“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
So often, strength in our world is associated with defiance, stubbornness, harshness, a refusal to bow. A determined state that will not bend to another. It can appear entirely contrary to the characteristics to which followers of Christ are called: mutual submission, obedience to the Lord, compassion, gentleness, the pursuit of peace and mutual upbuilding over personal interest, the outdoing of honor shown to one another. The world could view such things as weakness. But followers of Christ are not called to weakness; we are called to strength. Strength flowing from Almighty God. Strength that is not contrary to those characteristics, but is their very foundation.
Our determined state, our strength, is demonstrated in our refusal to allow the enemy an inch. That enemy of our very soul, who seeks to stir selfishness and conceit in our hearts. Telling us he is on our side while in reality he is pressing us toward our destruction and shame, away from joy, wholeness, and good.
And so we stand firm against him. Against this liar who seeks out our weaknesses and lays traps for us. We remain strong not by merely summoning our resolve; we are too vulnerable to his deceptions on our own. No, Paul details our true strength within the pieces of armor he instructs us to put on in Ephesians 6. We dress ourselves in truth. Righteousness. Readiness from the gospel. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer in the Spirit at all times.
Our strength is only found by our pressing into God, intentionally dressing ourselves for action, alert as we consider the power of our enemy. Because he is stronger than we are–but his strength pales in comparison to that of our God who strengthens us for the fight.
The strength in which we must stand is not something we can muster in ourselves. We can’t do this apart from our Lord. We can’t hold fast without His strength. We press into Him, and He covers us as a shield. We remain alert and dress ourselves in the truth that sets us free; the righteousness flowing from Christ, dressing us in perfect white and reforming our character; the gospel that is our hope and unites us in peace to God the Father; faith that brings victory; salvation through the power of the cross that God will never allow us to lose; the Word of God that is our light; and prayer that brings us nearer to the heart of God and invites the Spirit into all the spaces and circumstances of our lives.
This is our strength. The strength to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. The strength to love as Christ. The strength to walk as children of light. The strength to pour ourselves out as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation. The strength to walk in the freedom for which Christ has set us free. And so with the strength of the Lord Almighty, we stand firm “against the schemes of the devil…against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
Yes, against all these we stand firm. For He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, and darkness shall not overcome Him (1 John 4:4; John 1:5).