Be Strong in the LORD!

THE MARVELOUS LIGHT of present truth brings a general refreshment to the children of God, and to this all of us will agree. Yet we know that in this very day in which we are living, every man’s faith and every man’s works will be tested ‘by fire’ to determine their worthiness. (I Cor. 3:13) “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” These words were spoken by the Apostle Paul just after he explained the variety of work the ministers of God will perform down through the Gospel Age. Some ‘plant’, some ‘water’, but it is God “that giveth the increase.” (vss. 6,7) We have no doubt read that passage of Scripture many times in our study of the Bible and realize that being judged by God is indeed a serious matter.

Our faith and our works are going to be tested ‘as with fire’. This expression reminds us of the Apostle Peter’s words, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Pet. 4:12,13) Again he said, “Wherein … rejoice greatly, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 1:6,7) And so we realize that it is no light decision that we have chosen, to walk in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus.

How important then, brethren, it is for the child of God to “put on the whole armor of God,” as the Apostle Paul instructed us to do in his letter to the Ephesian church. We think, when we read this letter, that Paul might have written it just yesterday, or today! Paul had a look into the future, and could visualize what the church would endure even unto the end of the age.

Therefore, let us consider his advice in Ephesians 6, from which our lesson will be taken, lest we become over-charged by the cares of this life, and lest we become spiritually drowsy. We do not wish to find ourselves judged by God as unable to defend the principles laid out for us in God’s Holy Word.

It is important that we defend the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This defense of the Gospel takes many avenues, some affecting our everyday worklife and homelife, and some affecting our lives as Christians in our ecclesias. One is mentioned in the opening verse of this sixth chapter, where an outline is given of the proper relationship between parents and children. It is well known that in today’s society, for the most part, there is a lack of communication between these two segments of society. Respect is lacking between parents and children. The apostle admonished that children should obey and respect their parents, but he also teaches that the parents should endeavor, in turn, to treat their children in a respectful manner. They must not be too harsh, nor are they to be too lenient with their children.

Earlier Paul had pointed out the tender relationship that exists between the Heavenly Father and his children, and advises us that this loving relationship should be a pattern of good rapport with our children. We should be to our family what we want our relationship to our Heavenly Father to be—a close and loving one. And our relationship with each other, in Christ, should also be as toward our own brothers and sisters. This loving, respectful relationship should be carried throughout all the aspects of our lives.

Paul touched on this subject again, as recorded in I Timothy 5:1,2. Here he wrote that elders should be looked upon as fathers, and respected for their example and instruction in spiritual matters. He also tells us that older women in the church, those who manifest humility and sober conduct and concern for the younger women, should be looked upon as mothers. Paul exhorted the mature members of the ecclesia to be concerned for the welfare of the younger brethren, and to do all that they could to help them develop as children of God.

Sometimes we tend to forget that a portion of the brethren with whom we fellowship has not yet reached the stage of Christian maturity. If our Heavenly Father did nothing but chastise these for their mistakes, how discouraged they would be. Because all are imperfect, life would be simply one chastisement after another. But instead, God is very patient with us. He gently leads us along the way, lovingly giving us the same lessons over and over again, until we finally reach a state of maturity as Christians. Likewise, we should follow God’s kind example, and show patience and concern for each member of our ecclesia, whether immature or mature in Christ.

We, who are mature parents, or mature Christians, ought to keep in mind the thought that there are other more effective ways of stimulating good works than criticism. How good it is to praise somebody, even if they only partially deserve praise. When we see an attempt being made to do what is right, even though not a completely successful one, we should remember that a little praise might be just what the person needs at that time as encouragement.

These bits of encouragement do not cost us any more than a just small effort to speak a word of praise now and then at an appropriate time. If we are observant and notice the efforts of the brethren to serve in ways that may not be extraordinary, it is well to let them know that we see and appreciate their efforts. If we look for them, we can find many avenues of being an encouragement to each other. A loving word may alleviate some of the hardness of an experience one might be enduring of which we are not even aware.

Our Heavenly Father always tempers the corrections he gives us with joyful blessings. He always takes the time to listen to our problems, to listen to our cares, and to listen to our anxieties. He is available to us in prayer at every moment of the day or night, and never turns a deaf ear to us. We should follow his example in this particular, also, in our dealings with our brethren.

