Strengthened With Power

After reading the sermon outline on the app and hearing Pastor Bryon preach the message on Sunday, I felt overwhelmed by the inadequacy of my own experience to comment further on this passage from Ephesians. Sometimes, maybe even most times, the Christian life feels to me like I’ve moved into a new house where, oddly, all of the power outlets have been placed along the ceiling instead of along the floor, and they’re all just slightly out of reach. I read the Scriptures and see the incredible power of God to part seas, calm storms, heal the sick and raise the dead. And I’m standing there befuddled with the cord hanging loosely in my hand, unsure of how to plug into that source. Maybe if I wasn’t so short it would be different.

The words of Ephesians 3:16 truly are beautiful, but what does that actually mean? What should Monday morning look like based on what I heard and read on Sunday? So I started thinking about Monday morning, and for me, at 4:55 AM my alarm is going to go off, and I will be attempting to pull myself out of bed and down to the basement to start week two of P90X, the old at-home workout DVD’s that I have an on again/off again, love-hate relationship with. Why am I yet again making this attempt? Because I am weak and I want to get stronger, and it’s not going to happen just because I wish it were so. There are some steps I have to take first. I have to find a ladder to climb to connect to the source of power.

There is a tension here of course. We cannot hope to pull ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps in our spiritual lives. Every step of devotion on our part is precipitated by grace on Gods’ part. Simply “trying harder” at what we have always failed at will only lead to more failure and frustration. As Henry Cloud wisely puts it, “To encourage a powerless person to try harder is one of the worst things you could possibly do. The best thing you can do is to discourage him from believing he can do it on his own.” It’s the age old paradox of working out our salvation because God is already at work within us (Philippians 2:12-13).

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8, “Train yourself in godliness, for while physical training is of some value, godliness is invaluable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” We need to train ourselves. We need to consistently practice some spiritual exercises. Part of the appeal of a program like P90X is that it targets all the areas of the body. There are exercises for your back and chest. Exercises for arms and shoulders. Exercises for legs and abs. There’s weightlifting and cardio and stretching for rest and recovery. I think our spiritual habits should be similarly varied.

We need solitude to strengthen us from the fear of man. We also need fellowship to strengthen us from loneliness and unhealthy degrees of self-examination.

We need fasting to remind us of the frailty of our flesh and strengthen our spirit’s dependence on God. And we need feasting and celebration to strengthen us against melancholy sullenness and to remind us that it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

We need to practice silence and stillness to quiet the noise of the world and our own fidgety minds and strengthen our ability to hear the voice of the Beloved and his wise counsel. And we need to make a joyful noise in worship and sing hymns and spiritual songs and dance before the Lord, undignified.

We need to strengthen our knowledge of God’s Word by careful study and frequent meditation and memorization. And we need to practice generosity and pursue justice to take us out of our own heads and in touch with the needs and burdens of others.

We must actively receive the power that God delights to give. We must clarify the vision of a life where Jesus dwells with us and reigns in our hearts until we overflow with love and joy. We must fully intend and resolve to make such a life with Jesus true of us and to employ whatever habits and practices will connect us with him and translate that vision into a concrete reality. Sometimes that will require effort and focus on our part; sometimes we simply look at God looking at us in love and favor, “leaning on the everlasting arms.”

May you be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

by Steve Lamp

Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.