Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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6. Standing in God’s Strength – Part 1

Ephesians 6:10-24

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

The reality of the Christian life is that we are destined to face opposition from the spiritual forces around us. The facts are that we have an enemy whose sole aim is to thwart God’s plan and frustrate our efforts in serving Him at every turn. Here in Ephesians Paul doesn’t try to minimize or dilute the struggle as he warns us of a very real war, saying “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” So what do these spiritual forces want to do? They want to stand in opposition to God. What God wants to build up they will do their best to break down. God through the death of His Son Jesus Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between people, regardless of gender, race, or culture. So the devil and his demons will try to rebuild that barricade whether racial, socioeconomic or gender based. God’s goal is for his people to live together in harmony and purity. So the powers of evil will try to sow seeds of discord and sin so they can create conflict in the church. We should never underestimate the danger that the devil possess. As Christian’s we can’t afford to become comfortable and complacent when it comes to the conflict. We should never take for granted our victory over sin. We should never stop being on guard and fighting temptation. Which also means that we should not be surprised and shocked when we see Christian leaders give into sin as they fall into the trap of temptation. Until Christ returns to take us to our home in heaven we will have to face and fight many spiritual battles. In the midst of the fight we need to keep a proper perspective, we need to focus on the peace that is ours, which was bought by the blood of Jesus. This is both a purchased peace as well as a promised peace. It’s a peace that provides a steady platform in the midst of this relentless struggle against evil. While the war has been won the battles continue. We should never underestimate or discount the devil. Paul describes the devil and his followers as powerful, evil and cunning. They’re the rulers and authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness. Until Christ returns they will continue to wield their power. Christ has won the victory but they continue to fight, with ever increasing intensity and desperation as their end approaches. We need to also be careful not to mistake their intentions which are always evil, Paul calls them, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We find ourselves in a battle against spiritual forces whose sole desire is to lure us into sin so they can conquer and rule over us as they lead us away from following Christ. Paul also reminds us here that the devil is a wily opponent. That is, he combines tactical shrewdness with ingenious deception. Jesus called the devil the “Father of lies” John 8:44. His workers are described as wolf’s in sheep’s clothing, Matthew 7:15. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that He even disguises himself as an angel of light. One of Satan’s great strategies is stealth, to convince people that he doesn’t exist. People rarely talk about the devil any more, except maybe as a joke when they say “Oh, the devil made me do it!” But do you see that is one of Satan’s’ greatest successes. If you don’t believe in the devil, you won’t be worried about his lies and temptations. When we believe the lie that he is just a children’s fable we ignore him because in our arrogant wisdom we have outgrown that sort of childishness. So we fall victim to his schemes because we never see him coming. But don’t be fooled, the devil is very real. He is an opponent working in opposition to everything God is for and he should be seen as an enemy to be reckoned with. What we’re fighting against isn’t just human weakness. Psychological counselling and self-help groups will solve some problems, but they won’t help with this battle. So how do we experience success on the spiritual battlefield? By standing in in the Lord’s strength not ours. You see basic to the effective Christian life is preparation. For it is the unprepared believer who becomes the defeated believer, the one who tries to stand in their own strength and wisdom. The strength of the Christian life is dependence on God, being strong. We are to be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Any other strength proves to be impotent. To ‘be strong’ here means to be made strong, to be strengthened because alone we are weak. Notice here that Paul does not say to be strong by the Lord, but ‘in the Lord.’  When life is lived in union with him, walking in his will, where we are connected to him as branches are to the vine, then there need not be failure due to powerlessness. As 1 John 2:14 states, “I have written to you who are God’s children because you know the Father. I have written to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I have written to you who are young in the faith because you are strong. God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one.” The reason for spiritual success in the battle revolves around living in relationship with the Lord.  Apart from Him the Christian can do nothing, as John 15:1–5 clearly states, but in Him we have available all the strength of His might. The cardinal reality presented in the book of Ephesians is that, as believers, we are in Christ and are one with Him. His life is our life, His power our power, His truth our truth, His way our way, and, as Paul goes on to say here, His strength is our strength. Only the Lord’s strength is sufficient for the battle. So let me ask you whose strength are you standing in the Saviors or self?


