“…And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1: 17–23

Little boys love to test their strength against bigger, stronger people. Bigger people all seem like Samson to a kid. There is almost nothing quite as fun as a gang of junior age boys in a free-for-all wrestling match with one or two twenty-somethings. If you don’t believe me watch what happens when a couple of college age counselors get in the swimming pool during Junior Week at summer camp.

I remember the feeling of triumph when my nine-year-old buddies and I piled up on our twenty-year-old neighbor while rough housing in his backyard. Two of us grabbed his legs, sitting on his shoes. The rest of us came at him from different directions, even some swinging in from a rope by the treehouse. He was tossing kids right and left, but eventually we brought him down by sheer numbers and our tenacious, adolescent pack-mentality! There were cheers all around and then we all piled on top! As with Sampson, strength alone is no guarantee of victory.

Strength and growing in strength is a big deal, nowhere more so than in the Scriptures! The phrase “exercise to grow stronger” is used to illustrate the greater importance of growing your spiritual muscles in 1 Timothy 4:8, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Of course, growing in spiritual strength can only take place if you are born again and are alive spiritually. Without the birth from above you are spiritually dead and there is no spiritual strength in you.

Spiritual strength is, therefore, not to be identified as moral strength; unsaved people can be very moral people. It is not, in and of itself, strong character qualitiy. Unsaved people may display good character. To be sure, morality, character, courage, stamina, and drive are often how the qualities of spiritual strength may be viewed by observers. But a believer knows that spiritual strength runs much deeper than what is visible to others, precisely because of the spiritual nature of the strength.

Our passage quoted from Ephesians illustrates the nature of a believer’s spiritual strength. It does not come from within his own core of being, nor from one’s experience or background. A Christian’s strength is drawn directly from God Himself (Ephesians 3:16).

There are four words for power found in verse  9. The first is dunamis, from which we get the word dynamite. It refers to natural ability that is both general and inherent. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian saints, and a worthy prayer it is for all saints now, is that God might grant wisdom and knowledge in three areas. The first is grasping the full knowledge of the glorious hope each believer has received in his calling from God. The second is knowing the true riches each believer receives in access to fellow believers. Finally, to know the overwhelming greatness of God’s power.

Paul describes what that means in the rest of the verse, but first, let’s consider for a minute the boldness and audacity of Paul’s request. Paul was asking God, the all-powerful, to make every believer intimately acquainted with God’s awe-inspiring power! In other words, Paul’s desire is that each redeemed man might live in overwhelmed thanksgiving in experiencing the exceeding greatness of God’s power. Such power was at work in the resurrection of our Lord, and is at work in your daily life through His loving acts of grace, rescue, provision, and strengthening. He martials His inherent, natural abilities in behalf of each one of His precious children. Just think what that means!

Paul’s second term (“working”) is energeia, meaning power in exercise and operation. God’s power is not just potential, but it is also actively engaged. The third term (“mighty”) is kratos, meaning strength when it is manifested. God’s power is not just potential and actively engaged, but God is effectively working and accomplishing. The fourth word (“power”) is ischuos, meaning strength and mighty endowment. God’s power is not only potential, but actively engaged, effective, and it is also abundant. He always has more than enough strength left over! God never grows weary, disinterested, distracted, or defeated.

Later in Ephesians Paul returns to the strengthening that God gives to His children. In verse 6:10 he writes, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” What he means in his exhortation is that believers need to be continually strengthening (endunamo) in the Lord and in the grip of His strength! Paul will follow up this challenge with his admonition to put on the whole armor of God, “that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore…” (6:13–14). As the hymn writer wrote, “from strength to strength go on!”

Every believer is engaged in a serious contest over life and death matters. Morality, character, courage, stamina, and drive will only get you so far before weariness will be etched in deep lines across your brow (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 5:14). You must be strengthened with God’s power for the duration. “Withstand in the evil day” for the fight is on and there is no quarter to be had. Only victory will do, both in your heart and in your life’s work! Draw your spiritual strength from the Almighty! Trust and obey.