“Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Going to the gym and lifting weights can make you stronger. But it’s not automatic. You must exceed a certain point of exertion, stressing the muscle. It takes work and sweat and persistence.
As one of my mentors says, “Don’t just move the weights.”
Strength training isn’t for everybody, and there are other ways to increase physical strength and resiliency. Whatever it is, however, always takes working past that point of exertion.
So when the Bible commands, “Be strong,” what does that mean?
Physical strength improves with active exertion past a stressing point. But this is talking about spiritual strength. Note in the same verse the word “faith.”
Now, here’s a little secret. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, this verb for the command “Be strong” literally says “Be strengthened.” That’s a big difference!
Increasing spiritual strength is not like going to the gym and exerting yourself. As a matter of fact, increasing spiritual strength often means sweating less, stressing less, and controlling less.
Spiritual strength starts here: your own personal strength that you manufacture (your own opinions, ideas and abilities) is weak, fragile and vulnerable. But your own personal strength that God produces (divine truths accepted by faith, answered prayers, Spirit-led enlightenment about Scripture, salvation, good works of love, carrying the cross of suffering, resisting temptation) is resilient, courageous and able to stand firm.
Inner, spiritual strength starts from the outside. It is received by faith from God, who is Almighty and all merciful. Jesus once said that anyone with faith is stronger than a mountain (Matthew 17:20). Anyone! Even a child. Even someone who doesn’t have their spiritual life totally together. Even a sinner who repents.
And, here is the best part, God loves to give this strength. He’s waiting right now to give you more spiritual strength—if you need it. That’s often the problem. We don’t want it or need it because our flawed perspective lies to us.
When Moses sent the team of 12 spies to explore the land of Canaan, the majority of them returned shaking in fear. “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31).
Joshua and Caleb were thinking less physically and more spiritually. “Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:9).
Their courage is produced by their faith in the Lord’s presence and promises. Faith in the Lord shaped their perspective and decision-making. Spiritual strength conquers physical strength every time.
What physical or earthly situations fill you with fear? Confess how you have approached them too much with your own manufactured “strength.” This multiplies your fear. Trust in spiritual strength, promised by your Lord God, and ask in prayer to “be strengthened” as he wants you to be. Then, see what he can do. For you. In you. Through you.
PRAYER: Oh God, I am afraid when I find my strength in me. But I am courageous when I am strengthened by faith in you. You and I can do anything. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Meditate on Ephesians 3:16-21, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, inspired by the Holy Spirit as also a prayer for us.
- What are some reasons you can become more confident in your spiritual strength? Note the attributes or actions of God.
- Identify some specific words that describe what this spiritual strength looks like. “It makes me ________.”