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The Source of True Strength

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Introduction

When we think of the concept of strength, we most commonly associate it with physical power. Yet, strength and power are overlapping synonyms, which carry the sense of an inherent capacity to be able to act effectively, whether physically, intellectually, or morally. Thus Rousseau wisely pointed out, “The strongest is never to be always the master unless he transforms his strength into right, and obedience into duty.”1 It is not surprising, then, that the scriptural record has much to say concerning strength or power. In the following study we shall explore some of the positive aspects of strength as displayed particularly in its non-physical activity, with particular consideration of its importance in the development of personal character. The study will conclude with, a summary of the results of our exploration and some concluding thoughts.

The Use of Strength in the Old Testament

The omnipotent God, of course, is repeatedly shown to be One of Supreme strength. As such he is the creator, sustainer, and consummator of all things (e.g., Gen 1; Pss. 11; 104; Isa. 40:12-31; Jer. 32:17-22; cf. Job 38-39; Acts 17: 26 -27). God’s active strength was displayed in his bringing of his people Israel safely out of powerful Egypt. In his “loyal love” he “led Israel out from their midst with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” (Ps. 136:11, 12).” 2 It is of interest to note that the outstretched arm or hand of God is an important motif in the Old Testament, not only in relation to Israel’s exodus from Egypt (e.g., Exod. 6:6; Deut. 7:18-19; 9:29; 2 Kings 17: 36), but also in his creative activity, and superintending power and authority over all things. Thus in this regard Jeremiah conveys the Lord’s own words to his people:

The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says to give your masters this message, “I made the earth and the people and animals on it by my mighty power and great strength (lit., by my outstretched arm. I give it to whomever I see fit.” (Jer. 27:4-5)

Sometimes the truth of God’s strength served as a warning of judgment and/or correction for his people because of their settled infidelity (e.g., Ezek. 20:32-38). As Wakely points out, “Yahweh promised that with a mighty hand, an outstretched hand, and outpoured wrath he would be king over his people (Ezek 20:33) and would gather them from the countries where they had been scattered (Ezek 20:34) in order to judge them and purge the unfaithful.”3

The need for God’s strength is seen not only in the details of Israel’s liberation from Egypt but in the larger exodus narrative. Upon leaving Egypt and after the adventure of passing through the red Sea, Moses proclaimed both his personal faith and confidence in the Lord, and in the fact that God alone was his sufficiency. In a grand victory psalm he declared:

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously,
the horse and its rider he has thrown unto the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Exod. 15:2)4

Moses’ strength consisted in the power that God alone could supply. It was the Lord who had given Moses and the people deliverance from their Egyptian pursuers. Moses’ words reflect more than this, however. For God’s strength was the source of Moses’ personal salvation. Because of his relation to the LORD, Moses could have strong courage and full confidence to be able to accomplish his divinely appointed tasks that lay ahead. As well, Moses had confident faith that God would also lead his people into the land of promise (vv. 13, 17-18)

It is of great interest to note that Moses’ words in Exodus 15:2 and his confident hope of God’s further provisions for his people is reflected in Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Israel’s future blessings (Isa. 11: 16-12: 3). As Smith properly points out, “As God was the salvation of the Israelites at the Exodus (Exodus 14:13-14; 15:1-18) so God would become the salvation of future generations.”5 The spirit of Moses’ words as to God’s strength was thus long lasting. God’s strength is seen to be both available to his people and should serve as an encouragement to them to trust the lord and to follow him faithfully.

Later, as Israel prepared to enter the promised land, God assured his people through Moses that they would be successful in accomplishing God’s purposes for them by following his provisions and instructions to them. As Craigie observes, “With full confidence in the presence of God in their midst, the army of God could not fail to be victorious in the conquest, and soon the land which had been promised so long ago would become their possession in reality.”6 Accordingly, Moses challenges the people, “Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you and will not abandon you!” (Deut. 31:6). Then Moses issued a similar note of encouragement and challenge to Joshua, his successor, “Be strong and courageous, for you will accompany these people to the land that the LORD promised to give their ancestors, and you will enable them to inherit it. The LORD is indeed going before you—he will be with you; he will not abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged!” (vv. 7-8).

