“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10

The pride of every boy’s little heart is when he hears someone he respects tell him he is getting stronger. To be told you are growing taller, or to be told you are a nice young man, and to be complimented in any way is always a plus. But to be told that someone else recognizes your strength is really something!

No one wants to be thought of as weak. Perhaps that is why guys generally avoid doctors. It is a tacit admission that there is some weakness beyond our capability to fix.

But the reality will always be, as long as we are human and on this side of eternity, we are weak. Even the strongest of men can get stronger still and there will always be someone else in this world who is stronger than you.

Theologically speaking, weakness is the result of sin. One of the reasons that the worthiness of a society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members (including the unborn) is because a virtuous society recognizes that weakness is the natural state of mankind. The church is admonished, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians6:1f). Paul tells us in Romans 5:6, “For when we were still without strength [helpless], in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

The spiritual quality of strength does not mirror the physical. We are born weak and helpless. Thanks to good nutrition and God’s design, our bodies grow stronger to prepare us for adulthood until a certain point. Somewhere along the arch of our lifespan the body begins to slow down, break down, and let us down. We reach the pinnacle of strength and from that moment on it is a struggle to maintain, an endless battle to fight gravity and years. If we live long enough we reach the state of helplessness once again.

Spiritual strength takes a different course. In place of a “strength arch,” we often experience something resembling a long term graph of stock market returns! In a perfect world your spiritual strength graph would be straight up—to glory! But this is not a perfect world.

Paul told us that we were without strength when God saved us. We start at zero (“less than a zero with the ring rubbed out”) and God breathes life into us. The rest of the Christian life is ideally spent exercising our spiritual “muscles” while obeying God’s commands. As you begin to swim against the current of darkness and sin you will find increasing resistance to your labor for the Lord. Sometimes we stumble, as Paul was talking about in Galatians 6:1. Other times we carry on (Philippians 4:13). But, ever and always, believers are called upon to persevere.

Peter’s prayer in 1 Peter 5:10 speaks of the process of spiritual strengthening. Spiritual strength is crucial to a believer’s triumph. In verse 8 he says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” How are we to deal with him? Verse 9 says, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” What resources do we have to resist him? Verse 10 says that God will “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” This is His plan for you because He has called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus. He will be glorified in you!

Peter choses katartidzo as the first mark in the trajectory of your life. It is a compound word (“down” and “adjust”) meaning “to complete, prepare, fit together, bring into proper condition and full function.” This word is found in Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God….” It is also used in Matthew to describe the work of the fishermen painstakingly preparing their nets for another fishing excursion. Both Galatian  6:1 and 1 Thessalonians 3:10 employ the word to describe the work of other believers exerted upon us as we strive through life, equipped and restored by their efforts as well.

The next term is steridzo. It means to “set fast, to secure, to turn resolutely in a certain direction.” It is the word that Luke used to describe the gulf between Paradise and Hell in Luke 16 and to describe the intensity of our Savior’s direction, of face and purpose, toward Jerusalem and the cross (9:51). Paul used it to describe lives established and re-established upon the Gospel (Romans 16:25; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 5:8).

The third word is sthenoo. It means to “make strong, so as to move and be mobile, able to move in a way that achieves something in the most effective way.” This word is the opposite of weakness, feebleness, and helplessness (the very word used to describe the sick ones brought to our Lord to be healed and describing the “weak” believers in 1 Corinthians 11:30).

The final word is themelioo. It means to “lay a foundation, ground,” provide solid ground upon which to stand, build, move, fight, and prevail (Hebrews 1:10; Matthew 7:25; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:23). How is your progress in growing strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10)? Trust and obey.