Finding the Strength to Stand
Sermon by: Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - April 18, 2012
(Updated from sermon preached at McClendon Baptist Church - Jan. 15, 2006)
*Last Sunday we talked about the power of a tornado, and I told you that an F5 tornado can have winds of over 300 mph. A storm that powerful can literally peel the asphalt off of a road bed. And I once saw video of a place where that happened.
*Sometimes life feels like an F5 tornado. How are you going to stand in something like that? How can I find the strength to stand in the storms of life? We can see right here in the Word of God.
1. First of all, we must look to the Lord.
*That’s why in verse 10, Paul tells believers to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
*I promise you that when it comes to your spiritual life, when it comes to the most important things in life, the only way to be strong is to be strong in the Lord. King David knew that. Here is part of the song David sang to the Lord after God delivered David from the hand of all his enemies.
*From Psalm 18:
1. I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
2. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
*In Psalm 27:1, David said: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
*And in Psalm 19:14, he said: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”
*David knew for sure that the Lord was his strength. And now on the resurrection side of the cross we can be even more sure! We can be “strong in the Lord, and the power of his might,” because the Lord is our ever present source of strength.
*This is why in Philippians 4:13, with all of his suffering, hardship and trouble, the Apostle Paul could say: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
*And when Paul wrote his very last letter, he told Timothy this:
16. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
17. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
*Paul was “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” He never could have stood in his own strength, and neither can we. We must look to the Lord.
*Kent Crockett told an old story about a pastor traveling on a bus down a bumpy road. A college student was seated next to the preacher, and he noticed that the pastor was reading his Bible.
*Almost out of the blue, the preacher asked: “Are you spiritually ready for the temptations that you will face in college?” The young man answered: “I don’t have a problem with temptation. I have strong willpower.”
*The preacher then took a pencil out of his pocket and said: “I can make this pencil stand up on the cover of this Bible even though the bus ride is bumpy.”
*The young man said, “I’ll believe it when I see it. I don't think you can do it.”
-“Look, I am doing it,” the pastor replied.
*“Yeah, but you didn't tell me you would hold the pencil up with your hand.”
-“I didn't have to tell you,” the pastor said. “Have you ever seen a pencil stand up on its own without someone holding it?”
*Then the preacher let go of the pencil. Of course, it instantly fell over and the preacher said: “The only reason you stand, is because God is holding you up with His hand.” (1)
*How can I find the strength to stand? -- We must look to the Lord.
2. But also recognize your real enemy...
*We can see our enemy in vs. 11-12, where Paul said:
11. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
*Of course Jesus and His followers do have real flesh and blood enemies in this world. Paul was not suggesting otherwise. In Phil 3:18, he said, “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ...”
*In 2 Timothy 4, Paul even called one of the enemies of the cross by name. There Paul said:
14. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.
15. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
*Also remember that James 4:4 says, “Whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” And Rom 5:10 tells Christians that “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son”
*There are certainly flesh-and-blood enemies of the cross in the world today. But here in Eph 6, Paul is reminding us that our greatest enemy is the devil. Satan and the other fallen angels are still very much at war with the Lord and His church.
*Most people have no idea about the real struggle they face in life. A lot of people don’t even believe the devil is real. Christopher Roberts told of a study on this he saw in the New York Times.
*The Times story said: “Two-thirds of Americans do not believe in the devil as a living creature. In a randomly selected survey of over 1,000 Americans, pollsters asked whether they agreed that Satan is ‘not a living being, but a symbol of evil.’” Sixty-two percent agreed with that statement.
*That means over 150 million Americans believe that Satan is just a symbol of evil, but the Bible tells us that Satan is just as real as you are. And in these verses, Paul reminds us that our greatest struggles are not with people; they are with the unseen forces of spiritual darkness in this world. (2)
*You may not want to wrestle with the devil, but he most certainly wants to wrestle with you, so we must recognize our real enemy.
-How can I find the strength to stand? -- Recognize your real enemy.
3. But also apply God’s armor.
*God shows us His armor in vs. 13-17, where the Apostle Paul said:
13. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15. and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16. above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
17. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
*Christians, we’ve got some great armor!
*I like the story about a teacher who injured his back and had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and wasn't noticeable at all.
*On the first day of the term, with the cast still under his shirt, this teacher was assigned to the toughest students in school. But he walked confidently into that rowdy classroom, opened a window, and then got busy with his work.
*Soon a strong breeze made his tie flap. That’s when the teacher picked up the stapler from his desk and stapled his tie to his chest. He had no trouble with discipline that term. (3)
*That teacher had invisible armor, but so do we.
-And our armor is a whole lot stronger!
*Thinking on these verses, Brian Fullerton reminds us that Paul was under arrest as he wrote this letter. He probably had a Roman guard standing right by him.
-So, man-made armor is a model here. But it can never be a match for the Spiritual armor we have in Jesus Christ. (4)
*We can look at the armor God gives to Christians, and see how to defeat our enemy’s attacks.
 First: Satan attacks us with lies. -- That’s why in vs. 14, God gives us a girdle or belt of truth.
*As believers, our whole life is held together and held up by the truth. When we have Jesus, we have the truth! And we know that because in John 14:6 He said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
 Then Satan tries to tell us that we are sorry and no good. -- That’s why he is called the Accuser. And that’s why in vs. 14, God also gives us the breastplate of righteousness, God’s righteousness.
