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Our sermon today is going to be a little unusual. It will be more of an introduction to the coming year than a specific lesson in a sermon. What will 2011 bring for us? (if the Lord wills)
Our theme for this year is entitled “Soldiers of Christ Arise” (after the familiar song). My plan is for us to spend some time studying about spiritual warfare. The Bible depicts the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil, God and Satan, from several perspectives. One thing is certain, Christians are called to engage in a spiritual fight against sin. As such, we must “arise” and put our armor on, and face the enemy.
In the course of the year we will consider verses from two Bible passages: Eph. 6:10-20 & 2 Timothy 2:3-4. There are more Bible texts that speak to our topic, but we will concentrate on these two.
Review the year to come: In January and February we will discuss the reality of the struggle itself, and our enemy, Satan. Beginning in March and going through September we will consider Eph. 6 and Paul description of the spiritual armor of the Christian. In the last three months of 2011 we will move to 2 Timothy 2 and discuss the nature of the spiritual soldier’s call to duty. The single focus of the soldier’s lifestyle and his obedience to His commander is what makes him distinct from others who do not serve.
Our goal in this study will be to actually live the life of a soldier for Christ. We want to be able to engage the enemy and win. This involves preparation and training, so we can be ready for the fight, and help each other when the battle rages. I hope you will join this study and seriously fight the fight.
Let us pray… God please help us this year to understand what you are teaching us in these passages. Please help us to perceive the nature and the seriousness of the spiritual conflict we are involved in. Give us the courage and strength to fight on and not retreat. Let us share in your victory. In Jesus’ name.
I. The place to start is with a verse that begins with the word “finally”. Our theme verse is Ephesians 6:10 – 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. How many recruiting slogans of the U.S. Army can you remember? Mention a few recent ones:
- 1971-1980 – “Today’s Army wants to join you” – transition to an all volunteer army.
- 1980-2001 – “Be all that you can Be” – very popular for 20 years
- 2001-2006 – Army of One” – not as popular, and somewhat misunderstood to speak against teamwork
- What is the current slogan? “Army Strong” – now there is a word that is easy to connect with an army of a soldier – strong. Every army needs to be strong. Soldiers need to be strong.
A. Being Strong in the Lord: Much of our focus this year will be on what Paul describes as “being strong in the Lord” . There are different types of strength:
1. Physical vs. Spiritual strength; we might be able to recognize the physically strong person by looking at him. If you are going to move a piano, you might want someone who looks different than me. Physical strength can be measured by how much weight a person can move of lift.
2. But our quest for strength will not focus on physical strength. (one of my favorite passages – “Bodily exercise profits little”, 1 Tim. 4:8) When Paul tells us to be strong “in the Lord”, he not only identifies the source of our strength (it comes from the Lord), but the nature of our strength. It is the type of strength that the Lord has Himself and provides to us.
3. The strength that we need is spiritual and inward. It cannot be viewed from the outside and may exist in the smallest of persons.
4. When Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to choose from his sons the next king of Israel, he was anticipating one who would rival the present King, Saul, in physical prowess. When Jesse oldest son, Eliab, was brought to him Samuel thought, surely this is the Lord’s anointed. But God told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) When the youngest (and smallest) son, David was brought in from the field, God chose him. David became Israel’s greatest warrior. He had a strong heart.
5. Jesus was not physically strong, but he overcame the most powerful enemies. There is no better illustration of Jesus’ spiritual strength than His confrontation with Satan in the wilderness of Judea (Matt. 4:1-11). Each temptation of Satan was answered by Jesus with the very words of the Father contained in scripture, and Satan was powerless before Him. The strengthening that God provides comes through our willingness to hide God’s word in our hearts, incline our ears to His commandments, and apply our minds to His knowledge.
II. How do we get spiritually strong? Have you ever heard of the Navy Seals. The seals are one of the epitomes of the proficient soldier. They are the elite fighting force – best of the best. How do they get that way? It is not easy.
- It takes a qualified candidate 18-30 months of rigorous training to become a Seal. It takes place in 4 phases and 70% never make it past Phase 1. The most grueling is week 4 of phase one. 5.5 days of continuous training in the worst of conditions called “hell week”.
- “Trainees are constantly in motion; constantly cold, hungry and wet. Mud is everywhere–it covers uniforms, hands and faces. Sand burns eyes and chafes raw skin. Medical personnel stand by for emergencies and then monitor the exhausted trainees. Sleep is fleeting–a mere three to four hours granted near the conclusion of the week. The trainees consume up to 7,000 calories a day and still lose weight.
- But as hard as this is on one’s body, the test is not really a test of physical strength or endurance. It is a test of the mind, or will. One candidate spoke about an inner voice that constantly called on you to quit. “Throughout Hell Week, instructors continually remind candidates that they can “Drop-On-Request” (DOR) any time they feel they can’t go on by simply ringing a shiny brass bell that hangs prominently within the camp for all to see.
- “The belief that BUD/S is about physical strength is a common misconception. Actually, it’s 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” said a BUD/S instructor at the San Diego facility. “(Students) just decide that they are too cold, too sandy, too sore or too wet to go on. It’s their minds that give up on them, not their bodies.”
That is why Navy Seals are strong. They train themselves to endure. They suffer and learn how to survive.
A. In a sense that is what we have to do, and what e will focus on this year. We must equip ourselves to endure the spiritual battle. To put on the armor that God supplies and become strong in the Lord.
B. The strength we need comes from the word of God, given by His Spirit. If you want to get strong, you have to eat and eat the right things. Paul tells the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27-28 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. He had taught them so they might be able to feed (shepherd) the church. What would be the proper result of this feeding on God’s word? Vs. 32-33 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. We must spend time in God’s word. That is our gameplan this year. Let the training begin.
III. Strengths and Weaknesses: How strong are you? What are your weaknesses? These are important questions, and a place to start. Take out the 3×5 card you were given when you came in. you have to do something before you leave today. 3 easy steps…
1) Take a minute and write on one side of this card 3 spiritual strengths that you have today (Jan. 2, 2011). Be specific; do you pray often, read your Bible every day, are you generous, talk to others easily about Jesus, come to all of the assemblies; do you teach a class; visit the sick or weak; if you can’t think of three, list what you can.
2) Turn the card over and write down 3 areas where you are weak: (maybe the same ones we mentioned before. Do you teach others about Jesus? Pray, read your Bible.) These are to represent specific spiritual goals to accomplish this year. Do you have a weight that is keeping you from running the race? Write it down. We can add more later.
3) Place that paper in your Bible at the opening of Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. This is our theme verse for this year. We will be opening our Bible to this page many times. Each time this paper will be there to remind you of the commitment you made to grow stronger in the Lord. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to move items from one side of this paper to the other this year.
A. Interestingly, our goal for 2011 can be found not far from where we left off in 2010. Turn to Hebrews 12 – Heb 12:12-15 – 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;
1. There is a spiritual battle raging around us. Our souls and the souls of our children and grandchildren are at stake. We must be strong in the Lord and we must fight the fight.
Conclusion: we will conclude with the prayer of the apostle just a few chapters before our text in Ephesians. Turn to Eph. 3:14-19 – For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Is Christ in you? Are you in Christ? – Christ cannot live in you unless you are in Christ. Paul said in Gal 3:27 – For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.