Strong In The Lord

Grow Strong in the Lord!

Ephesians 6:10  says;  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers, of this world’s darkness;  And against the spiritual forces of evil, in the heavenly realms.  (in the spiritual realms)
1 John 5, verse 4  tells us;  “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world;  And this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”    Faith is the victory, that overcomes the world.  
See if you agree with these next few statements that I saw the other day..
“Faith in God, is like the muscles in our body.  A muscle has to be pushed to it’s limit of endurance, in order to build more strength.  If we don’t increase the stress training , the muscle will not grow.  In the same way faith must be tested to its limit of endurance, in order to expand and grow.”
“We can not stand still, in trying to increase our spiritual strength.  We as believers, can either be progressing, or regressing, in our maturity at any given time.  No status quo here !!!!  Still it takes time to develop strong and enduring faith.”
“Most of us can no more trust God for big things, without ‘faith training’, than we can go out and run a marathon, without physical training.”  
What do you think?  Do you think that’s true?
James 1, verses 2 thru 4  tell us;  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith, produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  
The “testing of your faith”.  That’s “strength training”, for our soul;  “The testing of your faith”.   Pushing your faith to the limits, so that it can be stronger each time.  Able to endure more, and more, and more, until you can endure anything that comes your way.  
For a few Sunday evenings, we were studying about how suffering can benefit us spiritually.  And the author of the work that we were studying from, was stressing the fact that it is actually God’s providence, that allows us to suffer tribulations!   God’s providence!   You probably think of God’s providence as taking tribulations away!   You probably don’t view God allowing tribulations, as a part of His providence.
But trials, and temptations, and tribulations, all test our faith, don’t they?  I would say they do;  They do test our faith!   And  that’s exactly why James wrote, in  James chapter 1;  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials;  Knowing, that the testing of your faith, produces endurance.  
In other words, LET there BE trials and tribulations for us to endure, so that we can grow in faith.  And so that our faith can grow in endurance.  Let there be tribulations, and trials, and temptations.  Let ’em come!   Because God says;  “No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man;  And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able;  But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”   1 Corinthians 10, verse 13.  
Let ’em come, because that’s how we grow!   Just like the muscles in our body grow stronger and stronger, when they’re stressed, and when they’re used hard, and when they’re tested;  So does our faith grow, when our faith is used, and when it’s tested.
When is the last time you really had to “use” your faith?   In other words;  When is the last time you really had to rely on your faith, to see you through something?  Maybe, you’ve had to “use your faith” to keep you from sinning somehow.   Maybe you’ve been tempted to say, or do something that you know is wrong, and you really had to fight yourself to not say or do it.  Our fleshly nature, and so many times our pride, makes it awfully easy to sin.  And it takes a lot of faith to overcome that.  We probably need to be using our faith a whole lot more than we do.
Listen to what the apostle Paul wrote, about our tendency to sin so easily;  About the predicament that we’re in, in life..  I’m going to read from  Romans chapter 7,  beginning with  verse 9;  “I was once alive apart from the Law;  But when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died.”   Were we ever “alive apart from the law” of God?  Weren’t we all “alive apart from the law”, before we reached the age of accountability?  Yes we were.  
But then we became amenable to the law, because we became of the age where we could know, and understand clearly, the concept of law, and of God’s authority, and of sin.   And we became sinners, didn’t we?  So let’s continue with what Paul wrote, starting now with  verse 10;  “..and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me.  (The law results in death, instead of life, because we disobey it)  For sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it, killed me.” 
“So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.  Has then what is good, become death to me?  Certainly not!  But sin, (that it might appear sin) was producing death in me, through what is good, So that sin, through the commandment, might become exceedingly sinful!”   In other words, it’s only through God’s laws, that we come to know just how bad sin really is.  It’s so bad, that God Himself had to become flesh and blood, and die a physical death!  That’s how bad sin is!  