It is of interest to note that the words used here in the Greek translation (LXX) translate a pair of Hebrew verbs that are regularly employed together to express the idea of showing strong courage. The two Greek verbs used here (anridzomai, “be a man” and ischuō, “be strong”) are also of great significance. The first of the two verbs carries the thought of the need to conduct oneself in a manly fashion.7 The Greek sense underscores the Hebrew combination of strength and courage with the added emphasis of reaching the full potential of a real person with all of the qualities that God alone can supply. As Wakely remarks, “Both the people as a whole and Joshua, who will assume the lonely role of leader, are urged to be strong and courageous, not because of any innate abilities they may possess, but because Yahweh their God will be with his obedient servants and will never fail or forsake them.”8

This challenge was later reinforced to Joshua when the Lord himself reminded him that, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Josh. 1:5). Therefore, Joshua was challenged: “Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of the land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them” (v. 6). Joshua was to display more than courage in the face of danger. He was to be a model of strong faithfulness to God and God’s word through Moses in all that he did:

Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. I repeat, be strong and brave! (vv. 7-9).

Howard points out that, “The two words we find here in our passage in Joshua . . . speak of succeeding in life’s proper endeavors. This happens when people’s lives are focused entirely on God and obedience to him.”9

Joshua uses this same combination of verbs to encourage and assure his troops that God would give them victory over their enemies. For the land of promise was to be theirs for the taking. As they had just defeated the Amorites, so they would defeat their remaining enemies. The occasion was a dramatic one, for Joshua’s charge was delivered before five Amorite kings:

When they brought the kings out to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the commanders of the troops who accompanied him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came up and put their feet on their necks. Then Joshua said to them, “Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! Be strong and brave, for the LORD will do the same thing to all your enemies you fight.” (Joshua 10:24-25)

A similar charge was given by David’s commander to his troops in the face of a battle with the Ammonite and Aramaic coalition (2 Sam. 10:12; 1 Chron. 19:13). So also did King Hezekiah to his army the face of the strong invading forces of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Despite the seemingly overwhelming opposition against them, Hezekiah’s words were designed to bring reassurance and encouragement:

Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic because of the king of Assyria and this huge army that is with him! We have with us one who is stronger than those who are with him. He has with him mere human strength, but the LORD our God is with us to help us and fight our battles! (2 Chron. 32:7-8).

The parallel account in 2 Kings records that Sennacherib failed to conquer Jerusalem, for, “That very night the LORD’s messenger went out and killed 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. When they got early the next morning, there were the corpses” (2 Kings 19:35). Therefore, the Assyrian king went home in humiliation.

That Sennacherib failed in his attempt to take Jerusalem is apparent from the annals of his third campaign. Although he claimed the capture and despoiling of some forty-six Judean cities, when it came to Jerusalem he could only report: “Himself [Hezekiah] I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage” (ANET, 288). Sennacherib’s face-saving words have their sole validity in his having surrounded Jerusalem during his protracted campaigning in Judah and Philistia.10

The Old Testament prophets often reminded God’s people of the necessity to find solace and encouragement in the Lord. They could be certain that he would respond to the needs of his people if they would seek him in true faith. Thus the prophet Azariah told King Asa of Judah, “Be strong and don’t get discouraged, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chron. 15:7). Likewise, in what may find its ultimate fulfillment in a future era, Isaiah’s prophecy sounds a strong note of encouragement in the face of any distress: “Tell those who panic, ‘Be strong! Do not fear! Look, your God comes to avenge! With divine retribution he comes to deliver you’” (Isa. 35:4). Israel may thus be assured that the Lord will bring deliverance to his people, peace and healing in a flourishing environment in which to live (vv. 5-10).11

