This morning we’re going to be talking about how to be “Strong in the Lord.” Why do we need to be strong in the Lord? We need to be strong, because we are engaged in a daily battle.
Last week, we talked about the warfare between light and darkness. Between God’s kingdom of light and Satan’s domain of darkness. If you’re weak in the battle, you’re going to be defeated, because the enemy is strong.
In fact the enemy, Satan is stronger than you on your own. So, we need to be, not just strong, but strong in the Lord. We need to learn how to be strong in the power of His might.
Now what is Satan’s goal, what does he desire to do to people? Satan’s main goal is to take as many people as possible with him to hell for eternity. How does Satan achieve that goal? Simply by keeping people from believing in Jesus throughout their lives.
If you’re a believer and you keep on believing, Satan can not achieve his main goal of taking you to hell with him. So, Satan’s secondary goal for believers is to make you an ineffective soldier for God’s kingdom. If Satan can keep you from being a powerful witness and getting people saved, it helps him in his main goal. That’s why, as believers, we need to be strong in the Lord.
Let’s look an example from the apostle Paul’s ministry at Ephesus on why we need to be strong in the Lord. Paul, arguably, the greatest apostle who has ever lived, planted the church at Ephesus. He taught for three years, day and night there. He showed people by example how to move in the gifts of the Spirit and work supernatural miracles. The church at Ephesus had a firm foundation and was a strong church.
But Paul had to leave the church he had planted and go to minister in Jerusalem. As he left, he warned the church leaders about the coming battle.
Acts 20:29 (ESV) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
Jesus warned of false prophets, who would come disguised as sheep, but are really vicious wolves. These are teachers, prophets and even pastors what profess to preach God’s Word, but teach a ungodly message, often for personal gain. Paul is warning the people to be on guard against such people.
Acts 20:30-31 (ESV) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,
The wolves come from outside the church, but there is danger from within as well. Unfortunately, people who have been walking with God, sometimes fall away. They cause divisions within a church with their ungodly speech. We need to be alert for attacks, either from within or without, that seek to destroy what God is doing in His church.
As believers, we must also be on guard in our own lives from attacks. Attacks coming from other people and attacks coming from temptations within. That is why we must be strong in the Lord. As you grow stronger in the Lord, you will win victories for God’s kingdom through the power of the Spirit. So, let’s turn to the final chapter in Ephesians, chapter 6, to learn how to be strong in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:10 (ESV) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
This verse begins the final instruction section in the book of Ephesians. What we are going to study today is the key to living a victorious Christian life. People who are not strong in the Lord live defeated lives. In the coming verses, we’re going to learn the secret of being strong in the mighty power of the Lod. So, let’s see how we can be strong and grow stronger in the Lord.
Ephesians 6:11 (ESV) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
First of all, we need to put on the armor that God provides for us. Armor is for defense against the attacks of the devil. Without armor, you will be defeated. With armor, the attacks will bounce off and you’ll be able to keep standing firm.
These attacks are described are described as Satan’s schemes. In warfare, the enemy looks to exploit weaknesses in their foes. Satan knows your weaknesses and seeks to exploit them with his schemes. He uses different attacks, different temptations against different people. He knows enough to not attack you in your strengths, but in your areas of weakness. Often areas in your life in which you’ve failed previously.
But the good news is that when you put on the whole armor of God, Satan will not be able to penetrate it. Next, we’re going to learn more about the enemy that we fight against.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Our natural tendency is to think of other people as our problem in life or even as our enemies. Yet, God’s Word here makes it clear that our combat is not against people, flesh and blood. But our wrestling or combat is against spiritual foes. In this verse, we gain further insight into the enemy that we are locked in mortal conflict with.
Satan is the general or the leader of the evil forces that are arrayed against you. Under him are his warriors, described as rulers, authorities and cosmic powers. They are described as ruling over this present darkness which still exists today. These warriors of Satan are summarized as spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
What are these evil spiritual forces that we are in combat with? They are fallen angels, who have joined in Satan’s rebellion against God. Both good and fallen angels have varying degrees of power and rank. The foot soldiers of Satan’s army are his demons. These demons can tempt, oppress, demonize and possess people. Over these demons are higher order evil spiritual forces that we war against.
The purpose of this verse is not to scare us, but to alert us to the serious nature of the battle that we are in. It tells us why we need the Lord’s strength in order to win the victory as we stand against our spiritual enemies.
The key to victory is recognizing that your enemies are not other people. Satan, with his spiritual army, is manipulating people to carry out his orders. But these people who are in darkness are really his captives. Rather than seeking to fight people, we must seek to rescue them and bring them into the kingdom of God. So, if you’re not fighting with people, how do you engage the evil spiritual enemy that you can’t see with your eyes?
First of all, we need to believe that there are evil spiritual forces coming after us. Satan’s biggest lie that more and more people believe is that he doesn’t exist. You can’t fight an enemy and stand against him if you don’t think he’s real. So, let’s learn more about how to stand against spiritual enemies. It begins with …
Ephesians 6:13 (ESV) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
We need the whole armor of God, not just some of it, in order to be protected. Having this armor on is not automatic for the believer. That’s why we need to consciously take up and keep on the entire defensive armor.
Ephesians 6:14 (ESV) Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
For the Roman warrior, the belt held together all of the armor. This is called the belt of truth, because we must not follow the enemies’ lies, but pursue God’s truth. The breastplate of righteousness protected the entire chest area. A commitment to righteous living will protect against temptations to unrighteousness or sin. Any sin creates a chink in our breastplate, which must be repaired through repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness.
Ephesians 6:15 (ESV) and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
The shoes of a Roman soldier were studded with hobnails so that they wouldn’t slip. What keeps a believer from slipping is a constant readiness to share the gospel to everyone and on every occasion. When we have a passion to reach the lost with every aspect of our lives, it serves as a firm foundation.
