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The Spiritual Man, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

15- A strong man

 

The spiritual man is a strong man. We mean spiritual strength., as strength is different from violence.

He is a strong man because he is created in the image of God and to His likeness (Gen 1:27). And God is strong. And being like a son of God, he is supposed to be strong in the spirit...

The spiritual man is the temple of the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor 6:19), and the Holy Spirit dwells in him (1 Cor 3:16). And so he receives strength from the Spirit that works strongly in him. The promise of the Lord Jesus Christ is also fulfilled in him, as He said:

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

And the Lord said about this power that it is power from on high (Lk 24:49). This strength showed in the preaching of our fathers the Apostles.

And so it was written in the Acts of the Apostles: “And with great power the Apostles gave witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). And also by that, the Lord’s saying was fulfilled:

St-Takla.org Image: Paul and Barnabas refuse worship and the sacrifice at Lystra صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: بولس وبرنابا يرفضان قبول العبادة والذبيحة في لسترة

St-Takla.org Image: Paul and Barnabas refuse worship and the sacrifice at Lystra

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: بولس وبرنابا يرفضان قبول العبادة والذبيحة في لسترة

“There are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mk 9:1).

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The strength of the spiritual man is from God Himself:

As David the Prophet said: “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation” (Ps 118:14). And as St Paul the Apostle said: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (Eph 6:10). And also said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“ (Phil 4:13). The phrase “I can do all things” proves the extent of the power received by the spiritual man in Jesus Christ. Even the Lord says:

“All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23).

As far as all things are possible to him, then the spiritual man should not suffer from despair, collapse or become faint-hearted. Because with faith

he becomes strong within, with a strong soul and strong spirit. He never gets weak, worried or troubled and he does not stand helpless. He is strong in the Lord who works in him, God who strengthens him...

 

This strength applies to individuals and groups:

It applies to the spiritual man as a faithful, and to the church as a group of faithful. And so it is written in the Song of Solomon about Solomon’s couch, which is a symbol of the church: “Behold, it is Solomon’s couch, with sixty valiant men around it. Of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war. Every man has his sword on his thigh because of the night” (Song 3:7,8). And also in the Song of Solomon, the characteristic of the strength by which the church and the human soul were described:

“I have compared you, my love, to my favourite foal among Pharaoh’s chariots” (Song 1:9).

The horse and also horsemen are symbols of strength (Is 31:1). And prepared for the day of the battle (Prov 21:31). And pharaoh always chose for his chariots the strongest and most firm horses. And by this comparison, the Lord describes the strength of the church which He loves...

Maybe this comparison proves that the Song of Solomon is a Book that has spiritual symbols and not just mere songs exchanged between a lover and the one he loves, as some accuse it to be!! Because no loved one would accept her lover to describe her as a horse in Pharaoh’s chariots. And with the same logic, we talk about the Lord’s saying about this beloved., the church, in the Song of Solomon:

“Awesome as an army with banners!” (Song 6:4).

And the word “banners” is the plural of “ a banner” in the army, which includes a large number of battalions, brigades and vehicles. The same description of the church or the human soul as being awesome as an army with banners has been repeated in the same chapter (Song 6:10). And definitely, it is impossible for a loved one to accept this description from her lover as being “awesome”! Or that she is like an army with banners! Then it is a symbolic talk about the church or the human soul.

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This soul that lived with God and took from His strength, strength for her life.

As the spirit of the spiritual man takes strength from the Holy Spirit that dwells in her. He is a member of the group of conquerors and winners, those who fight the Lord’s wars with strength. And the Holy Bible called them: “Mighty men of Valour”.

We read in the Book of Judges that the angel of the Lord addressed Gideon by saying: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valour!” (Judg 6:12). And it is said about David the Prophet that he is: “skilful in playing, a mighty man of valour, a man of war, prudent in speech.., and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam 16:18). And it was said about good children that they are: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Ps 127:4). And it was also said about the men of Joshua whom he took to enter the promised land, that they were: “Mighty men of valour” (Josh 8:3)... All these and others are symbols of those who enter spiritual wars “against spiritual hosts of wickedness. They are the strong in the spirit who put on the whole armour of God, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit” (Eph 6:11-17).

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The Holy Bible gave us many examples of such strong men.

For example Elijah the Prophet, who cleansed the land from all the prophets of Baal and from the prophets of Asherah (1 King 18:19,40). Likewise John the Baptist, about whom the angel who announced his birth said: “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk 1:17). And Stephen the Deacon who was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. Three synagogues disputed with him: “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which spoke” (Acts 6:9,10).

St Paul listed the names of a chain of these strong men.

And he concluded by saying: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of.. who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword; out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb 11:32-38).

The history of the church gave many examples of strong men.

For example, the martyrs who were strong in their faith, strong in their endurance and also strong in the wonders and miracles that God did through them. And there are other examples of heroes of the faith, who stood with all strength against heresies and heterodoxies. They defended the faith with strength in understanding, conviction and perseverance. An example of such men is St Athanasius the Apostolic. He stood against the heresy of Arius, endured isolation, exile, plots and accusations. And it was said to him: “The whole world is against you, Athanasius”. And he said : “And I am against the world”. Therefore they called him “Athanasius contramondum” which means : “Athanasius against the world”.

