“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28). Do you feel like the psalmist? Do you feel like your soul is melting away? Are you weary? Could you use a little strengthening? If so, let me direct you to Paul’s words in Romans 16:25-27, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ … to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
What does it mean to “strengthen”? The term is sterizo: “to fix, to set, to establish, to make fast.” Abraham says to the rich man: “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed” (Luke 16:26). It’s the same word. And so, to be strengthened is to be fixed in place—immovable. The term also conveys the idea of determination. Luke writes, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Christ “set” his face, meaning His decision was established and there wasn’t anything that could change His mind. To be strengthened is to be established or determined.
The Source of Spiritual Strength
Where does such strength come from? Paul says we’re strengthened by “him who is able.” In other words, he ascribes our immovability to God’s power. That’s confirmed throughout Scripture (2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians. 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25; Jude 1:24). Our God “hangs the earth on nothing … He binds up the waters in his thick clouds … He covers the face of the full moon … He has inscribed the boundary between light and darkness … Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him” (Job 26:7-14). This magnificently omnipotent God is our God. As J. I. Packer states, “God’s dominion is total: He wills as He chooses and carries out all that He wills, and none can stay His hand or thwart His plans.” Therefore, we’re certain that God will establish us. We’re confident that “the work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete.”
The Means of Spiritual Strength
God strengthens us according to “the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” How?
The gospel strengthens us by remedying our greatest ailment. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). For those who are in Christ, the verdict is changed from guilty to innocent, and the sentence is changed from death to life. Our condition is changed from condemnation to justification. This is freedom.
The gospel strengthens us by satisfying our greatest longing. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). We approach God as our reconciled Father. He isn’t a terrifying God but a loving God. He isn’t a condemning God but a pardoning God. He isn’t a threatening God but an accepting God. Our peace with God is such that He loves us as if we had never been the object of His wrath.
The gospel strengthens us by imparting hope for eternity. “We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). At that time, God will make us spiritually glorious (1 Corinthians 13:12). This means that He will renew His image in us. Every thought, impulse, and desire will terminate in Christ. Our love for Him will burn so intensely that it will bring our hearts into perfect alignment with God’s will. At that time, God will also make us physically glorious (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). Our bodies will be “imperishable,” “glorious,” “strong,” and “spiritual.” This doesn’t mean that our bodies will be nonphysical, but that our bodies will be fully conformed to the life given by the Holy Spirit. Our bodies will be more disposed to spiritual uses.
The gospel strengthens by assuring us that God is for us. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:39). God is a perfect being. He’s like a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. He isn’t shut in, or shut out, of any space. He isn’t far from us, yet He’s far above and beyond us. He is our God!
My name from the palms of His hands, eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in heaven.1Augustus Toplady