Tuesday, April 26, 2022
In Ephesians 6:10 we learn that we are to be strong in the Lord. But being strong just for the sake of strength is not sufficient motivation for us to do what is necessary to become strong. We must be shown what we will be able to do with our strength. The Apostle Paul goes on to tell us why we should be strong. He says, “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” I highlighted and underlined a phrase in that sentence for a very important reason. In several other translations of that verse it reads, “so you will be able.” That phrase is the translation of a Greek word that is the root word for “strong” in verse ten. In other words, being strong in the Lord has a purpose – to make us able to stand against the devil’s schemes. It is not enough for us to simply be strong. We are to be strong for a purpose, and that purpose is to stand strong, faithful, and true for the Lord no matter what the enemy does to us.
One of the most tragic events during the Reagan Presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. Many of us can still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble. A few days after the tragedy, Marine Corps Commandant Paul X Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors in a Frankfurt, Germany, hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man; yet he survived. As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words—“Semper Fi”- the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.”
If patriotism and the cause of national freedom can produce such strength to stand in the midst of the horrors of war, how much more will the power of God give us strength to stand against the schemes of the devil? It is imperative that we make the connection between being strong in the Lord and being able to take our stand for the Lord. We are not called to be strong for the sake of strength. We are not called to be strong so we can stand in front of a spiritual mirror and admire our spiritual muscles. We are called to be strong so that we can take a stand for Christ and remain standing no matter what evil does.
Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities and commitment. He had two Ph.D.s, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. He could have chosen to do anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940s, he founded a farm in Americus, Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. It was a community for poor whites and poor blacks. As you might guess, such an idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the ’40s. Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who followed the laws of segregation as much as the other folk in town. The town people tried everything to stop Clarence. They tried boycotting him, and slashing workers’ tires when they came to town. Over and over, for fourteen years, they tried to stop him.
Finally, in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had enough of Clarence Jordan, so they decided to get rid of him once and for all. They came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia Farm except Clarence’s home, which they riddled with bullets. They chased off all the families except one black family which refused to leave. Clarence recognized the voices of many of the Klansmen, and, as you might guess, some of them were church people. Another was a local newspaper reporter. The next day, the reporter came out to see what remained of the farm. The rubble still smoldered, and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting.
“I heard the awful news,” he called to Clarence, “and I came out to do a story on the tragedy of your farm closing.” Clarence just kept on hoeing and planting. The reporter kept prodding, kept poking, trying to get a rise from this quietly determined man who seemed to be planting instead of packing his bags. So, finally, the reporter said in a haughty voice, “Well, Dr. Jordan, you got two of them Ph.D.s and you’ve put fourteen years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?” Clarence stopped hoeing, turned toward the reporter with his penetrating blue eyes, and said quietly but firmly, “About as successful as the cross. Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day.” Beginning that day, Clarence and his companions rebuilt Koinonia.
The power to stand. It is God’s power, and it produces the ability for us to be faithful. God promises that His strength will carry us through to the very end. You’ll find that promise in the book of Jude, verses 24-25 where we read that God is strong so that He is able. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present youbefore his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Be strong for a reason – stand strong for Jesus.