“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
Nearing the close of this, one of Paul’s most positive epistles, and having accomplished his purpose of admonition and encouragement, the apostle begins his conclusion with a terse but important instruction: “be strong.”
Not only does this self-defining word communicate the idea of strength but also it can be translated as “empowered.” Since these people have already reached a level of faith and commitment not seen in many of the other churches, Paul calls them to bind themselves so closely to Jesus that they allow His power to work through them.
As disciples of Jesus, we can internalize a great lesson from this instruction. We can allow Jesus to work through us by intensifying our knowledge of His word, by listening to Him intently, by performing according to His instruction and example, and by committing our lives in service to His Cause.
“Who among you fears the Lord?
“Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
“Who walks in darkness And has no light?
“Let him trust in the name of the Lord And rely upon his God” (Isaiah 50:10).
Even though this prophecy could have been pointing to a particular time in Old Testament history, it strongly appears to be a prophecy about the time of the Messiah. In fact, the overriding message could apply to any generation of God’s people: trust in the Lord and rely on God.
Every generation desiring to please God has had the obligation to “fear the Lord,” “obey the voice of His Servant,” and “trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.” As well, every generation walked in darkness until Jesus came and brought light.
So, for those of us in the Christian Age, we can easily see the prophecy’s application today. We live in the time when people the world over have every opportunity to be brought out of spiritual darkness into the marvelous light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since this light is available to us, there is no reason for us to walk in darkness. We can see the message of salvation clearly, and we can certainly rely upon God.
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses?
“And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5).
This passage is part of God’s response to the disgruntled prophet Jeremiah when he bursts into God’s presence and blatantly asks Him why He is allowing the wicked to prosper, even though they have not been faithful to Him and they have rejected Jeremiah’s warnings.
Using two metaphors, God deflects the prophet’s dissatisfaction in an attempt to get him to examine himself. God asks: if you are so distraught over running with the footmen or wading in peaceful waters, how upset will you be when you have to keep up with the horses or survive the devastating floods of the Jordan?
A lesson we can learn is that life doesn’t always work out the way we expect and we have to deal with it positively. If we allow the smaller, less drastic situations to discourage us, and perhaps even drive us away from God, how can we ever expect to survive spiritually when deeply disturbing situations come our way?
Serious situations like financial disaster, personal or family tragedy, devasting illnesses can discourage us. As a child of God, we have to build a faith that is strong enough to survive even the most severe circumstances.
“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
While a baby has all of its parts formed at birth, those parts are not fully developed—that comes with time and growth. So it is with becoming a child of God. Spiritual birth is only the beginning of the process of becoming a full-grown Christian. Evidently, this growth had not yet taken place with the Galatians.
That’s the analogy the Apostle Paul uses in this letter to the Galatians as he writes to help them deal with the problem of Judaizing teachers and teaches them about growth as a child of God. His deep concern for them will remain until Christ is formed in them and they grow spiritually.
For Christ to be formed in us, we must truly invite Him into our hearts and minds so that He influences not only our thinking but also our actions. We must grow to the point that we get over being self-righteous and we rely on Christ, on His instruction, and on His righteousness for our spiritual condition. He must become the center of our lives if He is truly formed in us.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Personal integrity and personal responsibility are key points of teaching throughout the scriptures, but they are never more clearly stated than here in this opening section of the epistle of James where he describes our religion.
“Pure” and “undefiled” refer to a religion that is free from contamination by man-made ideas—it is a religion from Jesus that we fully embrace and that we commit to personally. Wicked influences surround us, but we must exercise the good judgment to recognize these influences for what they are and to keep ourselves a significant distance from them.
Rather than becoming contaminated with the wickedness around us, we keep ourselves “unspotted” from it; and, as well, we accept all opportunities to help others who have special needs.