Summary: Believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and are walking worthy of their calling will experience opposition and are in need of protection.
1. The first essential truth is that you can only stand by being strong.
2. The second essential truth is that you can only stand by being submerged
3. The third essential truth is that you can only stand by seizing
With this being Memorial Day weekend, it seems very appropriate that our passage has a military theme this morning. As most of you know, I spent 20 years in the Air Force. Some folks in the Army or Marines might question whether serving in the Air Force actually counts as being in the military. And they might have a point. For years, the Air Force was known as corporate Air Force. I always liked to say that we were the only branch who was smart enough to send the officers off to do the dirty work. But during my career, things began to change. For most of the start of my career, the emphasis was on whatever your job was. It was all about your career field and very little about combat skills. That is, until we started messing around in the desert. I will never forget the feeling we had when we packed up to go to Saudi Arabia shortly after the first Gulf War—and they issued us chemical warfare suits, M-16s, and body armor. I was a telephone cable splicer. I was a whole lot closer to the “can you hear me now” guy than I was to GI Joe. What in the world was I going to do with a gas mask and body armor? Well, the first night that the sirens went off, it became pretty clear. You see, it was then that the enemy became real. It was no longer some videogame looking thing on CNN. It was when the enemy became real to me that I started paying a whole lot more attention to my protection. As Christians, we are under attack every day. The problem is, most of the time it’s not real to us. And because the danger isn’t real to us, we don’t pay much attention to our protection. In our passage this morning, Paul begins to conclude his letter with a graphic discussion of spiritual warfare. He wants to make it real. Because he knows it is coming. Think back over his whole letter that we’ve been covering for the past few months. Remember that Paul prayed two prayers for these people. In the first one he prayed that his readers would have spiritual wisdom and power. In his second one, he prayed they would have the God-given strength to walk worthy of their calling. And one thing about Paul. He knew the power of prayer. He knew that God would answer his prayers. So, he knew that God would give them the spiritual wisdom he asked for by filling them with the Holy Spirit. And he knew that God would give them the strength to walk worthy of their calling—as evidenced by their praise, thankfulness, and humble submission. Paul prayed for it, and he knew God was going to answer his prayers. But he also knew what that meant. It meant they would face opposition from the enemy. We have a mixed-up view of God’s blessings. We think that when we are walking closest to the Lord that we’re not ever supposed to face opposition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why does the enemy need to fool with someone who is no threat to him? But when we are walking closest to the Lord, we are obviously going to be a threat to Satan. And he attacks his threats. The bigger the threat, the more vicious the attack. Make no mistake about it—if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and are walking worthy of our calling, we will experience opposition. And because we will face opposition, we need protection. We need protection so we can stand strong in the face of our enemy. That’s what I want for us this morning. Like Paul, I have prayed that we will obtain true spiritual wisdom and power by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Like Paul, I have prayed that we will walk worthy of our calling and show the evidence by our praise, our thankfulness and our humble submission. And like Paul, I know that God will answer those prayers. So, I know that Satan our enemy will attack. I want each of us to be able to stand strong in the face of our enemy. In order to do that, we’re going to look at three essential truths about standing in the face of our enemy. The first essential truth is that you can only stand by being strong. Look in verse 10:
You can only stand in the face of the enemy by being strong. Most preachers do a wonderful job emulating Paul here in his use of the word “finally”. When he uses “finally” here, it basically means the same thing as when the preacher takes his watch off before preaching. Absolutely nothing. I had a preacher one time whose sermons always had three points. The problem was that he might have 4 or 5 points that he started with “secondly”. In several of his letters, Paul does this. He says “finally” and then keeps going with this whole wonderful passage on the armor of God. He starts by telling his readers to be strong. What comes to mind when you think of what it means to be strong? Maybe you think of physical strength. Do you remember the old Charles Atlas ads in magazines and comic books? They had the skinny kid and his girl getting sand kicked on them by the bully. And the skinny kid was a wimp and couldn’t do anything about it. So he wimped on home and ordered something from Charles Atlas so he’d be strong. Well, he got strong and went back to the beach and beat up the bully. And his girl thought he was a hero. Is that the kind of strength Paul is talking about? Of course not—we all know he’s talking about spiritual strength. But even though we know he’s talking about spiritual strength, do we look at spiritual strength the same way as the wimp in the Atlas ad? Do we look at spiritual strength as something that “I” need so that “I” can do what “I” need to do to get back at all those bad things that happen to me? So that “I” can be blessed? So that “I” can have victory? Is it really all about me? Well, if spiritual strength is like the Atlas ad, it is. Even if spiritual strength is something that we “send off” to God to get for ourselves it is. But it isn’t. Notice what the Bible says. Does it say, “get YOUR strength FROM the Lord?” No, it says, “be strong IN the Lord.” It says that we are to be strong in HIM and in the power of HIS might. The day we start thinking the strength is ours is the day we’ll be defeated. Even if we think it’s our strength that He gave us. Spiritual strength is His. It is all His. And it will always be His. The word that’s translated “be strong” is a passive verb in the original. That means that it is something that happens to you, but is done on your behalf. You aren’t the one doing the doing. In other words, Paul commands us to be strong. But he knows that the strength cannot be our own. It has to be in the Lord. It has to be His strength that He works through our lives. No matter what kind of strength we try to muster, it will never be enough to stand in the face of our enemy. It has to be God’s strength. The power of His might that He works through us. The first essential truth about standing in the face of the enemy is that you can only stand by being strong. The second essential truth is that you can only stand by being submerged. Look at verses 11-12: