Throughout history, beginning in Genesis, every corner of the world has given us tales of strong men. These tales were meant to inspire men to be physically strong and to be warriors. One of the most well-known mythical strong men is the Greek and Roman hero, Hercules. Many other cultures have their own mythologies about strong men and gods, all of which are meant to inspire others and give pride to a people. These stories, however, do not compare to the story of the strongest man I know.
I personally know several strong men. Working in ministry for over 23 years, my pastor has lived a Bible-centered life. He runs the spiritual race with patience, and he runs physical races which strengthen his body. Running of course requires a strong core, strong legs, and a strong mental state to block the brain’s pain signals and push through to the end. My grandad, another strong man, preached for well over 50 years after serving in World War Two as a hand-to-hand combat drill sergeant in the Army. As he got older, he would lead teenagers on a hike into the Grand Canyon and back out. He ran five miles a day well into his seventies and started walking two miles a day, barefoot, when he was in his early nineties. As his health declined, he would instead swim for half an hour to an hour each day. The physical, mental, and spiritual endurance to strengthen the body of Christ and one’s own body; to daily strive to bring others to the Lord and motivate the flock to do the same; to maintain passion about their calling, puts both men on my list. And yet, neither are the strongest man I know.
Of course, one cannot talk about the strongest men in history without mentioning Samson. His feats of strength are comparable to those of Hercules, yet Samson's is an entirely true story. In Judges 14:5-6, Samson kills a lion by tearing apart his jaws with his bare hands—a mighty task indeed! We see in Judges 15:14-16 that Samson slew a thousand men in a fight, with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey. Winning hand-to-hand combat in a sport like boxing or MMA requires supreme strength and endurance, and that’s just against one man. Samson fought a thousand men in one day, slaying each one in what was undoubtedly multiple hours of fighting that tested his strength and stamina. In a last feat of strength, Samson knocked down the pillars of a great house (Judges 16:30), slaying more in that one final act than in all his other battles. Yet even with these incredible acts of strength, Samson is not the strongest man I know.
The strength exhibited by all these men does not compare with the strength of a carpenter’s son. Jesus’ strength was more than the ability to lift heavy things, run long distances, or fight with His bare hands; and although His physical strength was on display throughout his life, yet His strength surpassed the physical. He was constantly moving and walking, yes, but also teaching and healing. Jesus’ strength was on display His whole life as He fought against the temptations of the Devil, denying sin to live a righteous and holy life for thirty three and a half years. For Christ to have lived righteously from a young age, His thoughts and actions had to be completely pure. The Devil himself could not get Jesus to sin. In Matthew 4:1-11 we see Satan tempt Jesus after Jesus had not eaten for 40 days. If you have fasted for even 24 hours you know that your body becomes weaker as you deny it nutrients. If you have fasted for 72 hours, you know how going that long without food makes a person susceptible to physical and mental attack. Yet after 40 days of denying his body food, Jesus had the strength to reply three times to the wiles of the Devil with “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, & 10). Each time He denied prohibited pleasure and the temptation of sin. What strength!
Jesus endured great physical suffering at his death. “For the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:8) as “Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him” (John 19:1). This scourging would have reduced Jesus to bones, meat, and blood as He took the stripes for our sins. After the scourging, “he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew 'Golgotha'” (John 9:17). There he was crucified. His muscles and tendons torn, His body shredded to ribbons, He was made to hang there until dead. Imagine with me how it might feel for your body to work until you absolutely cannot go any longer and you are in muscle failure. Then, as your muscles lock up, you are forced to continue until you give up the ghost, all of this not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others.
I often try to imagine what Jesus felt like on that cross: worn, weakened, beaten. Could I have withstood the pain and suffering without so much as an impure word? Yet Jesus suffered so much without even an impure thought. Jesus is the strongest man I know. He set the example for strength by denying sin His whole life, and at the doorstep of His horrific death, keeping even His thoughts pure.
In our society, men are seeking to be strong; look strong; act strong. I urge you not to look to mythological tales of strength, your own feats of endurance, or even Biblical stories of might, but instead look to the cross! I urge you, brethren—be strong like Jesus.
The above article was written by Jonathan Thornton. He is a military veteran and member of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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