Summary: Part I of 2 about being prepared for spiritual battle
Over the years, I have talked to many Christians that are down and out, or perhaps better put, down for the count. In other words, I have met many defeated Christians. Hey, let's be honest; we all have our "down moments", our "weak times", those times when we struggle in the faith. I guess the question is not if you have struggles now and then, but instead if you are down and out all the time. Struggles in the Christian life are to be expected. Life is not always a peach.
Here's two lines of thought. First, would we be truly thankful if each and every day was without struggle? Sure, we are going to have days and perhaps even weeks on a stretch without struggle, you will struggle and may struggle for days and even weeks on a stretch! Going through tough times, while not fun, make those days of easier living and blessing much more sweet.
Second, how does one grow and get closer to God unless we struggle? It's like the old saying of separating the men from the boys (or the girls from the women). Think of trials and tribulations in your life as being God's gym. It's part of the training that makes you stronger in Him. And--now give this some careful thought--if you are closer to God now, you have a head start on being closer to God in Heaven. In other words, get to know God better now so you will enjoy Him more forever.
I think that many churches fail to realize that as Christians, we are at WAR. This is a war that is being fought between God and Satan, demons versus holy angels; it is a war that you and I are involved in whether you like it or not. If you are always happy, content, and never feel that you stumble or that you have problems in your Christian walk then I have some bad news for you: you, my friend are losing the battle. You may say "WHAT?", when I say that. John MacArthur wrote in his Ephesians commentary:
A Christian who no longer has to struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil is a Christian who has fallen either into sin or into complacency. A Christian who has no conflict is a Christian who has retreated from the front lines of service.
You see, here's the point to this passage in Ephesians we are going to cover over the next two weeks: Be Prepared. Yup, just like a Boy Scout. We are to "train yourselves to be godly" (1 Timothy 4:7), in other words, go to God's gym. No wimps allowed.
YOU Can't...GOD Can! (10)
Many nice, well meaning Christians have the whole spiritual warfare thing all backwards and "mullusked up", as some old timers would say. Hey, I used to make the same mistake. We often think that we can try to be strong in the Lord. Try to be godly. Try to stand. Tell that to any professional athlete or soldier, that you want to try to be a football player or try to be a Marine. No, it takes training. And training takes time, effort and a commitment to do such which, unfortunately, many people that profess Christ lack. Folks say they love Jesus, but they expect to be no more than a spiritual sugar daddy that blesses them. This, my friend, sadly is the Americanized view of Christianity.
As Paul draws his Epistle to the Ephesians to a close, he gives people their orders as soldiers in Christ. These orders are often misunderstood by well meaning Christians, and I myself have had a few wrong views concerning this passage in the past.
First, it is a translational weakness in the NKJV (and in the KJV, NASB, ESV, NLT and most other translations) to translate the Koine Greek word endunamoo as be strong; it should read as the NET Bible gets it right by translating the word as be strengthened, or as Kenneth Wuest stated, continually strengthened. Wuest explains: The rendering, "be strong," could encourage one to self-effort at being strong, whereas the translation "be strengthened," causes the saint to depend on the Lord for the supply of that strength. In other words, the battle belongs to the Lord (1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15); however we are to know how to attain that power from God.
It's important to be prepared. A lack of preparation in the life of the believer causes great grief when the going gets tough, and the attacks from Satan increase in intensity and amount. Basic to the effective Christian life is preparation. The unprepared believer becomes the defeated believer who seeks to serve the Lord in his own wisdom and power. The strength of the Christian life is dependence on God, being strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. (MacArthur).