“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”
My mind often struggles to quantify the magnitude and might of God. When I was younger, God was a bigger version of my dad. He was funny and kind and loved people well and enjoyed being a part of my life and I enjoyed having Him around. As I got older, this understanding of God was not wiped away, but deepened and expanded to a greater understanding of why people encounter God’s messengers with fear and trembling. I then fell too far into a skewed perception of God’s wrath and felt that He must be angry with me because of my sin and incompetence to carry out His plan for my life. I thought He must be disappointed in my performance because if I was God, I would be disappointed in me too. I did not understand the greatness of Christ’s work on my behalf. I did not grasp the truth of Jesus’ suffering in my place on the cross and the truth that His record now counted for me. I still struggle with these misconceptions and attempt to make God fit into whatever I want Him to be based on my whims and preferences. Too often, we come to God’s throne without remembering who He is and what He is like. While He is our Father who loves us dearly, He is also the God who plagued the Egyptians and killed their firstborn. He is the God who did not tolerate sin, but poured out His wrath on His son for our sake.
When we read the end of Ephesians, sometimes we are tempted to bring our own weapons to the table. We think we need the plastic knife of our self-righteousness and the cardboard fort of our reputation when God has already provided us with the perfect tools for battle. Like David’s 5 stones, we are perfectly equipped for the mission God has called us to. We do not need to earn these weapons, they are bestowed upon us in our justification through Christ. Jesus’ righteousness is the only reason we can “stand firm” in the battles we face on a daily basis. He is our leader and commander and we are at our best when we fall into rank behind Him. At times, we try to run ahead of Jesus on the battlefield and we are shocked when we are crushed under the weight of consequences for our actions. We meet our adversaries with great confusion because we think we can fight them on our own. The time for preparation is not in the midst of the battle. We must be ready before the pain and intensity of hardship arrive in our lives. This truth must penetrate every aspect of our lives, from the way we treat our friends to the way we approach our jobs to the way we parent. We must prepare ourselves and those around us for the inevitability of hardship. When we follow Christ and His example of preparation before the cross, we have great hope and strength for whatever comes our way. The battle is not easy or simple, but we have a Mighty God on our side and the Prince of Peace leading our army. In addition, we are not sent into battle alone. Like the Roman army, we are positioned next to brothers and sisters who are equipped by God to fight alongside us when our Sword of the Spirit feels dull and our shield of Faith gets heavy. As you go through your week, remember the great power of our God and the perfection of His leadership in Jesus Christ. Remember that you are not alone in your fight against sin and you have a great family in the Church to fight alongside you. As you remember these things, look for brothers and sisters who are hurting and refuse to leave a friend behind who has stumbled on the battlefield. Stand firm in the truth of the Gospel and fight the good fight God has called you to.