Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, Part 2
I have on my desk a wood carving made by a Haitian brother. It was a gift from believers after ministering in their church in Cap Haitian, Haiti several years ago. It means a lot to me, as a memorial stone and because of what the carving says. In bold letters, it says, “Jesus Only One.” Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, and widespread poverty and hopelessness blankets the nation. The people have experienced much suffering and political unrest over the years. But the Church in Haiti knows, despite it all, “Jesus is our hope, He is the only One who can help and save us!”
Everyone faces challenging situations and crises in life. For the Christian, we know as truth, our hope is in the Lord. When it looks hopeless, look into the face of Jesus! He is our hope, our answer, and the One who will guide, sustain, and strengthen us through the trials and transitions of life. As we learn to strengthen ourselves in God, we remain confident during chaos. Faith grows and sustains us through hope.
Right now, the US is in turmoil. It may seem hopeless, but through the eyes of faith see our nation as Jesus sees it. He sees a nation hurting, troubled, and searching. He looks to His Church to be the conduit of His love, grace, and power to turn the heart of a nation to Him to find healing, restoration, and hope. Jesus is the Only One!
As I shared last week, during times of transition and crisis, it is important to hear what the Lord is saying about the moment and to strengthen yourself in God. Let’s continue with part two today.
In Jos. 1:1-9, the Lord told Joshua three times to “be strong and of good courage.”
Verse 9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (NKJV)
The phrase “be strong” is from the Hebrew châzaq, which means courageous, valiant, manly, strengthened, established, firm, fortified, obstinate, and mighty.  It also carries the sense of a command for the preparation of battle.
Joshua and the nation are mourning the loss of their leader Moses. It may have seemed to the people, “How can we go on?” But God speaks! “Moses my servant is dead, now arise and cross over!” However, when Jesus is leading, obstacles become opportunities. Courageous faith sees opportunity in contradiction, it releases God’s peace and deflects chaos.
Another example of the Hebrew word châzaq and the concept to “be strong” is found in the book of Samuel, when David and his men were defeated at Ziklag:
“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Sam. 30:6 NKJV
Prior to this, David had been through a wilderness season. He was chased by Saul for years after defeating Goliath and falling from Saul’s favor. At one point, David was so desperate, he pretended madness at Gath, the city of the Philistine king (and of Goliath). Rejected by the Philistines, David flees to the cave of Adullam. God begins to bring those in Israel who were distressed, in debt, and discouraged to David in the cave—about 400 men. God was refining David to lead and was preparing future leaders and warriors for Israel—none of them could see it completely.
David eventually gains permission from the Philistine king to live in Ziklag, a town in the Philistine territory. David finally had rest from Saul, but God wasn’t finished preparing him or his mighty men. After being rejected by the Philistines to go to battle with them against Saul and the army of Israel, David and his men return to Ziklag to discover that the Amalekites have taken their wives, children, and property with them. It’s perhaps the lowest point David faced in his wilderness years. His trusted men, so grieved, turn on David and are ready to stone him.
In times of crisis, be careful not to accuse your leaders or others—God may have allowed the situation! He is the master potter and uses every setback and situation for His greater good in our lives and for His purposes.
What did David do? He inquired of the Lord,
So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all. 1 Sam. 30:8 NKJV
David strengthened himself, or literally “made himself strong” in God. He knew that to overcome obstacles he had to strengthen himself in the Lord. David drew on God’s empowering grace through prayer, worship, and hearing God’s voice to be strong.
David and his men acted on God’s word, defeated the Amalekites, and recovered all. Right after this incident, Saul dies in battle and David is made king over the tribe of Judah. Seven years later, David would be made king over all the tribes of Israel.
In times of crisis, it is critical to hear God’s word and direction. His perspective changes our thinking, our attitude, and strengthens us!
David strengthened himself in the Lord but worked with his men at Ziklag to recapture what the enemy had stolen. God created us for partnership, and David knew that continued disunity with his men would prevent them from achieving the victory God had for them.
Paul said we are to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2 NKJV) Share your cares and trials with others for prayer and support. Scripture tells us, “One can chase a thousand, but two can chase ten thousand!” There is exponential help in the Spirit when we choose to work with and help each other.
Many people withdraw from others during times of transition and crisis, but it is important to stay in fellowship with other Christians. The writer of Hebrews tells us to, “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”(Heb. 10:25 NKJV) We draw strength and encouragement from each other.
As I shared last week, at the beginning of 2020, I told our church confidently, “I believe 2020 will be a great year.” However, the events of 2020 seem to indicate the opposite. But what if national awakening is unfolding amid the suffering, frustration, and unrest?
