VIRTUES OF KNIGHTHOOD (Part fourteen)


STRENGTH FROM OBEDIENCE:
THE POWER OF A CLEAR CONSCIENCE

Next, I will explain one of the most effective ways possible to gain real strength. Strength to conquer in battle, to gain victory over personal vices, to rise up when you become weak, and to slay the “Goliaths” in your life. I am not talking about steroids or the occasional shot of adrenaline we can all muster. I am talking about real staying power— power that sustains and drives and ensues through all weakness and challenge. I am talking about the power of having a clear conscience before God. Consider the following biblical story about the infamous
warrior Samson: [“The Philistines] bound Samson with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting.
” The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power.
” The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. So he told Delilah [his girlfriend] everything. “No razor
has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth.
If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.
” Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. ” Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison (Judges 15:13-16:21).
Samson’s power did not come from his hair. Obviously, God gave Samson his supernatural strength. Samson’s hair only represented what gave him strength, his head represented a vow he made to God, and keeping that vow gave him the clear conscience to receive, access, and display God’s power in his life. When Samson revealed the secret about his hair to Delilah, he lost his clear conscience with God and his physical and spiritual strength followed.
And now for some good news. For all of us sinners, God has a restoration plan. Notice how the story picks back up again in verse 22: “But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” In other words, Samson’s clear conscience and connection with the Lord began to grow again as he repented and obeyed. ! Then, after his arms were strapped to the temple pillars of the Philistines, he prayed, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes” (v. 28), and the Lord renewed his strength in such a way that enabled him to destroy the enemy temple entirely. And in this single act, “he killed much more when he died than while he lived” (v. 30).
The New Testament also reflects this “clear conscience = power” concept. First John 3:21-22 states, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” As we obey, we are strengthened. And like Samson, we can fully regain our strength.
A related concept pertaining to a knight’s strength is provided in Numbers 14 where Moses admonished the Israelites for moving ahead into battle without God’s blessing:
When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. Early the next morning, they went up toward the high hill country. “We have
sinned,” they said. “We will go up to the place the Lord promised.” But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.”
Nevertheless, in their presumption, they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. ! Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah (Numbers 14:39-45).
The easy-to-learn (but difficult to apply!) lesson from this story simply does not move ahead of God or without God, for if you do, you are bound to fail. Joshua 7:10-12 tells a similar story:
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”
Here we see a situation where God’s presence and power were removed from His chosen people until they repented of their sin. They were unable to “stand against their enemies” until their relationship with the Lord had been restored through repentance.
By contrast, we see how God’s power enabled David to become a mighty warrior because God was with him:
Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. In everything he did, he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David because he led them in their campaigns (1 Samuel 18:12-16).
Given the power and strength that comes from maintaining a clear conscience with God, to what lengths must a knight go to keep it? Consider how far Joseph went to preserve his clear conscience with God by avoiding sin:
The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant.
Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house (Genesis 39:2-12).
This passage shows that having a clear conscience before God and man apparently meant just about everything to Joseph.
When you survey your own strengths, you will realize that you have a few that stand out from others, as each knight has his own God-given strengths. These are yours to develop and give back to God, for you will gain more from working on your strengths than you will from trying to improve your weaknesses. Be aware of your weaknesses, but work on developing your strengths.
Do not waste your strengths or your time. Your personal comfort should be in the last place relative to the cause of serving the needs of others. Ramon Lull argued that knights should even sleep on hardwood floors and not soft, fluffy beds, lest they sleep too much and lose the opportunity to serve and help others. Wow—that is quite a challenge. His point was that we should be good stewards of our time. I do not believe that Ramon Lull would recommend that modern-day knights be consumed with Facebook, online gaming, watching sports, sitcoms, etc. Indeed, there are many time stealers in our day. It is so easy to lose our time and thus our strength to these.
In all things, moderation and temperance are needed. Finally, some motivation for those hard times when your strength starts failing you, and you find yourself running out of steam: Remember that Christ gave His all for you. Every last drop of blood and sweat was left on the cross the day He died. I find this quite motivating when I find my strength missing because I missed a meal or did not get enough sleep the night before.

Consider these portion of Scriptures as you continue reading.

  • Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. —Deuteronomy 11:8
  • David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. —1 Samuel 30:6
  • Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. —1 Chronicles 16:11
  • They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. —Nehemiah 1:10
  • Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. —Nehemiah 8:10
  • “Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit,” says the Lord God Almighty.—Zechariah 4:6
  • Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. —Ephesians 6:10
  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13
There is nothing as gentle as true strength, and nothing as strong as true gentleness.
Please consider these question and you prepare for the next virtue.
1. Where do we often look for strength?
2. What are some of the ways the world encourages us to build strength?
3. How are the world’s sources of strength “broken cisterns”?
4. How can we practically build “real inner strength”?
5. How do we regain our strength after we lose it?
6. What is a strength for? Why does God give us strength?

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