“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ…” Ephesians 3:16–19

My grandfather died before I was born, so I have no recollection of him. All I know is from stories that my father used to tell. Granddad was a humble gentleman, mechanically minded, and well-liked by those who knew him. Of particular interest when I was young was the fact that, though he was not a big man, he was apparently quite strong. Dad told us kids that there was a metal pole standing in the backyard of their Philadelphia row home. His dad was able to walk up to the pole, grab it with both hands and turn his body parallel to the ground and hold himself that way for a while. There are some people on this earth who are deceptively strong.

What is true in nature is even more pronounced in the spiritual realm. There are some very unassuming Christians that appear as spiritual giants when the chips are down in life. Trials that would crush the average Christian distill these saints into a sweet fragrance of obedient trust and humble joy in the Lord. When their faith is challenged, they dig in deeper in the Word. When the prop of health or finances is kicked out from under them, they redouble their intensity of trust in their heavenly Father. When family and friends forsake them, they search out their true brethren in Christ. But, as always, Doctrine is for them thicker than blood and faithfulness is more valued than comfort.

These stalwart saints, both men and women, are not often found out in the forefront, even in the church, and they rarely would be considered natural leaders among men. They are more likely ones who would resemble the myriad of saints referred to in Hebrews 11:32–40, “…out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women receiving their dead raised to life again…of whom the world was not worthy.”

What makes such hardy spiritual stock? We know for sure, no son of Adam is born spiritually strong. In fact, all people are born spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. All must be quickened by the Holy Spirit through faith in the efficacious work of Christ. Only then is there spiritual life at all. Spiritual strength must be nurtured, exercised and developed. This is what the Christian life is all about.

There are three main Greek words for strength in the Bible: kratos, ischus, and dunamis. Kratos means strength as viewed through force. In its verbal form it means to strengthen, wax strong. Luke 1:80 employs this word in describing the youth of Christ, “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” In verse 2:40, we read, “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 challenges us, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong [wax strong].” Our opening verse exhorts, “…[wax] strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” The chief example of waxing strong is Jesus Christ Himself!

The second word is ischus, meaning strength as viewed through ability. In its verbal form it means strong, mighty, even valiant. It is used to describe things in nature, like the tempestuous wind (Matthew 14:30), the severe famine (Luke 15:14), and fearsome thunderings (Revelation 19:6). In all these uses the ability of the strength is evident, the threat real, and the power to be feared. This is the word found in the Hall of Faith passage we read earlier, “valiant in battle” (Hebrews 11:34). There is not much scary awesomeness seen outwardly among the saints, but inwardly the power of Almighty God is at work. This is the meaning of 1 John 2:14 where young men in Christ must be spiritually strong: “…I have written to you young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” The ability to overcome is in every true believer.

The final word is dunamis, meaning strength as viewed through power. In its verbal form it means to strengthen, be made strong, powerful, mighty. It is this word which takes us from the waxing strong stage, through the ability stage of strength, to the maturity of power available for the work at hand, to ably exercising spiritual strength that accomplishes the task. This word, too, appears in Hebrews 11:34: “out of weakness were made strong.”

Paul uses the word twice in his prayer for the Colossian believers in verse 1:11, “strengthened [empowered] with all might, according to His glorious power [kratos—force].” How can a saint who fully depends upon His God really lose? Paul adds a prefix to dunamis in order to multiply emphasis in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens [in-powers] me.”

Then, in Ephesians 6:10, Paul uses the same strengthened word to challenge every saint: “Finally, brethren, be strong [in-powered] in the Lord and in the power [force] of His might [ability]. Put on the whole armor of God….” You too, if you are born again, have what it takes to be a surprisingly strong person, come what may. Trust and obey.