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Preparing for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Preparing for Battle

October 14, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

This is the third installment of our stronghold series. Today, we will begin to focus our attention on the preparation needed for battle. As many of you know, I am a football fan and particularly an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. When it comes to football, there are a couple of things that every team understands they need to do before the next game. It does not matter who the foe is or how big the opponent might be, the preparation is generally the same. 

Throughout the week the team and the coaches are reviewing film from previous games and from the games their opponent has played. They are looking for weaknesses, finding strengths, and looking for patterns that can be useful on the field of play. They do not just watch film, they are also on the practice field preparing and running plays that will be used in the game. They are in the weight room exercising and they are doing PT on the field. Why is this? It is so they will be prepared for the battle that will take place on the field of play. They want to be stronger, faster, and smarter than their opponents. 

In this passage, I believe that Paul gives us some insight into how we can prepare for battle against our opponent. We must realize that we cannot wait until we are in the battle to prepare, we do so in advance. When it comes to football teams, they do not wait until game day to prepare. They are preparing everyday for the next game. They prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally. Think about this, can you imagine what would happen if our arm forces waited until the day of battle to prepare and learn to fight. Football teams and armies prepare before the battle. For us, there should be no exception. We too need to prepare and be ready for battle before we face the enemy. We must also acknowledge that our battle does not take place on Saturday at noon or Sunday at 1:00 PM. The fact is we are in this battle every day. 

As we look at Paul’s words, we gain a better understanding how we can prepare for the battles we face. The first insight from Paul is that we need to know our strength. More importantly, from a spiritual standpoint, we must understand where our strength comes from. Even more so, we must know Who is our strength. Paul begins this passage with the words be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Be strong in the Lord! What a powerful request/command by Paul. When it comes to the battles we face we must recognize that our strength is not in our ability, but it comes from the Lord. Scripture is replete with instructions about strength. In 2 Samuel 22:40 we find David making this statement of truth. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. As we prepare for battle, we must know that our strength comes from the Lord. 

The word used by Paul for strength is the Greek word “endunamousthe.” The root of the word is the Greek word “dunamis.” The idea presented by this word is that the power is resident within. Dunamis is where we get our word dynamite. Endunamousthe literally means to impart ability or to empower. Paul is saying here that we are empowered to fight this battle because of the power that is resident within. As the power of dynamite is resident within the dynamite, so also all of the power we need is already resident within us. The real power of dynamite is not fully realized until the fuse is lit and the powder within the dynamite is ignited. 

Our power comes from God and not from anything we do on our own. That is all of the power we need and it is unleashed when we need it. John Piper reminds us that we are empowered through our union with Christ. Our connection with Christ empowers us and imparts to us great strength. That is why the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 are so awesome. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Look at the use of the word strength in Isaiah’s passage. God does not tire or grow weary. He is always at work on our behalf. We do get weak and we faint in the activity of life. When that happens, He increases our strength. Secondly, while everyone faces struggles that weaken them and cause exhaustion, those who wait upon the Lord shall see their strength renewed. Think about that. We can be weak and weary, but God’s power, the power resident within us, empowers us to keep going, to keep enduring, and continues to enable us to overcome every issue we face. 

To have that kind of insight brings joy and that joy is found in the wellspring of His strength. In Nehemiah 8:10 we find that we do not have to be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. John Piper stated that it’s a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people who were ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility. And this is where we find our strength: for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God. Paul also recognized this inherent power when he stated I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). 

Secondly, while we need to know our strength, we also need to know our enemy. In this passage Paul reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. When it comes to football teams they can get distracted by the hype and the media that is seen and heard. They can focus on the negatives or they can get overconfident in the positive press. They can also get distracted by looking beyond the game they are now playing. They are not in the moment and are looking to the wrong enemy. You see their battle is not with the media or the fans, it is against the team they are playing. 

The enemy also loves to get us distracted to the degree that we begin to fight against the wrong enemy. Know this! Our family is not the enemy. Our job is not the enemy. Our friends are not the enemy. Our enemy is the demonic forces that are at work against us that desire to neutralize us and diminish our effectiveness in the world around us and the community we live. That is the enemy we need to face.