David was an outstanding example of one who had come to rely totally upon God’s strength for his daily tasks and all his needs:

I love you, LORD, my source of strength!
The LORD is my high ridge, my stronghold, my deliverer.
My God is my rocky summit where I take shelter,
my shield, the horn that saves me, and my refuge. (Ps. 18: 1-2)

Toward the end of his life David came to understand that God would not allow him to achieve his desired goal to build a temple for the Lord (1 Chron. 22:8, 14-18). This was to be left to Solomon, his son and successor, to accomplish. Nevertheless, David realized that Solomon was yet very inexperienced. Therefore, David made careful preparations to aid Solomon in this task. As the preparations progressed, he called in his son and informed Solomon that it was God’s will for him to build that temple. And as he did so, David gave Solomon his solemn charge:

May the LORD give you insight and understanding when he places you in charge of Israel, so you may obey the law of the LORD, your God. Then you will succeed, if you carefully obey the rules and regulations which the LORD ordered Moses to give to Israel. Be strong and brave! (1 Chron. 22:12-13).

Once more we find the familiar exhortation concerning strength and courage/bravery. But quite obviously David is referring to a spiritual strength and courage that would be needed if Solomon was to have the wisdom to complete the work and rule his people justly. David repeated his charge to his son by saying, “Be strong and brave! Do it! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! For the LORD, my God, is with you. He will not leave you or abandon you before all the work for the service of the LORD’s temple is finished” (1 Chron. 28:20). David went on to point out that the religious and civil officials as well as the skill craftsmen were in place and ready to serve him (v. 21). As Thompson observes, “Once again Solomon is given a charge by David to be strong and courageous and do the work (cf. 22:11-13; 28:10). Helpers lay ready to assist in the building who would obey Solomon’s every command.”12

As David drew near to death, he passed on to Solomon some final words of advice: “I am about to die. Be strong and become a man! Do the job the LORD your God has assigned you by following his instructions and obeying his rules, commandments, regulations and laws as written in the Law of Moses. Then you will succeed in all you do and seek to accomplish” (1 Kings 2:2-3). Once again we see the by now familiar formula of strength and courage. And once more we note that true strength lies not simply in physical strength, but in strength of character that is grounded in full trust in the Lord and evidenced in following God’s revealed standards. Interestingly, Solomon would soon place himself in God’s hands and pray for the divine wisdom to be able to lead his people justly in all matters, not just in the task of building the temple (1 Kings 3:9). As he did so, Solomon became the wisest and most powerful king of his day. Unfortunately, worldly wealth and acclaim can too often lead to spiritual disaster and diminished strength of character, and so it proved to be for Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-10). It is a lesson that all true believers need to learn.13

The Use of Strength in the New Testament

One of the finest New Testament examples of spiritual strength has its source in the Old Testament. It is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. There Paul points to the faith of Abraham to believe in God’s promise that he would make Abraham “the father of many nations” (Rom. 4:17, 18). Abraham’s hope and faith remained strong, even though he and Sarah were very old and therefore, beyond the child- bearing years (v.19). Accordingly, Abraham enjoyed a righteous standing before God (cf. Gen. 15:6). As Keil and Delitzsch point out, “This righteousness Abraham acquired through his unconditional trust in the Lord, his undoubting faith in his promise, and his ready obedience to his word.”14 Indeed, “He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was able to do” (Rom. 4:20-21). God’s promise, of course, was realized when Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Gen. 21:1-3).