Our fellowship at conventions offers us opportunities to listen to the joys and sorrows of our brethren, either individually in private conversations, or collectively in testimony. In the world we have many trials, we have many experiences, many hardships. We discover, while we are attempting to handle these difficulties, that we have many fallen tendencies to overcome. But when we share our trials with each other in testimony or private conversations when we gather at a convention, we find a great source of encouragement and strength because we have similar experiences. We become stronger because we did not forsake ‘the assembling of ourselves together’.—Heb. 10:25

It is a good thing to meet together because that is how we encourage, strengthen, and help one another. How can we do all these things if we do not associate regularly with the brethren, taking advantage of every opportunity offered to us? Our privileges of fellowship at conventions will not continue forever; we must not take these privileges for granted.

All of our dealings with our brethren must be carried out in the spirit of love. It is necessary that we endeavor to let the love we have received from God permeate our thoughts and words and doings in such a way that it might be obvious to others, and encourage a response of love in their lives, thus that they might glorify God also.

We are told that if we seek honor among men, our reward will come now, from them, and not later from God! Jesus’ words on this subject are recorded in Matthew 6:16: “When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward [now]. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee [later on],” and far beyond our wildest imagination!

Paul said, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” (Heb. 10:35 He indicated that whatsoever good work any man accomplished during his lifetime to glorify God, he shall receive from the Lord the reward for that which he performed if his motivation was proper. His service will be received joyfully by the Lord, who will repay him many times over.

Brethren, it is our privilege to help one another to walk faithfully and well in this narrow way, but we can not win the battle for each other. Each must do it themselves, in God’s strength and power. Be strong in the Lord! Be strong in the power of his might, for it is the Lord who is working in you to do this good thing. This is the Apostle Paul’s sound advice. Yes, dear ones, be strengthened in and by the power of the Father and by his dear Son. “Put on the whole armor of God.”—Eph. 6:11

Paul told us to put on the whole armor of God, and he also told us what each piece of that armor represents, and why we need to wear it. He said, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, against principalities, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) Note that the Apostle Paul uses the word ‘wrestle’. We wrestle every day, every conscious moment of our lives, against the things that would destroy us. This takes training, development of strength and fortitude, and conscious effort in order that we might be victorious.

Paul tells us that our armor will sustain us no matter what enemies we might encounter, or whatever threatening events will transpire! We are aware of the evil surrounding us—this awareness is part of our defense—and therefore we want to be diligent in taking advantage of the armor that God has provided. When we properly clothe ourselves with the armor, we are protected completely against Satan and all his agencies.

Our Heavenly Father is the maker of this flawless armor. His workmanship is shown in the solidly made armor of his Word, his truth, his oath: “Thus saith the Lord,” and, “It is written.”

This armor is composed of a number of parts, as mentioned by Paul in Ephesians, chapter 6. He tells us first to put on the girdle of truth. (vs. 14) When one girds his loins it enables him to exert more strength than usual in his efforts. This suggests the great, primary need for the Holy Spirit of truth. It is one thing to have the truth, and it is another to have the Spirit of the truth. This involves a complete consecration to do his will. When we have girded ourselves with the truth, and by the Spirit of the truth, and in consecration to God to serve that truth, we will be fortified absolutely against all our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Then Paul directs us to put on the breastplate of righteousness—the breastplate of justification. God’s reckoned standing of justice comes to us through the precious blood of Jesus, and our faith in its efficacy. When we are with our brethren it is not difficult to follow righteous principles, because they too are seeking to serve righteousness. But to be just, and honest, and sincere, and righteous in the world, is quite difficult, since the majority of mankind are following different principles. A battle ensues, because now we have unrighteous principles with which to contend.

Next Paul tells us to put on the sandals of peace. If we do not possess peace with God through justification, and if we do not possess the peace of God which our Lord Jesus Christ possessed, which passeth all human understanding, the truth will not be able to illuminate our lives, and we will have great difficulty in walking the path of sacrifice. Such a one who does not have peace with God, and who desires not peace with his neighbors, will generally go hunting for trouble. And if you go hunting for trouble you will find it right away! So it behooves us to put on the sandals of peace and not to go looking for trouble. We must continually seek to be peacemakers!

