Rev. Laning is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan.
What does it mean to be strong? How does a Christian show himself to be a strong believer? To answer questions like these we must turn to the Scriptures to see what God says is a chief characteristic of one who is strong. There are a number of animals in the Scriptures that illustrate for us the idea of strength from one point of view or another. In this article we consider strength as it is pictured for us in the lion.
God not only mentions the strength of the lion, but points out that the lion is in fact the strongest of the beasts. We read of this in Proverbs 30:30, which speaks of:
A lion which is strongest
and turneth not away for any….
Even unbelieving man is aware of this, as is evident from the fact that the Philistines, who found out the answer to Samson’s riddle, confessed that there is nothing stronger than the lion (Judges 14:18).
The passage in Proverbs indicates that the strength of the lion is centrally seen, not merely in the size of its muscles, but in the fact that it does not fear the other beasts. It does not turn away from an enemy, when other creatures would. Thus we see that to learn from an animal we must not only consider its exterior characteristics, but also look deeper at what is made known about the interior, the heart of that creature. If we look deep into the lion, the Scriptures say we will find a heart that is, relatively speaking, without fear. Hushai recognized this, and compared David’s mightiest men to those who had the heart of a lion (II Sam. 17:10).
There is, of course, a good sense and a bad sense in which one can be fearless. One who is ungodly, and has no fear of God, runs foolishly forward into his own destruction. But here we are considering the good sense in which one can be strong as a lion. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), and we who are in Christ are called to be strong and courageous, fearless as the lion.
A strong believer is one who has not only a deep knowledge of the truth, but also a strong confidence in God, so that he does not fear his enemies. As we read inPsalm 91, he does not fear the traps that his spiritual foes set for him, nor does he fear diseases that may come upon his body, for he knows that in the new man he is perfectly secure, protected by his God.
A strong believer is also one who does not fear to confess the truth distinctively, even though he knows he will be ostracized and persecuted for it. Sometimes a child of God begins to view himself as a strong believer merely because he knows more about the truths of Scripture than perhaps many others. Although we must not downplay the importance of knowledge of the truth, especially in our day, yet we must also remember that faith is not only knowledge, but also confidence. One who is strong in faith not only knows the truth, but also has a heart like that of a lion, so that he boldly confesses that truth, pointing out and refuting the errors of his day, without fearing what man will do to him.
This is what we are called to do in the strength of the Lord. As we experience being mocked and ridiculed for maintaining the truth, and when we are tempted to confess that truth less distinctively, in order to avoid the persecution, we must remember the lion, that is, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the fearless Lion who dwells in our heart. Then, by faith in our fearless Savior, we will be more bold in our bearing witness to the truth, while confessing from the heart: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6).