Summary: Living on another level requires us to recognize that what we see is not the only reality. We must recognize that there is not only the natural, but the supernatural, and we survive in both realms by being strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Be Strong!

Ephesians 6:10-20

Pastor Jim Luthy

I received an e-mail the other day with the subject reading "How did we ever survive?" I don’t know who authored it.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup on a warm day was always a special treat. Our baby cribs were painted with bright-colored lead-based paint. We often chewed on the crib, ingesting the paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. We played dodge ball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We ate cupcakes, bread and butter and drank sugar soda, but we were never overweight; we were always outside playing. We had Little League tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren’t as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade.

That generation produced some of the greatest risk-takers and problem-solvers. We had the freedom, failure, success, and responsibility, and learned how to deal with it all!!!

Americans are obsessed with survival. It’s almost maniacal how so many people fight and scratch for the right to kill their unborn children and sick grandparents and pass every conceivable law to keep them alive in-between. We’ve mandated seat-belts and bike helmets and banned lead-based paint. To guard our children’s fragile self-esteem, we’ve banned dodge-ball and picking teams and keeping score. This week’s debate: ballistic fingerprinting. Our favorite TV show is Survivor. And now there is a new show that shows us how to deal with life-threatening situations--you know, the common everyday survival techniques that we need to know if we’re ever attacked by a water buffalo while walking down the streets of Portland!

We are on a never-ending quest for a long life of ease, and we’re trying everything possible to have it. We’re finding its easier to pass laws than to demand personal responsibility for people’s safety. We’ve also discovered that it takes a lot less work to medicate our children than to teach them self-discipline. Yet in spite of all our efforts, people are less prepared to overcome adversity and trial than ever before. In America, we have worked so desperately to insulate ourselves from trials that we could never endure what Christians in other countries face every day. We freak out if we can’t find a ride for our hair appointment or don’t have a place to watch the big game while the people of Rwanda are still digging out from years of Civil War that has left every man, woman, and child with the haunting memories of people being slaughtered with axes and machetes. Truth being told, we’re not so tough. How will we ever survive?

Listen carefully, because we live in a culture that teaches us to avoid trouble at all costs. But no matter how much we legislate and medicate and educate, we still have trouble. In fact, Jesus said, "In this world, you will have trouble." How can we stand?

In this next section of Ephesians—this letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus that invites us to live on another level—Paul exhorts us to "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." Living on another level requires us to recognize that what we see is not the only reality. We must recognize that there is not only the natural, but the supernatural, and we survive in both realms by being strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

In the natural, we recognize our enemies and we eliminate them. When disease spreads, we research it and do all that we can to eliminate it. The battle goes on in our fight to eliminate cancer and AIDS and the West Nile virus, but we’ve pretty well conquered polio and rubella. We legislate more and more safety laws hoping to make accidental deaths less likely. And, if necessary, we can sue the big corporations to make sure we don’t burn ourselves with that hot cup of coffee.

But in the supernatural, we have an enemy that won’t go away. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be "self-controlled and alert" because "your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." I’ve seen our enemy knock off a few of our brothers and sisters, some close friends, and even some of our acquaintances too. If we don’t know how to be strong, we’ll be next. At best, we’ll be like the poor citizens in the D.C. area who stay indoors every day and risk nothing in fear that they will be the next victim of an indiscriminate sniper.

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