Well, I’ve made it. It’s the last word of the Shema. This study took me much longer than I expected, but I have learned so much and I hope you have too. Thank you to everyone who has read, encouraged, and studied with me on this topic.
Strength is synonymous with power and ability. (Vines) To strengthen is to cause to increase in power and security. (King James Dictionary) The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined strength as “the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force. It applies to the quality of a property or person or thing that makes possible the exertion of force or the withstanding of strain, pressure, or attack. To be strong is to be regard as embodying or affording force or firmness.”
Strength is the ability to exert effort.
So what does the Bible tell us about strength?
Our strength can be summoned.
“And it was told to Jacob, ‘Your son Joseph has come to you.’ Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed.” – Genesis 48:2
All strength has a source.
In Judges 16, Delilah knew Samson’s strength had a source, because for one, it was supernatural. But even if it’s not supernatural, strength never comes without pain and effort. No one is born with true strength.
“For You equipped me with strength for the battle; You made those who rise against me sink under me.” – Psalm 18:39
Strength doesn’t come easily
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11
Even if we have no outside sources to draw strength from, there is always strength to be found in the Lord.
“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.” – Psalm 18:31-32
“The Lord is the strength of His people; He is the saving refuge of His anointed.” – Psalm 28:8
“May the Lord give strength to His people! May the Lord bless His people with peace!” – Psalm 29:11
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1
We never have to worry about our source running out, because strength is a characteristic of God.
So much so He is called “Strength”, just as He is called Holy, Righteous, and Rock.
“Oh my Strength, I will watch for You, for You, O God are my fortress.” – Psalm 59:9
“My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26
Without strength, we will die.
“I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength.” – Psalm 88:4
Strength is a tank. It is constantly being emptied and must be unceasingly refilled. We can’t ever take a break.
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.” – Psalm 105:4
We cannot haphazardly get strength.
We must have wisdom and knowledge about our source of strength, and ask for wisdom how to use this strength.
A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge increases his might.” – Proverbs 24:5
“On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” – Psalm 138:3
We can choose to give our strength away.
“Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.” – Proverbs 31:3
Wisdom gives us strength.
“Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.” – Ecclesiastes 7:19
Sometimes strength is quiet.
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15
Without strength, we are nothing. Making hard decisions is impossible.
“While their inhabitants, shorn of strength, are dismayed and confounded, and have become like plants of the field and like tender grass…”
Strength can be renewed. It’s not a one time opportunity.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
God is the author of different kinds of strength. There is the definition “to be firm, or vigor”, as we see in the verse above. Or there is the strength that is defined as “boldness, might, and power”, like in the verse below.
“Oh Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble…” – Jeremiah 16:19
He gives us firmness and vigor to stand in our convictions and to keep moving forward. He also gives us strength in what we say, boldness to proclaim His truths.
Even Jesus drew from this “boldness, might, and power”, as prophesied in Micah 5:4
“And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall dwell secure; for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth.
So how can we get this strength? Jesus told His disciples it comes through prayer.
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son ofMan.”
God’s love is so great, we need strength to comprehend it.
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:18
Strength is a physical, earthly force. We can improve our physical strength by going to the gym. We tear down what we have for the purpose of building it back up stronger. But if we rely only on this kind of strength, loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind will be grasping at the wind. I’ve tried it before. It doesn’t work out.
Strength is a full circle. It’s the circle of life. We get our strength from God, and we in turn give our strength back to Him. God gives us the ability to exert effort, and the efforts we undertake should be things that will bring glory to Him. With our strength we shout that God is good, and He enables us to live holy lives.
Use your strength to love God in these ways; with all of your heart, soul, and mind. But remember that it’s not really yours. It’s given for you to use, and it’s only a gift. Just like our soul is a gift to be returned to God pure and spotless through Christ’s sacrifice, our strength is only given to us to be used in proper ways. When we choose to use our strength in anyway other than what God has given it to us for, we cannot expect that our strength will last, or accomplish the results we selfishly desire.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
We need strength to love God with all of our heart. We must have the willingness to open up our deepest thoughts and desires to our Heavenly Father and ask Him to make them pure and acceptable. It’s hard to let go of things, and to have the courage to ask God to help us in becoming a new person. It’s hard to be different. To have a different mindset. A different perspective. We use our strength to hold on to the Rock that doesn’t move while keeping a firm hold on our heart, that we will always see the good in every situation, without succumbing to the pull of complaints and despair so common in the world.
We need strength to love God with all of our soul. Our soul cannot be made new without the cleansing blood of Christ. It cannot be kept pure from polluting influences without the armor of God and the strength He gives through our putting this on. Something worth dying for is something worth fighting for. We must see our soul as God sees it, and only when we see it in this light will we be ready to receive the strength and put forth the effort to wage war for our purity of soul.
We need strength to love God with all of our mind. We cannot renew our minds without His presence and guiding hand. When we realize the importance our daily focus and immediate thoughts have on the very heart and soul of who we are, we know we can never win this battle alone.
God has never given us mediocrity, may we never give it back to Him.
Our love to Him is the self-sacrificial love of agapao. It’s perceiving His intrinsic worth and responding to the fervent call to duty and devotion because it’s the right thing to do. But it’s more than laying our wants and wishes on the altar. It’s putting our entire selves on the altar for sacrifice. When we truly see life and the gifts granted to us as they are, it is no hard thing to feel love towards God.
Once this love has a firm place in our hearts, the response will be for us to choose to feel joy, fill our minds with the right thoughts, spend time in God’s word, continually give thanks, believes all things, take responsibility for our direction, and test all things. These actions and thoughts must have a place to reside, so our soul must be kept with all diligence. We must ask ourselves what our desires are, because if we want our heart to be filled with the attributes of God, the desire must be there to be the engine behind the want. The soul is created to yearn for and to feel passionately about our desires, so whatever desires we have are going to end up as our focus. Once desires have found root in our soul, they are blossomed into fruition in our mind. They become all we think about, and what we relate everything else to. But our mind is fragile. It can be easily confused, twisted, and deceived. To combat this, we make sure we are making balanced conclusions, inviting God into our deepest thoughts and giving Him that place to direct our everyday cognitive functions. We choose to have the disposition to bring God glory at all times. Our minds are what we use to determine what will bring us closer to God.
There are many different ways all four aspects can relate, but here are a few that I have come up with as a result of my study. I don’t believe there is only one specific way to categorize by importance or rank in chronological order. That is why each of the three is a little different in order and purpose.
Our intentions come from the heart, take residence in the soul, enter our mind, and result in actions that are carried out only by the strength which God supplies.
The heart is the motive, the soul is the depth. The mind is the control center, the strength is the engine.
The mind is surface level, the heart is deeper and more permanent. The soul provides the resting place, the strength provides the drive to put constantly empty and refill the resting place with ladders building closer and closer to Heaven.