Jump Start # 2112
Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
On Wednesday evenings at the congregation I attend, we are working through a series of lessons on “The Traits of a Strong Christian.” Different men in the congregation are teaching one lesson each. It’s been a good study. It brings forth a common question, Why are some strong and some not? Why do some excel and others seem to stumble along? Why do some become teachers and leaders and others are always needing constant attention, and help? Why do some grow and become helpful and others seem to always need help?
These are the type of questions that preachers think about at night. These are the things that make shepherds look deeply into what is being taught and what needs to be changed to help some. Some get it and some struggle, all the time. Every week, there are those that you know will be there. Then there are some that you never know. They might be there and they might not.
Some of us have had great advantages because of our parents and the environment we were raised in. We learned the books of the Bible and have been hearing sermons for decades. Others, not so. Some have come from the ugly side of the world. Their past includes crime, prison, mean people, running the streets and keeping one step ahead of trouble. They have scratch and clawed their way through life. They didn’t have any help. But with both groups, those who had great spiritual opportunities and those who had very few, we find success stories and stories of struggle and failure. There were children and grandchildren of preachers and elders who bombed spiritually. They turned their backs on all the upbringing, moral guidance and wonderful opportunities given to them. They made a mess of their lives. And, there are powerful stories of those who came from broken homes, abuse and turmoil and today they stand behind pulpits preaching God’s word. Strong, powerful, mighty in the Lord.
The story of the kings of Judah paints a similar picture. Out of spiritual messes rises a Hezekiah, who is faithful to the Lord. His family history was idolatry, disobedience and arrogance. He was different. But following this great king, comes a child who goes the other direction. The idols are back. The spiritual successes are swept away by poor leadership and a lack of faith in the Lord.
So, we are back to asking, why do some get it and some do not? Why are some strong, as our passage admonishes us to be, and why are some weak? Analyze this or that, look at the family history, look at opportunities, hang your hat on many concepts, but finally, it comes down to choices. A person chooses to be strong by the right choices they make in life. To be strong not only necessitates choosing rightly, it also means choosing to stay clear of wrong things. People influence us. Strong Christians have a network of strong people around them. They feed their faith. They seize opportunities that will help them spiritually. They recognize the great value of worship, prayer and positive influences in their lives. They have developed regular habits that help them be strong. They take advantage of opportunities to learn, grow and become even stronger. They have developed an insight that helps them see through the fallacy of mindless TV, superficial vanity, empty literature and friends that pull them downward rather than upward.
Strong Christians have learned to make the right choices. They have had help early on learning how to make these choices. They have seen and been taught about the consequences of wrong choices. They have learned how to discern and see things through the eyes of the Lord. They have moved past having others always tell them what is right and what is wrong. They have picked up on being responsible and caring for their own faith.
Strong Christians have come to understand that every day is made up of choices. Some of these choices have little or no impact upon the soul, such as which breakfast cereal will I eat today. However, many, many choices do shape, color and define our character, heart and strength spiritually. Will I engage in conversations that are negative and trash another person or will I walk away from such? Will I do what is dishonest just to get ahead or will I follow the path of righteousness? Will I tell a lie? Will I give in to temptation? Every day you and I are faced with these choices. The strong knows what the answers ought to be and it’s easier for him to make those right choices. Those who are struggling, will struggle with these things. They do not see what the strong sees. They do not see the consequences, the dangers or the long range impact that some choices will have. They struggle and will continue to struggle simply because they do not know how to recognize right choices from wrong choices. Some days they may actually do what is right, but many days, they will not.
Choices—that’s why some are strong and some are not. We help our children the most when we teach them how to make the right choices. There comes a time when parents must stop making the choices and allow a child to make their choices but guide them and talk them through why one is better than the other. You are doing more than helping them at the moment, you are instructing them on how to make the best choice. Some never learn. And because of that some never become strong spiritually. They won’t until they can learn to make the right choices in life.
How do you teach a person to see right choices from wrong choices? A sermon from the pulpit may give us a grand overview, but this works the best as a stronger Christian mentors a younger Christian. Spend time with each other and develop a close friendship and connection. Talk freely and openly. Share thoughts. And, in this process, have a goal of showing the other how one becomes strong.
A church of strong Christians is a strong church. It is from the pool of strong Christians that future elders are found. It is from the voice and leadership of strong Christians that keeps a church following the path of the Lord.
Be strong…simple words, but it’s a journey of choices. The right choices.