Finally, while we must know our strength, and our enemy, we must also know our equipment and get prepared for battle. In the case before us, we must put on the armor of God. We must be dressed for war and for battle. We must put on the armor provided for us. When the team enters the field they must be prepared for the game. They suit up. They have on their shoulder pads, their helmet, their cleats, and so on. They are suited up and ready for battle. 

Let me give you one thought about this idea of suiting up and being ready for battle. There this an incredible story in the Old Testament. David had consulted with Saul. David agrees to fight Goliath as no one else was stepping up the plate. After Saul and David agreed to allow David to fight Goliath, Saul offered David his armor. David refused it as it did not fit him because it was not the right armor for him. You see the world will try to get you to wear armor that you were never intended to wear. The problem was not Saul’s armor. The issue was this was not God’s plan. David’s trust was in the Lord. He had learned to rely on the strength of the Lord. It was not the armor he wore, as much as the spiritual armor that protected him and kept him safe.

The world is ready to give us all kinds of armor to wear. It does not mean that the world’s armor is always bad it just means that it is not always the best or God’s best. Think about it. Positive thinking is certainly a mindset we need. But a positive mindset without God creates in us a spirit that is self-focused, arrogant, and self-serving.

It is also important to note that the armor of God is something we wear all of the time. We are active in the battle, not reactive. When the enemy attacks your thoughts, it is not the time to try and put on the helmet of salvation. When the enemy presents you with the lies about who you are, and who God is, that is not the time to put on the belt of truth. When the enemy presents false doctrine that is not the time to try and find the sword of the spirit. We are equipped before hand, because we know we face our enemy all of the time. That is because we never know when we will encounter one of his schemes that want to take us out. Over the next couple of weeks we will review the armor we need to wear and how those parts of the armor is best used for maximum effectiveness. 

For now how are you doing? Do you know where your strength comes from? Do you know your enemy? And lastly, are you prepared for battle by knowing your equipment? Doing so allows us to be effective and gives us the upper hand in conquering the enemy and the strongholds in our life. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Treasure in Jars of Clay

Peninsula Community Church

Treasure in Jars of Clay

October 15, 2017

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Before us today is an awesome picture of the reality of life and the power of Christ within us. When we look at the phrase, jars of clay, we find that it is an interesting phrase. Jars are containers. They serve a purpose. In this case, Paul tells us that it is a container for that which is most valuable. We are the jars of clay and within us is the presence of God.

Through the years, I have seen some interesting ways people hide their treasures. I have seen people put money in the freezer. The idea is that a thief would not look in the freezer and in the case of a fire the money would be safe. I have seen people who would paint an old mayonnaise jar white and place their valuables in the jar. One of our friends would place their valuables in a tucks pad container as they said no one would consider looking in there.

Paul wanted his readers to know that we are a jar. We might be imperfect and we may be fragile but we are a container created by God. We see this in Jeremiah 18 in the story of the potter and the clay. What we find is that the container itself is not as critical as why the container was created. It is also important to know that what the container looks is not as important as what is inside the container. Scripture also tells us that outwardly we are wasting away but inwardly we are being renewed. As clay pots we can be broken, damaged, and cracked.

Throughout my life, I have been guilty of dropping things and breaking things. In fact, my friends have at times called me “grace” because of my clumsiness. Perhaps you have had one of those moments where you have broken something? Perhaps it was a vase, a planter, or a pot. Perhaps the item you broke appeared to be strong and durable, but as you knocked it over, you realized the exterior was fragile. How many times have we broken something and then attempted to glue it back so no one would find that we had broken it? In this passage, Paul is reminding us that as a vessel of clay we are a fragile vessel, but it is a vessel that houses the presence of God.

Here is a fact that we know through Scripture. While we are weak and fragile, He is strong. It is in our weakness that He is manifested most. Too often, we can believe that weakness is a negative character flaw. I am sure you have heard the statement do not let them see your weakness. Or, do not let them see you sweat. In other words, do not be honest about who you are and what is going on in your life. Hide your emotions. Hide your pain. But that is not God’s word and that is not God’s way. When we are weak, His strength is revealed in us in ways that we cannot imagine. There is strength in weakness when we turn to God.

Look at what Paul says about all of this. He says, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. This is an amazing statement and one that fills us with hope and faith. Notice what Paul says. First, we are under great pressure, but we are not crushed. How often do you feel the weight of the affliction you are under? When afflicted we can feel knocked down and devastated by the issues we face. Too often, it seems like there is an endless barrage of problems, and we reach the point where we are waiting for the next shoe to drop.

