“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13–14, ESV)
My dad was born and raised in Trenton New Jersey, and used to tell us a lot of stories about what life was like for him as a child growing up. One of the stories he would tell was of a boy he knew, named Jack Walsh. My dad told me that Jack started out as a weak boy but he began working out in a gym, one that his parents built for him in their home. Well, it worked. Jack grew strong and began putting on feats of strength to impress his friends. He would lift heavy objects, bend nails with his bare hands, etc. He eventually performed at the Jersey State Fair. He made his name by lifting things that seemed impossible like elephants. Jack Walsh became a national celebrity, even appearing on “The Tonight Show,” because of his strength. People admired him merely because he was a strongman.
We have been looking at Paul’s exhortation to those in the church at Corinth to be authentic Christians. There he gave them five imperatives. Three of these were covered in the previous two devotions. The next one is that he commanded that they be strong. The word “strong,” krataioo,means to empower. Since the verse is a passive voice imperative, it means to be empowered, to be strengthened, to increase in vigor (Strong G2901). The question we must ask ourselves is this. How is one strengthened?
Here, Paul is not speaking about being a physical strongman like Jack Walsh. He is speaking about that inner strength that every Christian can have. Since the verb used is also in the present tense, Paul is commanding believers to be continuously strengthened inwardly. This is a strength in which the believer can grow.
First, we must understand the source of the strength that we need to be authentic Christians. It is not a strength that we have in our fleshly being. The Psalmist wrote, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7, KJV)
Second, we are to be humble, understanding that, we are weak. After Paul asked for the Lord to remove a thorn in his flesh the Lord answered him stating, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Hearing this, Paul replied, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
Third, we must yield to the work of the Spirit in strengthening us. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that the Lord would grant them “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;” (Ephesians 3:16, KJV). Believers must be in such a position as to experience the Lord strengthening them by His Spirit.
How do we put ourselves in this position to be strengthened? It is by exercising in our Christian walk, using the strength he has already provided. It is a lot like what happened to Jack Walsh. He was a boy who was weak. Yet, he did have some strength. He used the exercise equipment he had with the strength he already had and gradually grew stronger. Every believer has an amount of strength the Lord has already given. As believers live out their Christian lives, continuously feeding on the word of life, the Bible, seeking to be obedient to what they know, seeking and serving the Lord where they are, they will be strengthened in the inner being. It will be gradual and continual. We all can become spiritual strongmen.