The Bible was not written for the Christian to sit and read in an armchair and then do nothing. Instead, God gave it to us to help us in our lives. He speaks in the word to us, because we are his dearly loved people. Both the doctrinal and the practical sections were written to help us live. In a general sense the doctrinal sections help us understand God and ourselves, and how to relate to God; the practical sections help us please God in our relationships with other people and with the world. To look at this from another angle, the Bible in a way is the Christian’s “battle plan”, because we, whether we like it or not, are part of a war. We are in a tough fight, a terrible conflict. All followers of Jesus Christ must confront enemies that totally hate us, and we are called to engage the enemy. For this reason, I thought it would be wise for us to consider this spiritual warfare and how we ought to conduct ourselves in the war.
Let’s start with the form of this verse. The Holy Spirit presents a way of life that will please the Lord. God’s commands describe how his obedient children are to act. Military commands are not options; neither is God’s word! “Be strong” is in the imperative mood. You must be strong. This command flows from the teaching of Ephesians 4:1,17, which flows from the prayer of 3:14-21, which flows from the reality of relationship with the living God presented in 1:3-2:22. (In other words, remember the context of the whole letter. Think of how you are richly blessed in Christ. Our way of life develops from who we are in Christ.)
The Holy Spirit directs us to precise activity: “be strong in the Lord”. However, we can too easily be diverted from the Spirit’s guidance. One diversion is to seek strength in our natural abilities and achievements. We wrongly suppose we can figure out “how to live a successful Christian life” and once we know that, we assume we have the capability to do it. Neither should we be diverted to seek strength in our spiritual growth, nor to seek strength in our spiritual gifts. Both are traps to those who rightly sense that they are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18). You must not depend on your progress or gifts. You need what is much more powerful.
We must only seek strength from the Lord. Compare John 15:5. (Yes, Mission FifteenFive.) How do we receive strength? Since we are united to Christ through faith, we also receive strength from the Lord Jesus through faith—not through works, rituals, or “spiritual disciplines”. Rely on his more than sufficient resources; commit yourself to him (2 Corinthians 12:9). You might be in a very hot part of the battle at this moment. Evil desires might be alluring you, while you’re trying to focus on Christ. You might feel that you can’t cope, that it’s easier to yield to them. I understand, and so does our Lord. Yet the Spirit appeals to you through his word to “be strong in the Lord”. Go to the Ascended Jesus and draw from him by faith the strength you need.
Grace and peace, David