Leon Fontaine - The Believer's Strength
I've noticed over the years, as a pastor, my job is to equip and train the saints. My job is to equip and train the body of Christ. And I've noticed some things and one of things I want to talk about today is, I've noticed that people who were raised in great Christian homes and were hugged and loved and bragged on their whole life could be really wimpy when it came to standing strong. And then I would be raising and working with people who came from broken homes, beaten brutally, even hurt as kids growing up, and they would come to church and unbelievably tough.
Now, there is other problems they had in following Christ. Well, that bugged me because I'm the most kissed, hugged guy you know. I mean, I was raised in a family with a mom and a dad, pastors and churches, leaders. I don't know what it is to be abused or broken or have to go through on my own or to be ignored or never touched. Never had that. And I remember one of dad's friends. He was a pastor really believed that God could never use you until you go through some hell. And I just couldn't accept that, so we'd argue all the time. But I knew he had a point. That we use the word sucky. You know, that a lot of leaders who could rise up could be sucky. And if we're going to raise up leaders in business and politics and families and homes and all these areas. That we needed people who when things weren't going the right way and the wind wasn't blowing in their direction, that they would just stand strong, tough. They can handle some pain. I found a few and far between.
And so I began a study because I still couldn't accept, the fact that if God was ever going to use me for great things. And back when I was young, it seemed like the people who had the greatest ministries were ex-Hells Angels, ex-abused people, and they were. There was a toughness and there was this love for God of what they've been through and what could God could do for them. And so I'm going to talk about that today, and I'm going to offend a couple of people. But that's okay, 'cause offense isn't what's given, offense is what's taken. And I love you, and I want you to rise up and I want you to do things with your life that are amazing. I want you to be so strong that that you know how, to rise up in the face of adversity and have the confidence and the strength that you need to go through.
There's a verse in the Bible, it's really interesting in Isaiah 41:9-11, and it says, "Fear not for I am with you. Do not look around you in terror and dismay, for I am your God". I'm reading from the Amplified, it says, "I will strengthen and harden you". What? I will strengthen and harden. And I went to the Greek to make sure that the translators weren't just throwing that in there. Because the Amplified is one of those Bibles they'd like to put as many as the meanings of that word in there. So you can see a whole look at it and it's definitely in there. That this word "for God strengthening you" means that God would harden you. Now right away we think, "Oh, I don't want a hard heart". He didn't say harden your heart. And as I begin to study this out, I recognize that He spoke to one of the prophets and He said, "I'm going to make your forehead harder in the forehead of your enemies". Wow!
And as I begin to go through the Word, I begin to get excited. I didn't have to wait 15 years to toughen up. I didn't have to go through forty-three thousand storms and lose everybody I loved. And then be sick and diseased and poor. All the dumb stuff that people think God's going to put you through before you can do anything great for Him. And then as I begin to think through some of these teachings that were out there, I begin to recognize that David came from a great home, with a great dad and a great mom. And he got up and went out and killed Goliath as teenager. The dude was tough. And then I begin to recognize you can't find in the Bible.
Now, lots of people went through hard stuff. All of us will on this planet, before you get to heaven, you're going to through some things. But God's training isn't to throw a storm at you to make you tough. That's like a general who's looking for some tough captains in his army. He doesn't make them go fight a battle that as need. Let's go attack that hill so I can see who's tougher. That's stupid. He just watches them in battle and he begins to notice the courageous. He begins to notice the wise. He begins to notice those. And so just in life, all right, God's plan to make you strong, to toughen you up. It says here, right here in this, in this verse that you just focus on Him, look to Him. He'll strengthen you and He'll harden you. If God was going to simply be your genie, and you just rubbed prayer three times and He pops out and goes and fixes it for you. He wouldn't need to harden you. He wouldn't need to strengthen you. He wouldn't need to toughen you.
But all through the Bible, I find out that in the Old Testament, David talked about things like, "By my God, I can run through a troop. I can leap over a wall". Who? By my God. Then you get into the New Testament, I'm covering a lot of doctrine in just a short time. In the New Testament it says we are in Him. That's incredible, because in the Old Testament you had to wait for this presence of God to come upon you. On Elijah, the presence of God came upon him in his lifetime seven times. Read it, count it out. Elisha wanted a double portion. And when you read through Elisha's life, he had fourteen miracles. When the presence of God will come upon them, they could sense it. They knew it. Samson wasn't strong till the presence of God came on him. He'd shake himself. And all of a sudden he'd lift up the doors of a city and carry them up in a hill. But in the New Testament, it says, "We are in Him".
That Holy Spirit actually works the gifts of the Spirit, an incredible arsenal of nine gifts that we are to use in everyday life, for business, raising kids, marriages. It talks about the nine strengths of a leader which the Bible calls fruits. But those are the strengths of a leader. That there's a joy. There's a peace. And it makes people want to be around you. Makes your marriages work, your kids work. Makes your teams around you want to be with you, when you're forgiving and loving and caring. And so there's the strengths of a soldier. Then there's the gifts and the arsenal of a... I begin to find the Bible the most fascinating thing as I recognized that I could put my trust in Him. And that I was equipped and prepared and ready for anything that was coming at me. And oh, I so disagree with those people who think, "Well, read it. I mean, the Bible says Leon that we're going to have persecutions and we're going to have trouble".
