Strengthen Yourself in the Lord
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, we are to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3 NIV)
Jesus said all the law and prophets hang on these simple commands:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NKJV
We are to love others as we love ourselves—always. Much of the hatred in our world would cease if humanity, from a renewed heart, could love others with God’s love.
Unity is not uniformity on every issue, but loving Jesus in such a manner His love overflows to others by treating them with honor, kindness, tenderness, and love. I have been saddened the last couple of weeks at the vitriol between Christians over social media or between each other—yes, between Christians—over various issues plaguing our nation and the world. Keep in mind the axiom, “united we stand, divided we fall,” still holds true in the Church and society. The enemy thrives on division and chaos. Let’s respond in an opposite spirit, by allowing the fruit of the Holy Spirit to shine through.
If you were unable to listen to my sermon last Sunday, Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, I encourage you to do so. (You can find it at the bottom of this post.) I shared insights in the sermon I’ll not be able to capture in this article. I believe it is a timely word for the Church.
This article will be part one of a two-part series on strengthening yourself in the Lord. Today I want to look at Joshua and David. How they responded to change, transition, and crisis.
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 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.” Joshua 1:1-9 NKJV
After the exodus from Egypt, God invited Israel to possess their inheritance in the Promised Land. Unbelief robbed a generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. Forty years later, Moses dies, and God directs Joshua to “cross over.” The Jordon River is at flood stage, perhaps a mile wide, and in the natural, it’s not the time to cross.
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!” Joshua was probably mourning too, saddened that his spiritual father and mentor has passed on. But once God speaks, something shifts in Joshua. During times of transition and crisis, it is important to wait on God to hear what He is speaking and then act confidently. We are strengthened in the Lord by His voice, by His presence, and by His leading among other things.
Remember, when Jesus is leading, obstacles become opportunities!
Courageous faith sees opportunity in contradiction. It is a faith which deflects chaos and releases God’s peace in a turbulent world. When God directs, faith ignores the circumstances and sees the opportunity to live in promised inheritance. Confidently trusting Jesus amid the uncertainties of life determines how much we abide in God’s peace, joy, and victory.
Could it be that 2020 is destined to be a great year? It’s not how we would have planned it, but God, who knows the end from the beginning, is still in control! He didn’t cause everything occurring this year, but He is working all things together for our good—even among those who don’t believe!
What you and I need more than opinions from cable news pundits or another YouTube video, is to hear what God is speaking to us, our families, and our churches. I can tell you what God has spoken to me regarding the moment, but ultimately you need to hear from God how you are to live relative to the pandemic, economy, unrest, etc. Further, believe God for fresh manna each day—the Holy Spirit wants to continually comfort you, speak to you, and guide you!
The Lord told Joshua three times to “be strong and of good courage.”
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, (see Joshua 1:6-7,9; 1 Samuel 30:6; 2 Samuel 10:12; Psalm 27:14; Zechariah 10:12; Haggai 2:4).
Yet not only was God giving Joshua instructions on how to be strong (Jos. 1:8-9), but the command to “be strong and courageous” also imparted the strength and courage to obey and realize the promise. God empowered Joshua in His command. Prophetic declaration releases God’s power to do the impossible.
Grace is much more than forgiveness; it empowers you to be who you are not. You are becoming like Christ because of the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of grace. Grace infuses life and power within you to become like Christ, walk in your God-given identity, and do the impossible as God leads. By His grace, we overcome!
Joshua was being prepared to lead the people into the promised land. As a nation, they were about to face the giants and walled cities a previous generation feared 40 years prior. They needed to be strong and of good courage and prepared for battle.
Church, it should be obvious that 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 world. Prayer and intercession still move mountains—only believe, keep praying, and don’t lose heart—the battle belongs to the Lord!
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!
I’ll pick up next week looking at Paul and his admonition to Timothy to be strong in the Lord. Take time this week to wait upon God to hear a fresh word from Him. These are extreme times; all of us have been challenged and tested.
What is God saying to you right now? How are you to respond? What areas of your heart is God refining? How can you engage in this spiritual battle we are in? Be strong and courageous Church, Jesus has triumphed, and He is leading us to victory!
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Strengthen Yourself in the Lord”
 James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 38.