I was thinking the other day that our culture has a tendency to elevate weakness over strength. Now, I am not putting down those that face the different life challenges. What I am commenting on is the lack of encouragement to be strong. This is especially sad when it comes to professing followers of Jesus. The Bible reminds us that we are strong in Christ, and just need to live it out.
Our next sermon series will be “No Excuses!” It is a series that will look at Biblical examples that limited themselves through excuses. This past week in Romans 15 I was reminded of the Biblical challenge for followers of Jesus to be strong. “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1) The challenge of this verse and many others is what makes Biblical Christianity distinct from every other religion. It is the call of followers, not to be self-centered, but rather to be other centered. You can find this in the teaching on our relationship with God, marriage, child raising, church ministry, and in every area that involves interacting with people.
Let me touch on a couple of areas that reflect a strong person. The first is they genuinely put the needs of others before their own. We define a “self-focused” person as “preoccupied with oneself and one’s affairs.” (Google) Our passage in Romans reminds us that it takes a strong person to be other-centered. It takes a strong person to “bear with the failing of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Think about this, a strong person is able to offer grace, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, be flexible, allow room for growth and stand with those who make mistakes. What should not come as a surprise is that these character qualities are produced by those that are growing in their faith.
So I guess that main question of determining if you are strong is, “Are you living out Biblical truth in every area of your life?” This is not a question asking if you are perfect, but if you are progressing. It is not saying it is easy, because it is not. There are two parts to true strength. The first is growing your knowledge of God’s truth and faithfulness in your faith practices. True strength begins with knowledge. God truth does us no good if we do not know it. The second part of this aspect of strength involves putting God’s truth into practice. This is a huge challenge with followers of Jesus. We fail to practice what we know. A person that does not practice these fails and is not a strong person. It is easy to talk a good talk, but the rubber meets the road with our actions. A strong person does not talk about praying, serving, giving, forgiving, patience, etc.; they sacrificially live out these truths in difficult and emotional real life situations. If this is you, you are a strong person.
I guess a second characteristic of a strong follower of Jesus is they act like Jesus. Are we willing to serve others, rather than being served? A strong person is kind and compassionate with others. There are many examples of Jesus strength modeled for us in the gospels. Are you a safe place for those that are struggling? Do you speak the truth in a loving way through your words and your actions? I guess the bottom line question is, “Am I living for myself or for God by ministering to others?” “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson