Do you hear the sound of distant drums? In the Old Testament, David learned how to strengthen himself in the LORD his God. Coming to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul also wrote of this vital discipline in Ephesians 6. The call to battle in the believer’s life means that we must be ready for the fight.
Pauls’ letter to the Ephesian church begins with vital spiritual truths in chapters 1-3. There he tells us how we are saved and what that salvation by grace does for us. The high point for me is: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 2:4–6. All of this is for our benefit, but mostly it is for His glory.
How do we respond to this indescribable salvation which is ours in Christ? In chapters 4-6, the Apostle Paul uses two metaphors (word pictures) to describe the life of the believer. It is first, a walk with God through life that demonstrates our gratitude for His salvation. We respond by walking worthy of His salvation. The second metaphor is that of an extended conflict. We demonstrate our appreciation for our so glorious deliverance from sin by fighting with our Lord in the battle with Satan. If we are to be victorious in this fight, we must be properly prepared and armed for the conflict.
Almost everyone knows that Paul described the armor of the believer in Ephesians 6:11-18. Quite frequently we barely acknowledge, much less explore, our preparation for the war in verse 10. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
If a young man were to enlist in our armed forces today, the first thing that he would experience is not a trip to the rifle range to learn how to fire his weapons. Instead, he would be put through “boot camp.” Boot camp is intense physical conditioning and deep mental toughening. The military does this work not because it enjoys it, but because it is indispensible for fighting successfully against the enemies of our nation. In Ephesians 6, Paul knows that before we are issued the weapons, we must learn and practice spiritual conditioning. This is because we require this training to successfully fight the battles with the Lord’s enemies. Here is my translation of Ephesians 6:10 which I hope will help us understand what we are to do: “constantly be strengthened in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
I offer this translation to demonstrate what the grammar actually says. Drawing our strength from the Lord needs to become an ever present habit in our lives. This strength does not come from us, it comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not commanded to be strong in ourselves and in the strength of our own might. It is the Lord’s power and might that flows through us.
What kind of power is the Apostle Paul thinking about in this verse? Earlier in the Ephesian letter, he wrote about strengthening. In the midst of his prayer in Ephesians 1:19- 20, he wanted the believers to know “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Remember as Paul prayed for the believers he asked in Ephesians 1:18 that we might know three things: 1) the hope of His calling; 2) the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and 3) the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.
The way we know the exceeding great power that He exercises toward us is through the work of the very same power that the Father used in raising the Lord Jesus from the dead and seating at His right hand. This means it is enormous power that we can draw upon to wage the spiritual warfare. It also shows us that we will never fully understand this power. The power God wants us to know and draw on in our lives cannot be fully described or understood.
The Apostle writes about this power again in his second prayer in this letter. In Ephesians 3, the Apostle prays that God will give the Ephesian believers the power necessary to live out in the doctrinal truths of the first three chapters of this Epistle. He writes “[I pray] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” The inner man is mentioned also in 2 Corinthians 4:16. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day.” Notice the contrast with the outward man. The outward person is the person that people see. On the outside we are deteriorating. But the inside person, the real us that Paul calls the inner man, is supposed to be renewed every day. The power of God becomes useful to us as we learn to grow and are renewed from the inside out.
How do we obey the command that Paul has given to us? How can we be continually drawing strength from the Lord? We must work on strengthening our inner relationship with God day by day. We must build a relationship with the Lord. How do we build a real and growing relationship with Christ?
First, there must be conversion. We cannot grow to know and love someone we have never met. The Ephesian believers had come into relationship with the Lord Jesus by putting their trust in Him alone to save them. They recognized their need of salvation because they were sinners and believed in the Lord Jesus to save them from their sins.
Second, they learned to grow in their relationship with the living Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus taught us about abiding using the picture of the vine in John 15. He taught us the abiding was several things. First, abiding was connection to the vine. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Conversion establishes this connection to Christ. Without connection there is no life.
Abiding is also communion. It is sharing in the life giving supply from the Lord Jesus. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Unless there is a connection to the Lord Jesus Christ and communion with Him through the word of God and prayer, we cannot bear fruit that brings glory to God.
Abiding is a commitment to the purpose of the vine — to produce fruit and glorify the Father. (John 15:8) “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” A vine exists for the sole purpose of producing fruit. It is good for nothing else. Part of knowing Christ is recognizing that He saved us to produce fruit for the glory of the Father.
But how do we get to know God so well that we can draw our strength from Him? We grow in our relationship with God the same way David did, the way Paul did, and the way any other saint of the Lord grew in Him down through the centuries. Relationships are built on communication and time. We cannot know someone well if we never spend time with them. Knowing God is also a matter of spending time with Him.
Growing up in our relationship with Christ is not something that is easy. Because communication with the Lord and time spent in fellowship with Him are not things that Satan likes, he opposes this process in any way he can. We must have a systematic Bible reading schedule. We need to make this time of study and prayer a priority in our lives. Make a date with God and keep it. If we do not spend time with Him in His Word, we will not learn to strengthen ourselves in Him.
We have time for work and time for play, time to read the paper, time for TV, but how much time do we have for the Lord of glory? If we are to prepare for battle, we first must grow in relationship with Him. Only when He is real to us will we know how to strengthen ourselves in the Lord and have the strength we need to fight the battle.