out of Egypt; did He then set them down on the other side of the Red Sea to find their way to Canaan using their own skill and strength? No, "The Lord thy God bare [them] as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that [they] went" (Deut. 1:31).

    ...When the saint is upon his march and the whole country rises up against him, how will he get safely past all his enemies’ borders? God Himself will enfold him in the arms of everlasting strength. We "are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Pet. 1:5). The power of God is that shoulder on which Christ carries you, His lost sheep, home – rejoicing as He goes (Luke 15:5). The everlasting arms of His strength are eagles’ wings, upon which you are both tenderly and securely conveyed to glory (Ex. 19:4).

The Fivefold Bond Securing God’s Power

    1. His Near Kinship to the Saints...The relationship God has with His saints assures His power on their behalf. You are His own dear child, and most parents take care of their own. Even the silly hen scurries to gather her brood under her wing when trouble appears. How much more will God, who is the father of such instincts in His creatures, stir up His whole strength to defend you?

    A mother sitting in her house hears a sudden cry outside and, knowing the voice, says at once, "That is my child!" She drops everything and runs to him. God responds as a mother’s heart to the cries of His children.

    2. His Dear Love for the Saints...God’s love for His saints sets His power in motion. He who has God’s heart does not lack for His arm. Love rallies all other affections and sets the powers of the whole man into action. Thus in God, love sets His other attributes to work; all are ready to bring about what God says He likes. God considers all His creatures, but the believing soul is an object of His choicest love – even the love with which He loves His Son (John 17:26).

    When a soul believes, then God’s eternal purpose and counsel concerning him – whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world – is brought to term. Can you imagine the love God has for a child He has carried so long in the womb of His eternal purpose? If God delighted in His plan before He spoke the world into being, how much greater is His delight to witness the full fruition of His labor – a believing soul. Having performed His own will thus far, God will surely raise all the power He has in that believer’s behalf, rather than be robbed of His glory within a few steps of home.

    God showed us how much a soul is worth by the purchase price He paid. It cost Him dearly, and that which is so hard won will not be easily given up. He spent His Son’s blood to purchase you, and He will spend His own power to keep you.

    As an earthly parent you rejoice to see your own good qualities reproduced in your children. God, the perfect parent, longs to see His attributes reflected in His saints. It is this image of God reflected in you that enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons. When God defends you, He also defends Himself. Now knowing that the quarrel is God’s, surely He will not have you go forth to war at your own expense!

    3. His Everlasting Covenant...God’s covenant engages His almighty power. He puts His own hand and seal to His promise, and like the mountains surrounding Jerusalem it stands, never to be removed. As His name is so is His nature – a God who keeps covenant for ever. He does not parcel Himself out, a few crumbs to one, a crust to another – as one feeds the sparrows. He allows you to claim as yours whatever He has. He makes His covenant with every believer. Were some left to fight it out by the strength of their own abilities, then the strong would be more likely to stand and the weak to fall in battle. But, castled in the covenant, all are safe together – because all rest in the power of His might.

    4. His Self-Imposed Obligation...Since God demands our trust, He is obligated to prove Himself trustworthy. All His promises are yea and amen; He has therefore bound Himself to use His power in our defense.

    Where can anyone flee in any need, or when in danger of sin, Satan, or his instruments, except to God? "What time I am afraid," David said, "I will trust in Thee" (Psa. 56:3). When you take sanctuary in God, you can rest assured He will not betray you to the enemy. Your willing dependence upon Him awakens His almighty power for your defense as surely as a newborn’s cry awakens its mother, regardless of the hour. He has sworn the greatest oath that can come from His sacred lips: that all who flee to their hope in Him for refuge, shall have strong consolation (Heb. 6:17-18). This should embolden your faith to expect a kind haven when you turn to God for protection. Having set up His name and promises as a strong tower, God calls His people into His chambers, and expects them to enter and make themselves at home.

    5. His Interceding Son...Christ’s presence and activity in heaven remind God of His firm commitment to defend the saints. We have been promised that one of the Savior’s ongoing activities in heaven is ever to intercede before the Father on our behalf. Intercession is purely an office of mercy to believers that they might have given to them whatever is needed for the performance of all God has promised. Jesus Christ is our ambassador to see all carried fairly between God and us according to agreement.

    Although Christ sits in His exalted position beside the Father and out of the storm in regard to His own safety, yet His children are left behind in combat with Satan. They remain in His heart, and He will not forget them for a moment. Witness the speedy dispatch He made of the Holy Spirit to the apostles when He ascended. Almost as soon as He was warm in His seat next to the Father, Christ had sent the Holy Spirit to comfort not only the first Christians but all believers until His return.

Occasions for Using God’s Power

    Once you realize that God Omnipotent is in charge of your life, you will quit worrying about how to fight your enemies. No assault is strong enough to overpower Him, and nothing can penetrate your front lines without His permission.