Through it all, the Church is being tested and refined. God is allowing adversity to bring forth a pure faith that is motivated by love—not hate. God is purifying our love for each other. How can we pray for revival in our land when we have anger at other believers in the church? God is more concerned that we love and value one another than being “correct” on all issues. Everyone is entitled to their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. However, Paul states,
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 1 Cor. 1:10 NLT
Paul went on to describe factions where some of the believers were identifying with Paul, others with Apollos, others Peter, and others were only following Jesus. To be sure, in God’s eternal Church, we are different in many ways. We have different forms and styles of worship, different beliefs on certain matters, etc. But those who identify with Christ and early church orthodoxy and belief, can agree on Jesus! As I said earlier, He alone is our Only One!
I heard a Spirit-filled Baptist pastor in Florida years ago, Peter Lord, say this,
We need to remember to keep the main thing the main thing—Jesus!” I agree!
As members of His body and Church, Jesus is our unifier, our commonality, our faith, our hope. Our nation is terribly divided, and many in the Church are divided over the issues as well. Unfortunately, our Republic and the Church is in danger of the enemy’s schemes to divide.
I’ll develop this more over the summer, but the spiritual warfare against Christianity and the Church in the US has intensified immensely. Between division regarding COVID-19, racism, and police practice, many in the US Church are divided and at odds with each other—even in the same local churches in some cases.
Keep in mind that the narrative doesn’t match reality. While there is racism in our nation, most of our US population is not racist. While there are corrupt police officers, the entire US police force is not racist, corrupt, or unrestrained. The facts and reality support these statements.
However, the news media, which is predominantly liberal, pushes a narrative of widespread systemic racism and police brutality in our culture. They have distorted facts to support their narrative and have helped fuel unrest in our nation. A recent poll found that only 22 percent of the nation agreed that violent protests are an appropriate response to the killing of George Floyd. Which means that nearly 80 percent of Americans do not support violent protest and actions to bring change.
Instead of decrying the destruction and looting, many in the media (along with some elected officials), have justified the outrage to support their narrative of systemic racism and the need for racial and police reforms. To be sure, changes are needed—but not the dismantling of our police force.
Can you imagine our cities with a non-existent police force or scaled back force? How would we stop the evil that is already in our land? What about drug cartels, gangs, crime, etc.? Are we that naive to think defunding funds from the police and giving them to social workers will stop evil?
To my liberal brothers and sisters, think carefully about what you are supporting right now—all is not what it seems. The extreme Left has an agenda which could easily be argued is rooted in Marxism, where the overthrow of democratic government has been their objective for decades. Consider carefully who and what you are voting for this fall; the stakes are extremely high for our nation.
Look at what Paul wrote to the Roman believers, who were under the authority of Rome, an oppressive and ruthless government:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” Rom. 13:1-5 NIV
All forms of government are given by God to aid and protect us. Granted, throughout history, some forms of government are flawed and repressive. Even the founding of our nation was a revolt against English tyranny. Our founders carefully weighed their actions to go to war with England and the King for freedom. We are not in one of those moments America, as the anarchists want us to believe!
As believers, we are directed to respect and obey authority. Peaceful protest is a first amendment right, but not violent protest—it breaks our civil and moral laws. It violates our constitution and God’s commands. The failure of some elected leaders to curb violence and protect citizens and their property in our cities is reprehensible. Vote them out of office this fall! Instead, they and the media put the blame on Trump, the police, and conservatives.
Instead of looking at facts regarding police violence, the media and the Left have distorted truth and have pushed a radical agenda to defund police budgets across our nation. In 2019, only 0.1% of black homicides were of unarmed black men killed by police. To be sure, any death is tragic and careful review and better oversight of our police are needed. But much police reform has been done over the last few years—that is not being accurately reported right now.
However, the data indicates that “… a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.”  Where is the outcry by the media over the death of police officers during this unrest? Or the injury of hundreds of police officers across our nation due to the “peaceful protestors?” What young person would want to be a police officer in this climate? Pray for those in authority, our governmental leaders, the police, etc. We are at a tipping point.
Did you ever think in our generation we would see a city like Minneapolis vote to eliminate their police department? Or angry mobs and anarchists take over neighborhoods and city streets in Seattle? Major TV networks in the wake of the unrest are now canceling long-running police shows. And yet, the majority of the country, 64% according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, disagrees with the Left’s call to Defund the Police.
Sadly, the media isn’t reporting that there were outdoor worship services and water baptisms taking place in the neighborhood where George Floyd was killed last week. Jesus is touching lives and hearts where the enemy has brought death, destruction, and decay!
Jesus is the Only One—Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing Church!
If you weren’t able to watch or listen to my sermon yesterday, I encourage you to do so, Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, Part 2, available to watch at the bottom of this post. I passionately share my concern for our nation. The ’60s were challenging in the US, but what we are experiencing now is as difficult, if not worse, to be sure.
Church, it should be obvious we are in an immense spiritual battle right now. It is time to be strengthened in the Lord, in the power of His might, to be prepared for battle to face the spiritual giants plaguing our nation and world. Prayer and intercession still move mountains—only believe, keep praying, and don’t lose heart—the battle belongs to the Lord!
I’ll continue next week with part three of Strengthening Ourselves in the Lord!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, Part 2”
 James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 38.