For his part, Paul uses the example of Abraham of Abraham as a lesson in true faith—the kind of faith, which must be exercised in receiving Jesus as savior (Rom. 4:23-25). As Moo observes, “It is the God of the promise, the promise given to Abraham but ultimately fulfilled in Christ and Christians, in whom Abraham and we believe...15 the ultimate object of faith has always been the same.” The words of the hymn writer Thomas Oliver’ illustrate the kind of faith Paul is discussing:

The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
ancient of everlasting days, and God of love,
Jehovah, great I AM, by heav’n and earth confessed:
I bow and bless the sacred name, forever blessed.
He by himself has sworn, I on his oath depend;
I shall on eagles’ wings upborne, to heaven ascend;
I shall behold his face, I shall his power adore,
and sing the wonders of his grace forevermore.16

Jesus gave the secret concerning the nature of true strength as he reminded one of the Jewish scribes of the Old Testament standard that people are to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Jesus’ admonition is based upon Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Jesus taught that this is the most basic of all the Old Testament commandments, for it summarizes well the need for genuine faith. This involves not only one’s entire personality, intellect, emotions, and will (cf. Ps. 37:3-6; 1 Tim. 1:12), but a love for God with all one’s being (cf. Josh. 22:5; 1 Cor. 13:13). The hymn writer speaks to this very point:

O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
that in Thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.17

Yes, true strength is one of spiritual character—one that comes from God and returns to him via faith in Christ and an all-encompassing love for the Lord. Interestingly, the Greek word for love in Mark 12:30 reflects this well. In contrast with other Greek words for love, this verb comes from a root involving the exercise of one’s whole soul and being. In the Scriptures it expresses a love that ultimately comes from God and lives out that love both in commitment to him and showing that love to others. Indeed, Jesus went on to say that the second great commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). “It is small wonder, then, that true Christian love reflects and acts in accordance with God’s own love. For a Christian’s whole soul attitude toward others is to love others and seeks their highest good—no matter who or what—just as God does (Matt. 5:43-48).”18

Where the kind of faith that Jesus prescribed exists, spiritual strength will follow. Such faith will enable believers to stay strong among the changing vicissitudes of life. This includes even times of suffering for the testimony of Christ. Thus the Apostle Peter points out that many were suffering for Christ due to the devil and his followers. Therefore, he warns his readers to expect the same thing and urges them:

Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and established you (1 Pet. 5:9-10).

Such has been the case throughout the church age.

A notable example of such Christian courage in the early church is found in reports concerning the second century Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp. In the persecution of the church in the mid second century Polycarp was apprehended for his faith and led into the stadium at Smyrna before a howling mob and the Roman proconsul. Although the Roman official repeatedly to urge Polycarp to renounce Christ by saying, “Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent, say ‘Away with the atheists,’” Polycarp turned to that lawless crowd and waving his hand at them cried out, “Away with the atheists!” Turning to the Roman proconsul he boldly testified, “Eighty-six years I have served him [Christ] and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blasphemed him my king who has saved me.”

The source of his courage is not difficult to find. Tradition reports that when Polycarp was led into that stadium, a voice from heaven and said to him, “Be strong Polycarp; be a (real) man.” And so he would do, for before that day ended the life-blood lay spilled on the ground. Although condemned to be burnt at the stake, this grisly deed was finally concluded only by stabbing Christ’s ancient servant to death. Through it all Polycarp had been a “real man” of faith.

It is happening still. Indeed, reports of Christians being persecuted and suffering and dying continue to surface in many places in today’s world.19 In some cases Christians have suffered terrible atrocities, as well as everything they possess. As Osborne observes, Peter’s admonition does not “mean physical or revolutionary resistance but a determination to remain faithful to God in spite of the suffering.”20 The earlier admonition of English still rings true, “The more we bear for His sake, the more we shall be conformed to His image, and the more also shall we rejoice. We are not to think it strange that these trials come upon us—they are the mark of our faithfulness to our Lord.”21

The ability to endure such trials comes from the strength that God can and does supply to faithful believers. The Apostle Paul could testify that he commonly experienced times of suffering for which he was in himself insufficient to bear. Yet he welcomed all that happened—even those trials. Moreover, Paul had a personal infirmity, which despite his pleas God was strengthening him to bear by faith. In addition, he faced many kinds of attacks against him in his ministry for Christ (cf. 2 Tim. 4:15). Nevertheless, through it all he could remember that the Lord had assured him, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9a). Because the strength he possessed had its source in God, he could go on to face and difficulty or hardship:

So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9b-10).

