Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.Ephesians 6:10-12 (NET)
The nuance of this translation caught my eye. It felt different than the version I had long memorized: Be strong in the Lord. I stopped immediately to do a little sleuthing. Imagine my delight when I discovered another passage reminiscent of I Samuel 30:6 where King David “strengthened himself in the Lord his God (NASB)” when his men threatened to kill him. Commentator David Guzik says this literally means “strengthen yourself in the Lord”.
This word, endynamoō means “to receive strength, be strengthened, increase in strength: in union with the Lord”. The writer of Ephesians uses endynamoō again to describe Abraham:
He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do.Romans 4:20-21 (NET)
So back to Ephesians 6. How sad that I have so often skipped this phrase in my eagerness to jump to the armor of God. I never noticed that first I am admonished to strengthen myself. I can have the best armor and the most modern weapons, but if I am weak, I cannot wield them adequately. I cannot just automatically “be strong” as the other translations seem to imply.
The purpose of this strengthening and wearing of armor is to stand against the attacks of the devil. This reminds me again that the devil, Satan, is the enemy. Too often my fellow believers, colleagues, and fellow ministers become the enemy. Or I treat them as such.
Perhaps I should focus on strengthening myself in the strength of God’s power, rather than on breaking down each of the pieces of the armor and trying to figure out what they do. Strengthening myself requires ongoing, regular, daily and weekly routines that keep me in shape, not a once and done activity. It includes all the things I teach my colleagues in cross-cultural missions: self-leadership, soul-care, emotional intelligence, resiliency, grieving losses and constantly connecting with God.
How would you rate your level of spiritual strength? What can you do to strengthen yourself in the Lord?
In what ways have you been treating your colleagues and fellow believers as the enemy?
Lord God, show me how to accurately assess my level of spiritual strength and teach me how to strengthen myself in you. Show me that my brothers and sisters are not enemies but rather allies in our battle to fight Satan.