All Strength from God.

All Strength from God.

by William Gouge

Finally my Brethren be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.- Ephesians 6:10

But alas, what are we, mere flesh and blood? What strength can we have within us to fight against such enemies as will attack us?

To alleviate this concern, the Apostle adds this clause, "in the Lord," etc., by which he demonstrates how we come to be strong, not by any strength within ourselves, but by seeking strength in the Lord, committing ourselves wholly and solely to Him and His power.

The strength and valor that enable us to fight the Lord's battle are concealed in the Lord and must be sought from Him. For all our sufficiency comes from God; without Christ, we can do nothing. Hence, David says to God, "I love you dearly, O Lord, my strength: The Lord is my rock and fortress," etc.

It is more evident than needs to be proved that our Apostle was a strong and valiant champion for the Lord; but from where did he obtain this strength? "I am able," he says, "to do all things through the help of Christ who strengthens me." What he specifically says about himself, he also affirms of other saints, who were strengthened with all might through God's glorious power.

The Lord has thus reserved all strength in Himself and desires us to be strong in Him: partly for His own glory and partly for our comfort.

  1. For His glory, that in times of need we might turn to Him, and in all difficulties cast ourselves upon Him; and, being preserved and delivered, acknowledge Him as our Savior and accordingly give Him all the praise.

  2. For our comfort, that in all distresses we might be more confident. We can be much bolder in the Lord than in ourselves. Since God's power is infinite, it is impossible for it to be overcome by any adversarial power, which, at its greatest, is finite. Were our strength within ourselves, though it might seem somewhat sufficient for a time, there would always be a fear of decline. But being in God, we rest upon an omnipotence, thereby having a far more reliable support for our faith, as we will discuss in the next doctrine.

Use 1: Let us learn to renounce all confidence in ourselves and to recognize our own inability and weakness. This will lead us to seek help beyond ourselves. Those who overestimate themselves and believe they are sufficiently capable of helping themselves will be so far from seeking strength that they will scornfully reject it when it is offered to them. Observe what is said of the wicked person, who is proud in his own conceit, "He contemns the Lord": just as one who is full despises a honeycomb, so does he who is confident in his own strength disdain help from any other.

Use 2: Having recognized our own weakness, and thereby renounced all confidence in ourselves, our care must be to turn to a sure foundation and rest thereon; thus, we will be safe and secure. This sure foundation and safe rock is only the Lord: strong in Himself, He can both strengthen us and weaken our enemies. In this confidence, David faced Goliath and prevailed. Thus, we can be assured of victory: through God, we are more than conquerors.

Use 3: But vain is the confidence of those who, trusting in themselves and their own strength, defy all their enemies. Proud boasters they are, whose pride will eventually lead to their downfall. Such, in terms of outward power, were Goliath and Sennacherib. This presumption is intolerable, even in outward strength: observe their end in 1 Samuel 17:50 and Isaiah 37:36-38. But it is even more intolerable in spiritual strength, of which we possess not a single ounce within ourselves, but in that respect are as water spilled upon the ground. Peter was overly confident in this regard: had he not recognized his presumption after becoming puffed up, and promptly humbled himself, the outcome would have been dire. For nothing provokes God more than spiritual pride, because nothing more undermines His glory.

Vain also is the confidence of those who go from weakness to weakness, from themselves to other creatures; like the Israelites, who sought help from the Egyptians. The Prophet aptly compares them to a reed, which, if leaned upon, breaks and pierces the arm. Such are the foolish Papists, among whom some believe they are strong in figures like Pope Gregory, Pope Boniface, Pope Alexander, whom, without breach of charity, we may consider to be mere phantoms in hell; others in Saint George, Saint Christopher, and others who never existed: the stories about them are mere fabrications; others (who believe they have a much surer basis for confidence) in Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and such like holy and worthy saints: but even the best saints that ever were had no strength to aid others; they only had enough for themselves. Thus, in their greatest need, when they seek and expect the best help, they are all like those who went to the wells and found no water: they returned with their vessels empty, ashamed, and confounded, and covered their heads.