Even as Paul, “Men and women who know and love Jesus will readily discern why Paul reaches these revolutionary conclusions, for they have begun to grasp what it means to serve and suffer ‘for Christ’s sake.’” 22

Likewise in his epistle to the Philippians Paul declares that it is not in his power that he lives out his life and ministry, but solely in the Lord’s strength: “I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13). As Comfort points out, “This powerful presence enabled Paul to go through bad times and good. Paul no longer relied on his own strength but on the strength of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who lived in him and worked through him (see Gal 2:20; Col 1:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:8-10; 4:7-12; 12:8-10).”23

In earlier days I had the pleasure of knowing quite well the Rev. Gil Dodds, the famous world class runner. His proven ability is evidenced in a long list of his achievements. Among the many that could be mentioned are: the NCAA men’s cross country championship (1940), the AAU indoor mile championship (1942, 1944, 1947) including the world indoor record for the mile run twice in 1944, and the Wanamaker Mile three times, the last occurring in 1948. Gil went on to become an ordained minister, where his racing achievements made him known as the Flying Parson. A humble man, in personal witness to me he told me that his life verse was indeed Philippians 4:13. No less than for the Flying Parson, Paul’s words stand as an encouragement to all believers to fulfill their lives and ministry in God’s strength. Our confidence must be in Christ and not ourselves. It is by God’s grace and power that true spiritual achievement can be realized.

Paul emphasizes this very thing in his advice to his younger fellow laborer Timothy saying, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). Standard translations render the Greek verb in the active voice (e.g., HCSB, KJV, NET, NIV, etc.). The verb, however, is in the middle/passive voice. It is best understood in the form in which it exists, hence be translated as a passive imperative, “be strengthened.” Thus Marshall remarks, “The command expresses the thought of 1:6f in different language: there the thought was of the Holy Spirit as the source of spiritual power, but here the source is divine grace . . . Grace is given by God in Christ Jesus and is therefore received by being united to him through faith.”24 Thus Paul urges Timothy to let God’s grace in Christ Jesus continue to empower him and his ministry.

Indeed, it was that grace that had empowered Paul in his ministry for Christ (1 Cor. 15:10), and he urges Timothy to keep growing in and enjoy that same strength. In prior days Paul had informed the church at Thessalonica that while he must stay in Athens to complete his work there, he was sending Timothy, “Our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (I Thess. 3:2). Timothy had already been a channel of spiritual strength, so that Paul’s admonition to him was doubly intended as a reinforcing of Timothy in his walk before the Lord and as a reminder of the true source of his ministerial success.

Paul likewise often encouraged believers in the churches in which he ministered to avail themselves of that same source of strength. Thus in a benedictory blessing to the church at Thessalonica he prayed, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our father, who loved us and by grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good thing you say and do” (2 Thess. 2;17). In his prayer for the believers in the church at Colossae he informed them that God might “fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” (Col. 1:9-11).

In an admonition to the Ephesians believers he urged his readers to “be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power” (Eph. 6:10). In doing so he informed them of certain spiritual tools that were available to them for living the Christ-filled life (vv. 11-18). These include: (1) acknowledging the truth of God’s claim upon the believer’s life as well as its practical application in living out the truth in word and deed; (2) the practice of righteousness as demonstrated in a life of holiness; (3) an active faith that has the overwhelming desire of sharing with others the good news of peace with God as the source for experiencing all that God intends each believer to be and accomplish; (4) a faith that involves genuine belief and a commitment to Christ that produces an active Christian life, which embodies divine character lived out in faithfulness to the Lord and his Word; (5) utilizing the full benefits of one’s saving relation with God by applying the wisdom and power of the Word of God for every situation; and (6) with all of that to be those who continue in full fellowship with God in prayer. Paul’s challenge here is reflected in t he hymn writer’s admonition