    The devil was shrewd enough to ask God to remove the hedge around Job before he launched his attack, but men are not generally so aware of God’s power. Their own spiritual blindness deceives them into supposing their assault on a believer is against mere man. They may not be able to see an inch beyond their own noses, yet they will rush full tilt at a saint and expect to make short work of him. They do not know the supply of troops in the saint’s defense is inexhaustible – because the supply line from heaven cannot be blocked by anyone other than God Himself.

    The Egyptians thought they had Israel in a trap when they saw them march into a dead end by the sea. "They are entangled in the land," Pharaoh boasted (Ex. 14:3). And so they would have been, but almighty power stepped in and brought them safely through. No sooner were they past this danger, however, than they found themselves in a wilderness. Yet here they lived for forty years without trade or tillage, and without begging or robbing any of their neighbor nations.

    What can almighty power not do to protect us from the wrath and power of our enemies, whether men or devils? Scripture is filled to overflowing with accounts of God’s all-sufficiency. Just as His power stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians, so it marched with Joshua at Jericho and faced Goliath in the valley of Elah. This same power cast the unclean spirit from the demon-possessed Gadarene, and restored life to the widow’s son. Has His power grown weaker today, or are our enemies stronger? Certainly not, though wicked men nowadays seem bolder than the saints’ enemies of old.

    The constant demonstrations of God’s power in behalf of His children stand in sharp contrast to the impotent condition of those in a Christless state. God is almighty to pardon, but He will not use His power for a shameless sinner. He is able to save and help in time of need, but if you have not repented, how can you expect His aid? The same power God expends on the believer’s salvation will be spent on your damnation, for He has bound Himself under oath to destroy every impenitent soul.

    As for you, saint, strengthen yourself in the knowledge that God’s strong arm reaches down to you, not in anger but in love. With the same faith that acknowledges God’s existence, believe also this: His almighty power is your sure friend. You can put it to the test in the following circumstances:

    1. When Weighed Down by Sin...You can be absolutely certain that no sin is powerful enough to overwhelm God’s strength. One Almighty is more than many "mighties"! He has shown His eagerness to rescue you over and over again. Provoked to the limit by His people’s sins, what does He do? He issues a sweet promise! "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger," He declares. And why not? "…For I am God, and not man" (Hos. 11:9). It is as though He said, "I will show you the almightiness of My mercy!"

    Who can doubt the omnipotence of God? We know He has power to pardon if He so chooses. But there is greater comfort than this for the believer; it rests in His covenant to pardon. As none can bind God but Himself, so none can break the bond He makes with Himself. These are His own words: "[I] will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7). In other words, "I will drown your sins in My mercy and spend all I have, rather than let it be said that My good is overcome by your evil."

    So when Satan terrifies you with his awful accusations against your soul, you can say with confidence, "It is God and no other who justifies me. He has promised to restore my life if I submit to Him. Has He ever broken a promise? Therefore, I have committed myself to Him as unto a faithful Creator."

    2. When Overpowered by Temptation...If you fear you will one day fall to temptation, grab hold of God’s strength now and reinforce yourself to resist. Believe you will be victorious on the day you are tested. Your Father watches closely while you are in the valley fighting; your cries of distress bring Him running. Jehoshaphat called for help when pressed by his enemies, and the Lord rescued him (2 Chron. 20). You can be just as sure of His help when you are pressed to the wall. Remind Him often of His promise: "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14).

    ...Now if you are going to take shelter under this attribute, you must stay within its shade. What good will the shadow of a mighty rock do if we sit in the open sun? That is to say, if we wander away from God’s protection by venturing into the heat of temptation, we should not be surprised when our faith grows faint and we stumble and fall into sin. We are weak in ourselves; our strength lies in the rock of God’s almightiness. It should be our constant habitation.

    3. When Oppressed by Christian Duty...Perhaps you find the duty of your calling too heavy for your weak faith. Look to God for strength. When you are sick of your work and ready like Jonah to run away, encourage yourself with God’s words to Gideon: "Go in this thy might… have not I sent thee?" (Judg. 6:14). Begin the work God has given you, and you will engage His strength for you; run from your work, and you engage God’s strength against you. He will send some storm or other after you to bring His runaway servant home.

    Are you called to suffer? Do not flinch in fear. God knows the limits of your strength. He can place the load so evenly on your shoulders that you will scarcely feel it. But still He is not satisfied. His watchful eye is always on you, and when you stagger He picks you up – burden and all – and carries you to your destination nestled in the bosom of His promise: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape…" (1 Cor. 10:13).

    How can you fret when you are wrapped in His covenant? Your heavenly Father is so eager to care for you, that while you are timidly asking for a nibble of peace and joy, He is longing for you to open your mouth wide so He can fill it. The more often you ask, the better; and the more you ask for, the more He welcomes you.

