I’ve shared with you the battle I’ve been waging, and with whom I battle: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I’ve also shared what the Lord showed me yesterday: “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
If you are a Christ follower, you are in the same battle. It may look different, but trust the Lord’s Word–you are in a battle! To be properly prepared for battle, we must not try to fight in our own strength. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Eph. 6:10) We are not strong in ourselves. Our strength comes from the Lord, but we must take the initiative to be strong in the Lord, as David did when he faced being stoned: “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Sam. 30:6)
Paul’s command to be strong in the Lord rests on his first two chapters, where he makes it clear what it means to be in the Lord. To sum up, he wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
To be in the Lord means that Jesus has saved us from God’s judgment by His grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Salvation is not based on anything that you have done or deserved. As we have seen, one of Paul’s frequent expressions in Ephesians is the phrase, “in Christ,” or “in Him” (1:3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13). You cannot begin to understand what it means to be strong in the Lord unless you truly are in the Lord through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
We can’t trust completely in Christ to save us until we become aware that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost and unable to save ourselves by our own good works. As Charles Spurgeon put it, “we must see that we are convicted and condemned, with the rope around our neck, before we will weep for joy when Christ pardons us”.
We must continue to grow in the Lord’s strength by keeping in mind our own weakness, prompting us to humbly take refuge in the Lord’s strength. Jesus taught this by using the analogy of the branches abiding in the vine, and said: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Satan is a powerful foe, but he is only a created being, whereas God is the eternal, almighty Creator of the universe. He has already defeated him at the cross and resurrection of Jesus (Col. 2:15). From start to finish, the Bible proclaims the mighty power of God.
Paul spoke of God’s great power towards us, as seen in His raising Jesus from the dead and enthroning Him at His right hand (Eph. 1:19-20). Paul has prayed that we would know the power of the Holy Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ might dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17). To be strong in the Lord, we must be in the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ. We must know not only our own weakness, but we must know His mighty strength. This requires us to humble and submit ourselves to the Lord. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Before we can be prepared for the battle that wages against us, we must be strong in the Lord, or we will be unable to stand firm. We must spend time daily abiding in Christ in prayer and meditating upon His Word. We need to read it, study it, and prayerfully apply it to our lives. Applying it to our lives is vital: When the Lord shows us our sin, we must repent in order to continue to abide in Him. God is holy and cannot look upon sin, so it separates us from the Lord.
Staying in sin makes us vulnerable to the devil’s wiles. The most important step to preparing for battle is repenting of our sin. Only then can we abide in Him. Without abiding in Him (John 15:5), we are powerless “to stand against the wiles of the devil”. We must ask the Lord to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) so that we can die to ourselves daily in order to live in Him.
Dying to self is part of being born again; the old self dies and the new self comes to life (John 3:3–7). Not only are Christians born again when we come to salvation, but we must continue dying to self as part of the process of sanctification. Dying to self is both a one-time event and a lifelong process.
Jesus spoke repeatedly to His disciples about taking up their cross (an instrument of death) and following Him. He made it clear that if any would follow Him, they must deny themselves, which means giving up their lives—spiritually, symbolically, and even physically, if necessary. This was a prerequisite for being a follower of Christ, who proclaimed that trying to save our earthly lives would result in our losing our lives in the kingdom.
He promises that those who give up their lives for His sake will find eternal life (Matt. 16:24–25). Jesus said that those who are unwilling to sacrifice their lives for Him cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27). If we aren’t willing to sacrifice our lives for Jesus, then we are unable to stand firm in Him; thus, we will live only in our power and not His, and we will fail in the battle!