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone;
the arm of flesh will fail you—ye dare not trust your own;
put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer;
where duty calls, or danger, be never wanting there.25

Although Paul is admonishing and encouraging Ephesian believers to appropriate the spiritual realities in order to have strength to withstand all evil forces, nonetheless they are also quite necessary for living out and experiencing the joys of the Christian life in all its fullness. Indeed, the source of the believer’s strength is found in God alone. As Arnold points out, this comes from the active power of the full godhead, Father (the provider of the believer’s spiritual armor), Son (the exalted head of the church, Jesus Christ, the source of the believer’s spiritual strength), and Holy Spirit (God’s agent who conveys this strength.26

Summary and Concluding Thoughts

We have noted that in addition to a person’s physical strength, the Scriptures have much to say concerning non-physical strength. We saw that Moses praised the Lord not only for the strength that he had displayed in delivering his people Israel from Egypt, but in the strength that he had given him personally. It was a strength that brought Moses into a living, personal relationship with God (Exod. 15:2). Thus the Scriptures reveal that personal spiritual strength comes from God (1 Chron. 28:20) and is a quality that stems from God’s grace (2 Tim. 2:1).

At times scriptural passages concerning strength express a challenge to draw on that God-given strength with complete trust and courage. Toward the end of his service for the Lord, Moses challenged the people to “Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail or abandon you!” (Deut. 31:6). He subsequently issued a similar challenge to Joshua, his divinely chosen successor (vv. 7-8). It was a challenge that God himself would later reinforce in speaking directly to Joshua (Josh. 1:6). As he did so, the Lord pointed to the necessity of being faithful to God’s revealed word, in order that he may have a ready source of spiritual strength (Josh. 1:7-9). David issued such a challenge to Solomon in turning over the kingdom to him (1 Kings 2:2-3).

The important issue is this: more than physical strength and courage is strength of character. It is supplied in spiritual strength, which comes through faith in God and keeping God’s revealed standards (1 Kings 2:2; 1 Chron. 22:12-13; Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Pet. 5:9-10). It involves a life of genuine faith, which is accompanied by many non-physical aspects of strength.

Faith is informed (Rom 15:1) and resolute (Rom 4:20; 1 Jn 2:14). Strength is courage (Josh 1:6; Lk 22:43; 1 Cor 16:13; Col 1:11), confidence (Prov 31:25), knowledge (Acts 18:24) and convincing proclamation (Mic 3:8; Lk 24:19; Acts 7:22; 2 Cor 10: 4).27

Such spiritual strength is evidenced as well in a life of holiness and faithfulness to the Lord as well as a genuine concern for others. It stems from a whole-soul love and commitment to the Lord as one’s primary source of strength (Mark 12:30-31). Where such strength is found, there is evidence of divinely endowed wisdom (1 Kings 3:9) and a resultant joy of life (Neh. 8:10).

Even in times of testing a committed believer can be assured of God’s presence and strength, including the need for necessary physical strength (Ps. 18:1-2) For in our weakness we can find God’s strength to be our sufficiency for each day’s challenges (2 Cor. 12:9-11). Thus David declared: “God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1). God’s strength is available not only for difficult times, however, but for all of life’s opportunities and challenges (Pss. 27:14; 31:24).

Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here;
…….
Every day the Lord Himself is with me with a special mercy for each hour;
all my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” this the pledge to me He made. 28

Trusting in God’s strength should especially characterize Christian leaders (1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Tim. 2:1). Yet, it is also true for all believers, even as Paul urged believers throughout the churches to which he ministered (e.g. Eph. 6:10-18; Col. 1:9-11; 2 Thess. 2:17).

