This excerpt is from the blog back in April 2010. It's the final installment in a series of posts based on one of Phil's talks at the 2010 Shepherd's Conference. Phil uses 1 Corinthians 16:13 as a launching point for exhortation and encouragement.
It's not enough just to be bold; Christian soldiers need to be strong in order to withstand both opposition and persecution. If you are going to enter the battle in earnest, you will need to be able to endure antagonism, derision, controversy, contempt, and abuse of every kind. It will come from the intelligentsia and the dregs of society alike. Worldly governments, the common people, and the academic elite of this world will conspire together to oppose us, just as they did our Lord.
Jesus himself said (John 15:18-20), "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."
First Timothy 3:12-13: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."
If you're faithful, you will be persecuted, and in this worldly realm, you can pretty much count on one thing: those who persecute you will go from bad to worse. Things are not getting better in the world. That's why we have to stay on guard.
You need strength to stand in the battle. Paul is not talking about physical strength. Again, "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh." This is still talking about character, so this is a command to cultivate strength of character—integrity combined with unflagging persistence. You have must that in order to triumph in the battle Christ calls us to fight.
Christ Himself supplies that strength through His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him faithfully. In the words of Colossians 1:11, We are "strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy." Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me." Therefore "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." That is a command; not an option. It is what God demands of all believers, and especially the shepherds of His flock.
Now let me quickly in closing call your attention to verse 14, because this is the vital closing punctuation to everything we have been talking about: Verse 14: "Let all that you do be done in love." That's an echo and a summary of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul gave them an extended discourse on the qualities of love.
Now lots of people are tempted to read verse 14 as if it nullified everything we have just said about verse 13. It doesn't. Jesus fulfilled every quality outlined in verse 13 to the uttermost (and if you don't believe me, read John MacArthur's exposition of Jesus' dealings with the Pharisees in The Jesus You Can't Ignore.) Love doesn't nullify any of the commands of verse 13; but it does define what should be in our hearts—and what our motive should be—as we wage this relentless fight against the ideological strongholds of Satan.
We need to remember that the whole point of tearing down those strongholds is the liberation of people who are held in bondage by them, and therefore everything we do—watching, standing firm, showing manly courage and determination, and drawing on the Lord's strength—all of it should be done in love. It is, after all, the love of Christ that sought us and called us and compelled us to enter the battle alongside Him in the first place. The love of Christ constrains us—to "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong."