“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
Growing up in Elmwood in the 80’s I was taught that being tough meant never backing down from a fight. It also meant that if a fight did break out, win or lose, you were able to give as good as you got. When I was 14, my friend, Rang, whose father was a kickboxer from Thailand, began to teach me all that his father taught him. That began my 38-year fascination with the martial arts. At long last, I thought, I can be a tough guy too! What I learned over the years has come in handy, especially during my “security work” days. Nevertheless, my attitude and perspectives regarding personal toughness have undergone serious revision. Boxers and MMA fighters who display extraordinary courage and fighting skill, so impressive to me years ago, seem not so impressive anymore. In fact, their toughness and power to overcome is positively pathetic when compared to that of the Carpenter from Nazareth. The familiar medieval paintings of Jesus have done Him a tremendous disservice I think. He is almost always portrayed as white, thin, weak and passive. In reality, He was a working man, a man with dirt under His fingernails. He walked everywhere he went, even over very rugged terrain. Some historians estimate Jesus walked an average of 20-30km per day! It was His mental and spiritual toughness, however, that really draws our attention and admiration. Our Lord displayed uncommon toughness in how He handled rejection and opposition, betrayal and even abandonment. Yes, there are times when the Lord expressed frustration and even anger towards the proud and hard hearted, but never was He absolutely devastated to the point where He could not continue in His Father’s mission. On the eve of His arrest and torturous death, knowing that He would, for a time, be truly alone in the universe, the Lord confided in His disciples “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). Troubled though He was, our Lord’s face was “set like a flint” (Isaiah 50:7); He was set on displaying His love for God and man in humble, selfless obedience to His Father (Matthew 26:39; John 13:1; 14:31). That kind of toughness puts that of even the most formidable fighter into the shadows by comparison. It takes a truly tough person to withstand and overcome temptation and various lusts of the flesh. Truly tough people refuse to crumble and fall to pieces when they are verbally attacked, slandered, or lied about. They stand strong, resilient and undaunted in their convictions even if they have to stand alone. Some of the toughest people ever to grace this planet are those who, on outward inspection, really didn’t look that impressive, and yet inwardly, by God’s grace, they were as bold and as strong as lions. May the Lord grant us a portion of His limitless strength today, and make us tough enough to accomplish His will.
Walk strong, dear saints, and God bless you,