Do we wish to have a fruitful and enjoyable life? It comes from a basic all-consuming passion for the Lord that both senses his abiding presence and lets that presence guide all that he is and does. As the psalmist declares, “Certainly the godly will give thanks to your name; the morally upright will live in your presence” (Ps 140:132b). A complete dependence on the Lord for spiritual strength and its effect in our lives can be further obtained by spending much time in prayer. As Cheney expresses it:

At first I prayed for Light:

Could I but see the way,

How gladly, swiftly would I walk

To everlasting day!

And next I prayed for Strength:

That I might tread the road

With firm, unfaltering feet, and win,

The heaven’s serene abode.

And then I asked for faith:

Could I but trust my God,

I’d live enfolded in His peace,

Though folds were all abroad.

But now I pray for Love;

Deep love to God and man,

A living love that will not fail,

However dark His plan.

And Light and Strength and Faith

Are opening everywhere;

God only waited for me, till

I prayed the larger prayer.29

Paul’s challenge for the Corinthian believers should be ours if we truly desire to have a life filled with a sense of realizing all that God intends us to be: “Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong. Everything you do should be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:13).30


1 Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, cited in Familiar Quotations, ed. John Bartlett (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 16th ed., 1992), 319.

2 All scriptural citations are taken from the NET.

3 Robin Wakely, “ḥzq,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 1997) 2:81.

4 For the exodus as a biblical motif, its prevalence throughout the Bible, and a rich bibliography concerning the exodus, see Richard D. Patterson and Michael E. Travers, “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,”  The Westminster Theological Journal, 66 (2004), 25-47.

5 Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1-39, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 283. Moses’ song of victory is also reflected in the psalmist’s praise and thanks to God (Ps. 118:14, 28).

6 Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 371.

7 The two verbs, although often used together, do not always occur in the same order.

8 Wakely, “mş,” The New International Dictionary 1:370. 

9 David M. Howard, Jr., Joshua, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998) 5:88.

10 Richard D. Patterson and Hermann J. Austel, “1 and 2 Kings,” in The Expositors Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) 3:917.

11 See further, Smith, Isaiah, 578-80.

12J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994) 9:193.

13 See further, Richard D. Patterson, “Wiser Than Solomon,” (Richardson, TX, Biblical Studies Press, 2012), 4-5.

14 C. F. Keil, Pentateuch, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. James Martin (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1956) 1: 202.

15 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 288.

16 Thomas Oliver, “The God of Abraham Praise.”

17 George Matheson, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.”

18 Richard D. Patterson, “God So Loved the World,” (Richardson, Texas:  Biblical Studies Press, 2010), 2.

19 The persecution of Christians is quite regularly reported in various sources. See, for example, “They Cry in Silence, A Look at the Persecution of Christians Around the World,” in Israel My Glory, 7/3, May/June, 2013, 15.

20 Grant R. Osborne, “James, 1-2 Peter, Jude,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2011) 18:262.

21 E. Schuyler English, The Life and Letters of Saint Peter (New York: Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1943), 220.

22 Donald A. Carson, From Triumphalism to Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 151.

23 Philip W. Comfort, “Philippians,” Cornerstone Biblical Commentary (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2008) 16:221.

24 I. Howard Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, The International Critical Commentary, eds. J.A. Emerton, C.E.B. Cranfield, and G. N. Stanton (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999), 724. See further, A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Teastament (New York: Harper & Brothers, n.d.) 4:616) and Charles Ellicott, The Epistles of Saint Paul (Minneapolis: The James Family, n.d.), 79.

25 George Duffield, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”

26 See the excellent comments by Clinton E. Arnold, “Ephesians,” Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 474. See also Arnold’s full discussion concerning the details and significance of Paul’s teaching here (437-75).

27 “Strong, Strength,” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998), 822.

28 Carolina Sandell Berg, “Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment” (Translated by A. L. Skoog).

29 Edna D. Cheney, “The Larger Prayer.”

30 Here again we note the presence and importance of the Greek verb `andridzomai, “be a man” (i.e. a real person) for a fuller understanding of the word translated “courage.”

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Terms & Definitions, Leadership