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Man was created strong, with authority :

And God said : “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; have domination over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1 :28,26). But man lost his natural strength when he sinned and began to experience fear... Then God returned and gave man strength through the work of His grace in him, through the power of the Holy Spirit, strengthening him by His promises and by being with him...

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The spiritual man reminds us of the spirits of the angels.

Those about whom David the Prophet said: “Bless the Lord, you his angels, who excel in strength” (Ps 103:20). Those angels whom Daniel the Prophet said about one of them: “My God sent his angel and shut the lion’s mouths” (Dan 6:22). And in the Book of Kings: “The angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand” (2 Kings 19:35). The source of the angels’ strength is that they are spirits close to the Spirit of God. Whoever acts in a spiritual manner will be like them and will enter into a fellowship with the Holy Spirit and God will work in him.

Therefore, the spiritual man in whom the Spirit of God works, must be strong.

David the Prophet upon whom the spirit of the Lord came (1 Sam16:13) was strong. He was stronger than Saul the King. And whenever the evil spirit troubled Saul, David used to take the harp and play it with his hand, then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him (1 Sam 16:23). Because the Spirit of the Lord that was in David is what cast away the distressing spirit. David was even stronger than the whole army who feared Goliath, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. As for David, he went forward to fight Goliath and said to him: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand.. that all the earth may know that there is a God” (1 Sam 17:46).

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The spiritual man has no fear because God is with him:

And so David the Prophet said to the Lord, his Shepherd: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for you are with me(Ps 23:4). And he was able to sing a beautiful song: “Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident” (Ps 27:3) . And also said: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright” (Ps 20:7).

Here is the strength of the spiritual man’s heart that is derived from God.

He has no fear because God is with him. God who said to Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage” (Josh 1:9,5).

He is also the One who said to St Paul the Apostle, in a vision at night: “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you(Acts 18:9,10). He is also the One who said to Jeremiah the Prophet: “For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you, “says the Lord,” to deliver you” ( Jer 1:18,19).

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Therefore it amazes me when good weakens and evil gains strength before it!!

It amazes me when I see men of the world being strong, with a strong personality and confidence, declaring their opinions publicly and achieving their aims without shaking before the storms. While the men of God appear like weak and do not withstand! As if evil is stronger than good! Or evil is the one to prevail! Why then this weakness?! And why does not good withstand, announcing righteousness and calling for it, as the Apostles used to do : “With all confidence, no one forbidding them” (Acts 28:31).

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Spiritual strength is not against gentleness and lowliness at all.

Many like gentleness, but they misunderstand it. Gentleness is distinguished by kindness and calmness. But it never stops a man from having a strong personality and still remains gentle and lowly. Here is perfection and virtue with no contradiction.

The Lord Jesus Christ was a model for this perfection. He is the One who said: “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” ( Mt 11:29). And at the same time, He had a strong personality, strong in His argument with all those who opposed Him from the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders of the people and the Sadducees. And He used to silence them and spread His message with strength...

And He is the One about whom it was said: “He is clothed with majesty; He has girded Himself with strength(Ps 93:1) And it was also said about Him: “Gird your sword upon your thigh, O Mighty One, with your glory and your majesty (Ps 45:3)... To Him is the power and the glory.

Then it is possible for one to be gentle and strong. The important thing is: what is the concept of strength? And also, what is the concept of gentleness and lowliness?

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What is the concept of strength? And what is the difference between false strength and true strength?

Strength is the strength of the spirit inside, expressing itself in a spiritual manner on the outside.

Strength is not violence. Christianity is against violence. And it is not the desire to dominate and subjugate others. And it is not rashness, hastiness and boldness with whoever is big. Like a student who challenges his teacher or a son who dares his father. And strength is not a Samsonian strength, in the body and muscles.. and it is not self assertiveness in the wrong way and priding oneself in defeating others, and it is not using authority at the wrong place...

And it is not also pretence by word, like when Peter said: “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be”. “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you! (Mt 26:33,35)... And when he stepped in the practical reality, this strength did not show!!

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Strength must be at all times and continually.

How easy it is for one to appear strong in a specific situation then before long, he loses his strength in another situation. Just like Samson who proved his strength in several situations, then finally weakened before Delilah (Judg 16).

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Man weakens and loses his strength for many reasons.

He may weaken before the wishes of the one he loves, or weaken before the tears of some. He may also become weak due to much insistence or before emotional or financial pressure. He may also weaken if the temptation intensified, as it happened with David the Prophet. And generally, weakness without happens when one becomes weak within.

The spiritual man withstands all these reasons. And if it happened that he became weak and fell, he quickly arises. And he will repeat what was said in the Book of Micah the Prophet: “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise” (Mic 7:8).

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The strength of the spiritual man is a spiritual strength. And there are various reasons for this strength:

What are these reasons that are a source of his strength?

What also are the elements of this strength that is in his spirit, soul and thought?

What are its aspects in his life, his service and his virtues?


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