Peace is a righteous motivation and brings joy to our lives. Without the peace of God one is restless; one becomes impatient; one begins to run to and fro looking for something new, rather than being satisfied with the Father’s ways. Jesus assured his followers that as far as God is concerned, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”—Matt. 5:9

The shield of faith! Take up the shield of faith and never lay it down. His truth is our buckler and it is our shield. This piece of armor is our only defensive protection against the Godless theories and philosophies of men. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6) Think of the prophets, the faithful ones prior to this Gospel Age. Think of faithful Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and David, Job, and others—those ancient ones who walked in faith. What did they have? They did not have a knowledge of the spiritual rewards which have been offered to us by God—the hope of glory, honor and immortality. They did, however, have knowledge of the promises God made to bless all the families of the earth, and that someday man would live forever in peace and health upon earth. They had a wonderful earthly hope, and exercised great faith in God’s promises. Think of their great faith, and how they endured all manner of persecution, suffering, and even death, because of their great hope. (Heb. 11) How great, then, is our responsibility to serve God faithfully, and to exercise absolute trust in him and in his power, wisdom, and love!

Another piece of our armor is the helmet of salvation. The helmet protects the intellect. Never was it more vital in the life of the church than it is in our day, to protect the intellect. Think of all the written material that is in existence today—it staggers our minds. There is so much literature available, and other materials of communication, that even in a lifetime we could not make a dent in absorbing all of it. It could take up our time and occupy our minds so completely that we would not have time for serving God or studying the truth. Much of its content is the philosophies of men, and in direct conflict to the Word of God. No wonder that we are told to put on the helmet of salvation!

God has provided his divine plan of the ages as the solution to all problems. It is the only means by which salvation will reach all men. Why should we marvel at the solutions offered by worldly men or worldly women, no matter how brilliant? God has already told us through his Word that man’s solutions will all come to nothing.

When we come to an understanding and appreciation of the divine plan for redemption, we have placed securely upon our heads the helmet of salvation. We will not find anything that fits better! The same truth that we learned when we first heard about ‘the divine plan of the ages’, has never changed. The only thing that has happened is that it has become clearer, dearer, more precious, as the years go by. As our understanding grows deeper, it becomes more a part of our personal lives.

Paul concluded his lesson on the armor of God, by saying: Take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” All of the parts of the armor previously mentioned by Paul were for defensive purposes, to protect ourselves from the Evil One and his agencies. But now Paul tells us to take up a sword, a two-edged sword—an offensive weapon. (Eph. 6:17; Ps. 149:6; Rev. 1:18) We are Christians. We do not take up the sword to do harm to anyone. But, figuratively, we wield this sword against all spiritual error.

Our Lord Jesus used this sword so beautifully when, after he came out of the water at the time of his baptism, he straightway went into the wilderness forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He used that two-edged sword three times. “It is written!” No matter what anybody says to you, whether it is man or devil, the two-edged sword, “It is written,” will cut down their argument if it is incorrect. And if it cannot be cut down by that two-edged sword, then it is truth. It is as simple as that!

Nothing can ever take the place of this sword because it has been provided to us by our Heavenly Father. It bears the inscription, “It is written,” and the words which were written came from God. When our Master was tempted, nothing could take the place of that powerful sword to defend Jesus against the wiles of the Adversary! The Word of God can put down all evil suggestions, all doubts, all temptations, all fleshly allurements, and even the Adversary, himself.

The sword of the Spirit gives a reason for the hope that lies within our hearts, collectively and individually. The Word of God can combat all things, but also it can search out the very intents of every thought that we have. Why do we have the thoughts that we do? What is the purpose behind these thoughts; what are we trying to prove? What are the motives behind our conduct? We must pay particular attention that our conduct and our motives are always pure; and they will be if we wield the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—honestly.

The Word of God can guide us to our goal. Once we have made a vow with our Heavenly Father to become a soldier of the cross, we must diligently clothe ourselves in the armor of God. We must not become careless. We must not turn our backs on the foe. Be vigilant. Satan will attempt to overcome us when we are off guard. But the armor God has provided can effectively protect our spiritual lives if we keep our armor on, and keep it shining bright. We must not let it rust from lack of use.

Brethren, be watchful; be careful. We must realize that our battle is a struggle until the end. We are not to run away from the battle, but strive daily to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. Let our daily life be a witness to the Lord and an example of holiness to all men. We must do with our might what our hands find to do.

The last point is very important to all, young or old, and the older we get the more important it becomes. Paul said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Now stand firm against all odds, clothed with the whole armor of God, and know that nothing will divert your attention from the mark, from the love of God, and Christ, and the brethren. Stand, brethren, be faithful, and gain the victory.

Paul concluded with these words: “I open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you in all things. Peace be unto the brethren and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”—Eph. 6:19

Dawn Bible Students Association
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