“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand;  For I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  (He’s talking about when he sins.  That’s not what he wants to do, but yet he does it)  But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, then I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.”  (the law condemns the sin, so then the law is good)
“In that case, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do.  And if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
“So this is the principle I have discovered:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, (in my spirit)  But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind, and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.  O, Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?”   
We know the answer to that question don’t we?  “Who will set me free from the body of this death?”  
Verse 25  gives us the answer..  “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  That’s who sets us free from this body of death!  And He does it by providing the way, to be forgiven of our sins.  And that “way” to be forgiven, is not only the sacrifice of Christ, but that way is also our FAITH.  And of course it’s our faith, that brings about our obedience.  And the more our faith grows, the more our obedience grows.   And the more our obedience grows, the more “Christ-like” we become.
“So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”   And then  chapter 8, verse 1  begins with these words;  There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”   Because Christ has set us free from the body of death.  But what a predicament we’re in, without Christ!  And how easy it is to sin.
That passage that I just read from  Romans chapter 7,  is talking about the battle that goes on between our physical nature, and our spiritual nature.   Our physical nature that has all those fleshly desires, those fleshly lusts;  And our spiritual nature, that has been created in the image of God.  Created pure and innocent, but yet corrupted, by our fleshly lusts;  Because we have chosen to obey those lusts.  But there comes a time to be strong.  There comes a time for faith to take over.
You know, to me, that passage from  Romans 7,  sounds like it’s focusing on what goes on, BEFORE we became a Christian!   For example, when Paul says in   verse 15;  “For I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”   That can’t be the way it is for the Christian.  We can’t be “practicing” what we hate, and “practicing” what is sin.  
And when Paul says in  verse 17;  “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”   That doesn’t sound like it was Paul’s attitude AFTER he became a Christian.  As a matter of fact, that sounds a little like something someone might use an excuse to keep on sinning.  “Oh, it’s not me sinning, it’s just the sin that dwells in me that sinning.  It’s not my fault, I can’t help it.  God understands.”   Yeah, God understands.
And He wants us to understand, that that’s not the attitude that a Christian can have.  Paul was merely explaining to us the battle that goes on within us.  But listen to what his attitude was AFTER he became a Christian.  Paul wrote in  Galatians 2, verse 20;  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me!  And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the FAITH, in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”   
That’s the attitude we need to have as a Christian!   Remember that person who wasn’t practicing what he would like to do?  The person who was doing the very thing he hates?  Well that person got crucified!  “Crucified with Christ” as Paul said.  And it’s no longer “I” that lives in this body, but it’s Christ living in me!   And remember that sin that used to dwell in my flesh?  Well I’ve crucified that too!  And it’s been crucified, through my faith.
We need to put our faith to use every day!   Because the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is with us every day!   And it take a lot of faith to overcome all that.  But God allows us to be tempted and tried, so that we DO use our faith;  So that our faith DOES grow stronger, and stronger, and stronger, and stronger!   And if our faith isn’t getting stronger, then we’re probably not using it!  We’re probably not resisting  sin.  We’re probably giving in to the sin, like we did before we were Christians.  Instead of enduring the temptations, and the trials, and the tribulations, like Christ did, and like we need to do.
Listen to these words from  Isaiah 40, verses 20 thru 31;  “He gives power to the faint, and increases the strength of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.  But those who wait upon the LORD, will renew their strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles;  They will run and not grow weary; They will walk and not faint.”   
“Those who wait on the Lord..”   It takes faith to wait on the Lord.  And sometimes just waiting, can be a trial.  And we can be tempted even while we wait.   But remember the verse that I read near the beginning here..  James 1, verses 2 & 3;  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials;  Knowing, that the testing of your faith, produces endurance.”   Endurance to wait on the Lord.  He’ll fulfill all His promises when the time is right.   Just let your faith grow and grow.  
“Faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord.”  That’s what  Romans 10:17  tells us.   But faith can grow, and get stronger each day, as we practice patience, and humility, and as we’re tested and tried, and when we resist, an endure.   And  James 4:7  tells us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”   And if you do, you’ll grow stronger every time.
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