Ephesians 6:16 (ESV) In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
The Roman shield was large and covered the whole body. The shield was made of leather and could be soaked in water to extinguish flaming arrows. The attacks of the evil one can be rendered harmless through our faith in the power of God. On the other hand, unbelief or fear will open the way for flaming darts to get through our shield.
Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
Next is the helmet of salvation, which protects our heads from enemy blows. As we keep on believing and trusting in the Lord, we keep that helmet. Without the protection of that helmet of salvation, we would be at the mercy of the enemy.
Finally, we turn from our defensive armor to our offensive weapon, the sword. This sword is a short sword designed for hand-to-hand combat. The sword is wielded by the Spirit and is the word of God. Jesus defeated the temptations of Satan, by using the word of God. The Greek word here is rhema, which means the specific part of God’s Word that applies to a specific situation, temptation or combat. You need all of this armor on, as well as learning how to wield the sword of the Spirit in order to have the victory.
In team sports, you need both a defense and an offense in order to win. The same is true in the military, you need both defense and offense to be victorious. That’s why we need both the armor of God and the word of the Spirit to be strong in the Lord. Although the defensive armor is critically important, today, I want to focus on the offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit.
The reason is that people often seem to focus on the defense in spiritual matters. If I can just resist temptation and live righteously, then everything will be Ok. In sports, they often say, the best defense is a good offense. If you just play defense, you are going to lose every game, as you won’t score.
I believe that the reason this section on spiritual warfare ends with the sword of the Spirit is that it’s the most important. The way that you and I win our battles in life is by wielding the Spirit’s sword, the word of God. There are two aspects of our offense, which are the Spirit and the Word. Some people focus on the Word, but neglect the power of the Spirit. Others focus on the power of the Spirit, but neglect the truth of the Word. We need both in proper balance in order to win the victory in life.
The Spirit is the one who illuminates the logos Word, the Bible, and gives us the rhema word for the particular situation we are in. When you are filled with the Spirit, He makes God’s Word come alive to you. The more that you are filled with the Spirit, the more you will understand the Word. There is much more to say on this topic of putting on the armor of God, but we will move on to the final verses in this section which is to …
Ephesians 6:18 (ESV) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
So we have had five pieces of defensive armor to put on and one offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit. What we have in verse 18 is not another part of weaponry, it is an activity that empowers both the armor and the sword. We are to pray at all times in the Spirit. Other Scriptures tell us to pray continuously. In other words, prayer should come as naturally to us as breathing. We should be in an attitude of constant communication with God through the Spirit.
Jesus is the commander in chief. He knows the enemy forces movements, as well as the forces of heaven. He communicates in real time with His soldiers in the battle, telling us where to go, what to say and what actions to take. Praying in the Spirit involves both praying with our minds and praying with our spirits. We are reminded that in our prayers we are to keep alert and not give up.
Not only are we to pray for ourselves, but we are to pray for others in our church family and missionaries around the world. Paul concludes with an appeal for prayer for himself.
Ephesians 6:19 (ESV) and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
Paul asked for prayer for boldness to continue to proclaim the gospel. That is a prayer that each of us should be praying, not just for our leaders, but for one another. We all need more boldness to share the gospel with those around us who don’t know Jesus or who need to know Him better. If the great apostle Paul needed prayer for boldness, how much more do we today. Of course, we can pray that prayer for ourselves.
We do need God to give us words to say to those around us who need Jesus. God is challenging each of us today to pray at all times, so that we can be strong in the Lord.
There are three aspects of prayer that I believe the Lord wants each of us to grow in so that we can grow in praying at all times. The first is to set aside a time each day to focus on prayer and the Word, a time to shut out the busyness of the day and concentrate on God. This is an essential spiritual discipline that we all need to be strong in the Lord.
Secondly, God desires for us to learn how to pray during the day when we are involved in other activities. Are you communicating with God when you are on your job? How about when you’re playing or planning with your family? God is with us all the time. He wants us to include Him in the conversation. When we’re around other people, most of time our prayers will not be audible. We will simply pray them in our hearts and listen for God’s answer.
The final aspect of prayer that we see in Scripture in many places is to pray with other believers. This should include prayer with your physical family and also with your church family. I encourage you to pray along with us with our Seek God for the City prayer theme. Also, to join us in our Seek God virtual prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. If you want more information, just talk to me.
You don’t have to pray aloud in the meeting, you can just listen and agree with other’s prayers. The Bible teaches us that when people agree in prayer together, God moves in more powerful ways. When you pray with and for others, God will bless you by answering your prayers as well. Growing in our prayer lives will build our relationship with God and help us grow strong in the Lord.
Today, we began by acknowledging that each of us in in the midst of a spiritual war, between God’s armies of light and Satan’s forces of darkness. Our warfare is not with other people, but with spiritual forces of evil. Our mission is to rescue people from the enemy camp and bring them into God’s kingdom. There is nothing to fear in this conflict, because God has given us the armor we need to protect us from the enemy’s attack. But we must put on that armor and keep it in good condition by following the owner’s manual.
The most important aspect of our equipment is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. As we daily allow the Spirit to teach us from God’s Word, He prepares us to use that Word in our battle with evil. We can use God’s Word to resist temptation in our own lives. We can use God’s Word to speak the truth to those who are believing lies. We can use God’s Word to share the Gospel and see people saved. We can learn from God’s Word how to grow closer to Jesus.
And what ties everything we read all together? It is simply to pray in the Spirit at all times. As we grow to become stronger in the Lord, we will see more and more victories. Our lives will be transformed, our families, our city and our nation will be as well. May God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.