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5. Comforting Strength – Part 4

Isaiah 40:10-12; 26-31

10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. 12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?

26 Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. 27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? 28 O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”

Not only did Isaiah tell of an everlasting comfort and speak about the everlasting Word of God, but thirdly, Isaiah spoke of an everlasting strength. Isaiah wrote: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:28-31. Those who were in exile had lost hope, as a result they had lost focus on who their eternal Father was and what He could do, which undermined their desire to go on. Even the young were beaten down, weary and defeated. But those who placed their hope and trust in God did not lose heart, and so did not lose strength. Notice that this was regardless of their age. Their hearts and minds soared because they were focused on the promises of what God had said He was going to do. When we focus on the promises of God we end up focused on the power of God instead of the problems. As they thought about what God was going to do, new strength and courage entered their hearts and began to affect their bodies. They gained a new enthusiasm for life and a new strength to go on. But you never experience and gain that strength unless you are willing to wait on the Lord. Our problem is that we want the wings we just don’t want the waiting. But you can’t have the power without the patience. Many of us a weary today because instead of waiting, we are worrying and working. Until you learn to rest in the Lord you will always run, it will be based on what you can do not what God can do. Waiting on God is never a waste, and waiting is not inactivity it is active trust. We would all like to mount up with wings like eagles, but as someone has said, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys.” But the truth is that is really just a cop out. When God shows up it doesn’t matter who is around you. There is a story about a young boy who spent the summer with his grandfather. As he and his grandfather were out in the field one day they found a small bird. It was strange looking and they didn’t know what it was at first. They named him Ernie and took him home to show to grandma. Grandma put him with a mother hen and her brood of chicks. As it turned out, Ernie was an Eaglet. It wasn’t long until Ernie was larger than the chickens, and it was apparent he was different, even though he had picked up some of the mannerisms of the chickens. But one sunny afternoon the father eagle saw Ernie eating corn down on the farm with some strange white birds. The father eagle began to soar in circles above the farm, and then began to spiral downward while calling out for Ernie. Ernie’s head lifted as he heard something that resonated deep within him. Instinctively he began to spread his wings. Suddenly he was flying, and he began to soar in response to his father’s call. Ernie had within him the spirit of an eagle. The chicks heard the father eagle’s call as well, but they only chirped in response and continued to eat their corn on the ground. But Ernie had a higher calling. He was destined to soar. Chickens and turkeys can fly, but they rarely do because they are most comfortable on the ground. Sparrows and other small birds fly, but they mostly use their wings to get from one tree to another. But eagles soar, they have great power and freedom. They do this not in their own power but by using thermal pockets of warm air. How much of our lives do we try to stay aloft in our own strength by frantically flapping our wings and how much do we soar not in our strength but His? Are you allowing His power and strength to sustain you? Eagles were destined for the skies and like them, we have a different Spirit in us than those who are content to crawl around and be ground dwellers. We have a higher calling, and because God’s Spirit is in us He calls us to come and soar with him. Just because we are Christians does not necessarily mean we are using our wings. Many of us have settled for living a comfortable life on the ground instead of a courageous one soaring in the sky. Some of us are trying to live in-between comfort and courage by living a cautious life. Like the sparrows we flit from one place to another, neither doing life on the ground but neither soaring in the sky. But God has called us to soar and we do so by waiting on and trusting Him. By spreading out our wings and soaring on the strength He provides and not our own. Someone has said, “There are two lasting bequests we can give to our children. One is roots; the other is wings.” We can teach our children that there is a strength that comes from God that is greater than our own. We can teach them to wait on him and trust him, even when everything looks hopeless. We can teach them that Isaiah wrote about an everlasting strength, an everlasting hope, an everlasting comfort, an everlasting truth, an everlasting kingdom, and an everlasting God. But the best thing we can do is to show them the reality of God’s faithfulness as we model it in our lives. We will teach God’s principles to our children better through practicing them than just preaching about them. The greater gifts that we can give to the next generation are by being living examples of hope. Living sources of comfort, living proof of the reliability of God’s Word. Living examples of His strength as we mount up with wings like eagles and soar in the strength of His Spirit. So let me ask you whose strength are you living in today, the strength of self or the strength of God’s Spirit?