“So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” Luke 1:80
President Obama made a profound statement when he said: “Our spirit is strong; our enemies can’t defeat us!” From the Scriptures, we understand that man is a tripartite being. He is made up of spirit, soul and body. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Body builders develop their bodies; intellectuals develop their minds, a key part of the soul; believers can also develop their spirit. Unfortunately, it is possible to be a Christian for many years and still have a weak spirit.
NECESSITY FOR SPIRITUAL STRENGTH
We are told that John the Baptist “grew and became strong in spirit.” The same thing was said about Jesus: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40). It is evident from the experiences of John and Jesus that we too can grow to the point where we become strong in spirit. That was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Church: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:16 NIV). The ‘inner being’ is synonymous with man’s spirit. Paul also exhorted Timothy: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1).
PURPOSE OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH
When you are spiritually strong, you are resilient; you can withstand the vicissitudes of life. We know how strong you are by what it takes to discourage you. Solomon observed that “The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14). It is unfortunate that we now have a generation who easily buckle under the slightest pressure. They make all the right confessions but easily give up when they face the real issues of life. The actual problem is lack of spiritual strength because “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” (Proverbs 24:10 NLT).
We need strength for spiritual warfare. Paul said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12). We do not wait until the day of battle to be strong, rather we are to be strong before the day of battle.
We need to be strong to do exploits. In the times that we live in, only the spiritually strong will be able to do exploits, “… but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” (Daniel 11:32b). The end-times harvest will require labourers who are strong in spirit and are willing to go all the way with the Lord.
HOW DO WE BECOME STRONG?
We become strong by feeding on the word of God. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2). As Paul was about to leave the elders of the Ephesian church, he prayed for them: “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32).
Billy Graham told the story of the Eskimo who had a black dog and a white dog that he used for dog fights. He always knew which dog was going to win the fight. When he was asked how he was able to know, he said that all he did was to feed the dog that he wanted to win and starve the other. If we don’t feed on the word of God then we become vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. None of us can have any excuse now because the Bible is available to us in all devices and versions.
Bible study is good, but we also need to meditate on the Word. Unfortunately, meditation is a lost art in the church. That is probably why so many people are weak. The Eastern religions have ‘stolen’ this art from the church. Some of us have watched videos of Buddhist monks who through meditation developed themselves to the extent that they accomplish unusual feats. We know that their source of power is different from ours. Anywhere you see the counterfeit you can be sure that there is an original and we have it!
We become strong by praying especially in the Spirit. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). That was what Paul meant when he said, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4). To edify is to build up oneself. Could Paul’s robust spiritual life be explained by what he said in First Corinthians 14:18? “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.”
Spiritual strength is also generated when we fast. Fasting helps us to develop and unleash the latent power of the spirit. Jesus fasted to commence His ministry. Though the Bible does not explicitly say but it is likely that fasting was a regular part of His life. After His fast, we are told: “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.” (Luke 4:14). Fasting, when properly done, will always result in spiritual strength.
God commanded Israel, “Therefore you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land which you cross over to possess.” (Deuteronomy 11:8). Obedience is key to spiritual strength. A life of disobedience is diametrically opposed to spiritual strength.
We also become strong through our fellowship with other believers. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). That is typically what happens in fellowship, we mutually reinforce each other. We are told this about the Early Church: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47). Could this explain the great power of the Early Church? We are told “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25). When you remove a log from a bonfire, it’s only a matter of time before it burns out.
BENEFITS OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH
- A strong spirit can conquer any physical limitation. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).
- The stronger we are in spirit the better we will be in perceiving spiritual realities around us. (Mark 2:8; Hebrews 5:14).
- When you are weak, you are vulnerable; when you are strong, you are invincible.
- The spiritually strong rule over their environment, they exercise dominion and authority.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, often says that Israel would never be weak again because in the moment of weakness they lost 6 million Jews in the holocaust! That is why, as a policy, Israel always wants to be ahead of their adversaries. God wants to replenish your strength if you are running on empty. “He restores my soul” (Ps. 23:3). But you cannot be passive, you need to engage in the disciplines that generate spiritual energy. God wants us to be warriors, not wimps!