One of the more interesting series over new year TV was the World’s Strongest Man competition. An annual spectacle, massive muscular guys battled it out in the heat, through a progression of lifting, pulling and endurance tests , to see who was the most powerful and strongest amongst them. They had spent their hidden months and years alone in disciplined strength training, and now they pitted themselves publicly against the best. Setting aside the question of ‘why do they do it?’ for a moment, it was certainly inspiring to see people achieve new peaks of athletic accomplishments.
It was said of John the Baptist that ‘he grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel’ (Luke 1v80). This is the call of God on this generation of His people – to become those who are strong in spirit. Intellectual greatness is the preserve of the few, recognised sporting success is for the elite, but anyone can become strong in spirit. The phrase describes someone who has found an inner strength through God to tackle life’s challenges and to live and speak boldly from their convictions. Maybe they have already been through the fires of testing and the wilderness of hidden preparation. Those very things that could weaken them have done the opposite.
A forerunner mandate has this character of John the Baptist infused into it. A radical Christian believer may not appear to be an impressive sight. Yet, just as the same sun that melts wax can harden clay, that believer has developed attributes of unseen strength as they have submitted to God in the trials of life and faith. Strength to overcome hardship, strength to stay true to their faith when others abandon theirs. Strength to speak words of life and wisdom into complex situations, strength to love all alike, friends and enemies. And, for a forerunner, primarily the strength to help prepare the way of the Lord by their life, prayers, actions and prophetic voice.
I believe that one of the best ways of being prepared for the coming years of challenge and influence that face us, is to ask God to cultivate that ‘strength in our inner being’ so that Jesus can more powerfully dwell in our hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3v16). The strength comes as through the disciplines of prayer and faithful obedience before God. The resultant fellowship and intimacy with the Lord becomes the attraction and challenge of the Christian lifestyle to others. And it becomes the source and satisfaction of our lives personally, for He becomes all in all to us. Our inner spiritual life will be strong enough to withstand any pressures from outside that we may face. And we may become the source of inspiration to many needing hope and searching for God.
How are you getting on with your ‘strength training’?