To understand this, we must know that we all have problems. We will face issues. We will encounter difficulties. We have been instructed to not be surprised when you face these things (1 Peter 4:12). Difficulties are a part of our life and there is no way to avoid them. I love the “Rocky” movies. I know that it is just a movie, but it illustrates the power of this concept. How many times do we find Rocky beaten to a pulp, but somehow he finds an inner strength to rise up and continue the fight? In the movie Creed, the latest addition to the Rocky series, Creed has been knocked down and on the mat. His mind is racing through history and the events of his life. He gets up and goes on to win the round. That is what Paul is saying here. We are afflicted. We are beaten up, but we are not crushed. We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.

Secondly, Paul states that we are perplexed, but we are not driven to despair. We all have problems, but our problems do not have to drive us to a place of lost hope. It is noteworthy that the word perplexed means to be completely baffled. The word despair is defined as the loss of all hope. When we are baffled by the issues we face, we can be drawn to a place of hopelessness. We are blinded by the difficulties we face. In the moment, there is a real sense that this is the way it will be, and we will be at the mercy of the pressure of the trials in our life. Paul acknowledges that we all face issues that can perplex us, but we do not have to see our life degenerate to hopelessness. So, you might be perplexed, but you do not have to be hopeless.

Thirdly, Paul states that we are persecuted, but not forsaken. Loneliness is one of the toughest  emotions we can experience. Feeling forsaken can diminish our faith and hope. Persecution causes us to feel we are all alone and abandoned. In 1 Kings 19, we find that Elijah had been faithful to God, but is facing a time of discouragement and despair. He is feeling hopeless and lost. He is feeling alone. He makes this statement, “I am the only one left who loves you and is following you and now the others are trying to kill me.” Do you ever feel that way? You might reach a point where you scream, “God why me?” “I am doing everything I know to do and no one else is doing what is right? I am all alone.” Then God reveals a great truth to Elijah. Elijah was not alone as there were seven thousand in Israel that had not bowed a knee or kissed Baal. This was an important revelation of truth, as one of the great tactics of the enemy is to isolate us and deceive us into thinking that we are alone and no one cares. This drives us to isolate.

Finally, Paul states that we are struck down, but we are not destroyed. I love that Paul does not try to minimize the impact of the difficulties we face. He is honest and does not deny the fact that we will have difficulties and those difficulties can rock our world. Like Rocky, we can be knocked down, but we do not have to be knocked out. We may be damaged, but life is not over. We may have cracks, but our life does not have to be over. Our exteriors may be cracked and dented, but God uses cracked and dented pots.

The question for you might be how can this be? I am beaten up. I am in a great battle. I am weary. I am tired. Paul reminds us that we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but it is okey because we are reminded of a powerful truth. We are clay pots that are fragile and easily broken, but it is to show that the surpassing power of God is at work in us. The choice of words here is important. Notice that Paul does not just say His power is at work in us, but it is His surpassing power. You know what that means? There is more power in God than any power in the persecution and the issues we face.

Listen to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. This is not a sadistic concept, but it is a recognition of the power of God working in our weaknesses. Notice that Paul prayed three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed. Rather than remove the thorn, Jesus stated that His grace was more than sufficient to get him through the issues. The question for us is where am I putting my faith and trust. Is our focus on the problem or is it on the Lord, who is more than sufficient than my problems? When we recognize the Lord as our source of strength, it is there that we are the strongest.

So what would happen if we embraced the fact that we are jars of clay? What if we did not ignore that, as a human, I really do get tired and weary sometimes? What if I had a biblical understanding of what it means to be weak? The response here is not to work harder or even do more, necessarily. Trying harder in our own power does not resolve our problems or our weaknesses. Generally, working harder leaves us more depleted and tends to destroy our joy.  Jonathan Parnell writes, “Embracing weakness brings more peace because we realize afresh that God loves us by his grace, not because we are strong. Our joy doesn’t rest in our ability, but in the approval God gives us in Christ, the one in whom he chose us before the ages began according to his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9).” For that reason we can rejoice in our weakness. For that reason we realize and accept that we are the containers for the all surpassing power of God.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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