*When Jesus Christ died on the cross for us, He took all of our sins. And when we receive the Risen Christ, we receive His righteousness. This is why in 2 Cor 5:21, Paul tells Christians that “He (i.e. God the Father) made Him who knew no sin (i.e. Jesus) to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We have His righteous standing before our Heavenly Father, because our sins are covered by the blood of Christ.
*Plus we also are born again with a new nature, so that Paul can say: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17)
*Satan tries to tell us that we are sorry and no good, but God gives us the breastplate of righteousness.
 Then, Satan tries to keep us from moving forward with Jesus Christ. -- That’s why in vs. 15, God covers our feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.
*Of course the Gospel is simply the Good News about Jesus Christ:
-That God loves us even though we are all sinners,
-That He sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for our sins,
-That Jesus rose again from the dead,
-And that He offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who will receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life.
*Christians, we have the Gospel of peace on our feet. Now, most of all that is everlasting peace with God, but the Gospel can also bring peace in our relationships, peace in our hearts, and peace in the worst storms of life.
*As believers, we have the Gospel of peace on our feet, and it will take us safely over every rocky road we face! -- I have seen this happen many times in situations where you would think the people would be pulling their hair out. But they made it through, because of the Gospel of peace.
*It’s hard to walk on a rough road with no shoes, but God gives us spiritual shoes that can help us move ahead on the roughest road! And best of all, we get to take the Good News about Jesus Christ everywhere we go. We have the Gospel of peace on our feet.
 But then, Satan tries to make us doubt God. -- That’s why God gives us the shield of faith in vs. 16.
*The shields used by Roman soldiers weren’t little, round things. No, a Roman shield was a big rectangle, two feet wide and four feet tall. It was big enough to protect your whole body. And when you stood by the other soldiers, it was big enough to protect the whole army. Christians, we have the shield of faith!
 But we also have the helmet of salvation, because Satan tries to tell us that we are lost.
*One of Satan’s favorite ways to attack us is to put wrong thinking into our minds. For example, he tries to make us doubt the Word of God. Satan also tries to make us doubt our salvation in Christ. But the helmet of salvation can keep his lies from getting through.
*Satan and his fallen angels are always on the job...
-Trying to wear us down...
-Trying to beat us down...
-Trying to get us to think the wrong thing...
-Trying to get us to do the wrong thing.
*But God gives us all the weapons we need to defend ourselves.
-And the Lord doesn’t just want us to be on the defensive...
 He also gives us the best offensive weapon anyone ever had. God gives us the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
*And with these weapons, we can resist the devil. With these weapons we can defeat the devil, so, James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
*Now, the best way to put the enemy on the run is with the Word of God! That’s why Jesus used God’s Word when the devil tempted our Lord in the wilderness.
*Listen to it from Matthew 4:
1. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
3. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
4. But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
5. Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6. and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over You,' and, in their hands they shall bear You up, lest You dash Your foot against a stone.’”
7. Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
8. Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."
10. Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
11. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
*Every time Satan tempted Jesus, He would quote the Word of God, saying, “It is written. It is written. It is written.” And the Lord has given the same great weapon to you!
*The Word of God defeats our enemy with its light and life and hope.
*King Duncan tells the story that reminds us of the power of this hope.
-This happened in 1993, to a man named Terry Stout. Terry was the business manager for the Psychiatry Department at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
*One Fall morning Terry was running a little late, but (I’m sure led by the Lord) he passed up his regular slot in the parking deck. Terry decided to drive to the top floor of the parking garage so that he could look at the sky and enjoy the day for a moment or two. But when he got out of the car he saw a woman.
*She was standing on a narrow beam that stuck out from the roof of the parking deck. There were only about 2 inches of steel between her and the pavement nine floors below. Terry quietly set down his bag and walked over to her. He asked her if he could help.
*She told him she wanted to be with Jesus. She said she was confused and had committed sins and never did anything right. Terry listened to her, and he talked to her about God's forgiveness, and the possibility of enjoying peace and happiness, if she put her faith in God.
*As they talked a crowd began to gather, and among the newcomers was a psychiatrist, who joined Terry in speaking quietly with the girl. But the doctor's approach was psychiatric, and the girl wanted to talk about God. So Terry did most of the talking.
*He offered her a pin he was wearing. It had the words "There's Hope" on it, and it was a gift from him to her. He told her that Jesus would help fix her troubles and that they would pray together if she returned to the roof. And she did! (5)
*That is the hope-filled power of the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
*Life can be like an F5 tornado. -- How can we find the strength to stand?
-Keep looking to the Lord for your strength.
-Recognize that your real enemy is the devil.
-And apply all of God’s armor in your life.
*He has provided it. -- We just have to put it on.
-Let’s think about that as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Kent Crockett, Making Today Count for Eternity, Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2001, p. 123
(2) Adapted from SermonCentral illustration contributed by: Christopher Roberts
(3) The Story File Volume 1 by Steve May. Demo with McHenry's Quips, Quotes, and Other Notes by Raymond McHenry. Published by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
(4) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon: “The Prayer of Encouragement” by Brian Fullerton - Eph 6:10-20
(5) From a story by Celestine Sibley, Wednesday, October 13, 1993; Contributed by Billy C. Foster, Jonesboro, GA; found in sermon: “Advice for Soldiers at the Front” by King Duncan, Eph 6:10-20