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Pastor Column: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power

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When the going gets tough, get dressed! No matter who you meet these days, it seems that they have a “full plate.” Concerns are expressed about the national economy, job security, home foreclosures, who to vote for in the presidential election, how to vote on Proposition 8 in our own state (see Jesus’ words about marriage in Matthew 19:4-6), the war in Iraq, terrorist threats, those affected by the hurricanes and other natural disasters, issues related to their health and the health of loved ones, relationship issues, school matters, and all other conditions that come with being part of the human race. For many, these are very difficult, trying, and troubling days. When the going gets tough, what are God’s people to do? St. Paul, when writing the Christians in Ephesus nearly 1950 years ago, gave this advice: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God ... and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:10-11a, 18) The words that appear between the dots state that putting on the full armor of God involves putting on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness (v. 14), the “gospel of peace” shin guards (v. 15), the shield of faith (v. 16), the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit (v. 17) which is the word of God. You may be familiar with the hymn that is based on this portion of God’s word. Did you know that George Duffield based his hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” on the dying words of a personal friend, who also happened to be a clergyman? Pastor Dudley Tyng had preached to a crowd of over 5,000 people at the Philadelphia YMCA one Sunday morning in 1858. The following Wednesday, Pastor Tyng decided to take a break from his studies and visited a parishioner’s farm. He went to the barn where a mule was operating a threshing machine. As he patted the mule’s neck, his sleeve got caught in the machinery, wrenching his arm from the socket. Unfortunately, he died shortly after this accident. Tyng’s message to the YMCA the Sunday before had been entitled, “Stand Up for Jesus.” This tragic event prompted Pastor Duffield to write the hymn in Tyng’s memory. So, when the going gets tough, when life contains more uncertainties than certainties, don’t give up — don’t lose hope. Rather, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, as soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss — from victory unto victory, his army he shall lead; till ev’ry foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.” Yes, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone; the arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own — put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer; where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.” Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will take them out of my hand.” (John 10: 11, 18). You see, there is security in being a child of God, of trusting in the savior and his love: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17). Pray to Jesus. He hears, and he answers! As another songwriter has so aptly put it: “Why spend the day in blank despair, or endless thought the night? On your creator cast your care; he makes your burdens light.” Come what may, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth! That will always be the case until He comes again — and then, we’ll reign with Him in heaven where “he will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). David Poganski is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Auburn.