    Go quickly now. Search your heart from one end to the other, and gather up all your weaknesses. Set them before the Almighty, as the widow placed her empty vessels before the prophet. Expect a miracle of deliverance from the limitless resources of God. If you had more vessels to bring, you could have them all filled.

    ...Never let the weakness of your faith keep you from the presence of God. The very sight of the pale face and thin cheeks of your faith, your love, your patience, will move His heart with compassion and carry a strong argument for His aid.

Four Reasons Why God’s Power Is Sometimes Hidden

    "But," says some dejected soul, "I have prayed over and over for strength against temptation, and to this day my hands are weak! No matter how hard I try, I cannot resist. If God’s power is really engaged for me, why am I not victorious in my Christian life?"

    1. You May Have Overlooked God’s Power...Check once again and you will no doubt find some hidden strength you had not noticed before. Perhaps you prayed and expected God to answer in a certain way, but while you were watching for Him from the front window, He slipped in the back door. What I mean is this: You expected sudden relief from your trial, but instead God gave you strength to pray with greater fervor. Is this nothing at all? Any physician will tell you, the stronger the cry, the stronger the child.

    Not only that, but do you not find that you have more strength for self-denial than before? In other words, are you not increasingly humbled by this thorn in your flesh? If so, you have wrestled with a strong opponent – your pride – and wrestled well! What is harder or more against the grain than to force our carnal pride to its knees before God?

    2. God May Have Purposely Delayed His Power...When you have waited so long as you are willing to wait and God still has not answered, do not let your own impatience accuse Him of negligence. Instead, say to yourself, "My Father is wiser than I. He will send what I need, when I need it. I know if He withholds His hand from me at present, it is only because He knows best."

    One reason for postponing deliverance is to give your faith an opportunity to grow stronger. When a mother is teaching her child to walk, she stands back a short distance and holds out her hands to the child, beckoning him to come. Now if she exercises her strength to go to her little one, the child is ill-served, for his unsteady legs are denied the practice they need. If she loves him, she will let him suffer a little at present to ensure his future health. Just so, because God loves His children, He sometimes lets them struggle to strengthen the legs of their unsteady faith.

    Not only that, He can also use trials as the occasion for great demonstrations of His power. Suppose a child is toddling along the river’s edge, slips, and is in real danger. What does the mother do? She rushes at once to rescue him! And her arms never seemed stronger nor her embrace more comforting than in such a circumstance.

    You may be a poor, trembling soul, weak in faith and ever on the brink of sinking; yet to this day your grace lives on, though full of leaks. Is there a greater demonstration of God’s strength than to see such a pitiful, storm-tossed ship towed past an armada of sins and devils, into God’s safe harbor at last? What a tribute to His power for so weak a vessel to foil all the battleships of Satan!

    3. The Cause of Hindrance of the Blessing May Be in Yourself...If your heart is not set in the right direction when you appeal for deliverance, strength will not come. Ask yourself these questions when you feel shut off from God’s power:

    Am I really trusting God, and Him only, to meet my need? Or am I depending on my own resolve, my pastor, or some other outside source? All these things may be good, but they are only Christ’s servants. Press through them to the Master Himself. Touch Him – and deliverance is yours.

    Am I thankful for the strength I have? In a long distance race, the contestants run at varying paces. Perhaps you are discouraged when you see so many strong ones pass you on the way to glory. Rather than cry after them, be thankful that you have strength to run at all! Even the lowest place in the army of saints is a great honor. Are you in the race? It is by God’s grace and that alone; thank Him for the privilege. Remember this: Everyone (even the weakest saint) who finishes the race is a winner.

    Has my pride stopped the flow of God’s power? God will not keep supplying power if you use it for your own advancement. He knows how quickly you are carried away from Him on the wings of your pride. Because He loves you, He will recall your ration of power if it takes you out of fellowship with Him. All this He does for your own good, so that when your pride lies gasping, you will be forced back to Him.

    4. God May Call You to Persevere in the Face of Overwhelming Odds...Perhaps nothing that has been said answers your particular case. Your heart is clean before God; you have sincerely and prayerfully waited, yet God withholds His hand. Then you must resolve to live and die waiting, for that may be what He requires. What greater evidence of your faith and of God’s grace at work in you than to persevere to the end!

    Comfort yourself with the promise that when you are on your last legs, strength will come. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa. 40:31). The prophet was not sent to the widow’s house until she had baked her last loaf of bread. Job was not delivered until God’s purpose had been served. Are your trials any greater than Job’s? Strive to have his heart, and know your life is in the hands of a God who is full of pity and tender mercy (Jas. 5:11).

    – From the 2002 printing of The Christian in Complete Armour; Volume One by William Gurnall. Reprinted by permission of Banner of Truth, P.O. Box 621, Carlisle, PA 17013.