Oh, I get that. But when you start adding sickness and poverty to your list, as though you're suffering for Jesus when you're sick, or you're suffering for Jesus through your poverty. That can't be found in the Bible. Because Jesus died for those things and all the curses. And you can read the list of curses in Deuteronomy 28:15 and on. Anything you find in there is a curse. Jesus took it. In Galatians 3:13 says there is no curse that's allowed in your life and you've got to believe that and stand on that. But I begin to recognize as I study the Word, that if God is going to use you. He needs you to toughen up. He's going to strengthen you and harden you. And it's not an outside physical thing. It's an inside heart thing. Another words, He's not going to make your heart tough as in you can't really, you know, sense or have compassion. No. But your heart will be so full of compassion and love and so strong against anything the enemy will try to do. It's something that religion and the world can't really figure out. That an incredible love, an incredible compassion that Jesus had. He was also untouchable. He said in John 10, no one's taking my life. I'll lay it down when I'm ready to lay it down. No, and no one could kill Him, touch Him.
There was no example of a bruise being put on Him until He gave Himself over to die in your and our place. And so as I look at this, this issue about toughening up. I begin to recognize like in 2 Timothy 2:10, and it says, "Endure troubles". It says, "We've got to obtain salvation". It's not saying here that you can't get rid of troubles and you've got to know what these troubles are and they're not. He's not talking about things that fall under the curse. Today is the sal, the day of salvation for everything that Jesus won on the cross. But around you is going to be people. They're going to lie about you, backstab you, cheat, you know, diminish everything you do, try to take your job. You know, do anything they can, because we live in that kind of a world until we get to heaven. And that's what He's talking about.
There'll be leaders above you making poor decisions that you have to live because you work for that company, or you're living in that country. And so we live in a real world where there's going to be things like afflictions. There's going to be things that push us. And you're going to have to make a decision now not to be overwhelmed but to overcome. Another words, we need to toughen up on the road to victory. I don't mean toughen up on the road to failing everything. I mean, toughen up on the road to victory. So that everywhere you go, you've learned to overcome. You've learned to walk by faith, walked in the grace of God. And you just know that hey, right now I don't feel like I'm making it. But it doesn't matter because when the dust settles and the smoke clears, I will be standing as more than a conqueror. And I will walk and win and continue to go because God is my helper. Who can stand before me?
This is a big issue for the church today. That we've got to recognize that this strength, this hardness isn't about being hard where you can't love, or where you can't have compassion. It goes with it and it makes you so that nothing the enemy does, nothing people do when they come at you can change what God wants to do in your life. In 1 Timothy 6:12, it says, "Fight"! I'm a Christian and I love Jesus and I think fighting is wrong. Well then change the Bible. It doesn't say fight people. It doesn't even say fight demons. Jesus finished that one. It says fight the fight of faith. Fight to stay in faith. Fight to stay strong, confident, passionate, on in direction. Don't just, "Oh, I can see a storm coming". It doesn't matter storm may come, it can blow. Some houses may fall but not yours, because yours is based on the rock.
Well, I think storms come to strengthen us. Well, that's not what Jesus taught. He taught the one house was totally destroyed. Didn't put one screw in deeper. Didn't straighten out any walls or stick the shingles down better. It destroyed it. And the other one, it just couldn't. Isn't that interesting? One life could be just destroyed and the other one couldn't even be shaken. When we understand who Jesus is in our lives. He is more than enough for us to walk through this world and to win financially, to win relationally, to win and take the gospel to the world, to win, to rise up, to face what's going on, and to spread the gospel, to be a part of the kingdom of God with His strength.
Ezekiel chapter 3, if you're taking notes, verses 8-10, it says, "I will make your face strong and I'll make your face hard against their faces". You ever notice when the enemy starts coming against you and their faces just like this, and you go, "O Lord, they look angry. They look passionately angry. Oh, boy, I better not, I better not confront them". He says He'll make your face harder than their face. There's so many promises that say when people passionately and hatefully rise up against you, which makes most Christians just go, "Back down in the name of Jesus". I never forget I've shared the story of out witnessing with my dad when I was a young pastor, and we were going to the worst area of our city handing out traction inviting them to a concert that we were doing an invite.
And as I walked by this group of guys, they were sitting on a fence outside of a bar. I walked over and handed them each an invite. And the guy says, "What's this"? I said, "Well, it's a, it's an invite". I explained to him what it was, and all of them just crumpled them up, threw them on the ground in front of my feet. And he said, "So you're Christian, huh"? And I said, "Yeah". Oh, so you love Jesus, huh? I said, "Yeah". He says, "So He's your friend". I said, "Yeah". He goes, "These guys are my friends". He says, "Me and my friends are going to kick the beep, beep, beep, out of you". You know beeps mean? He says, "What is your Jesus going to do for you now"? Well, some teaching are so pacifistic that they just taught you, you just stand there and take it. That's not in the Bible.
And I said, "What's my Jesus going to do for me? Well, His angels are going to protect me from all four or five of you guys, or He's going to give me the strength to take you all". And I meant it. He looks at me and he goes, "What kind of Christian are you"? Because most men don't like Christianity as it's presented. They think it's more feminine, more, you know, getting in touch with your feelings and love Jesus. And I said, "I'm the real kind. Why don't you guys sit down. I'll explain it to you". They sat down for 45 minutes while I shared the Jesus, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, not a guy in a dress and flip flops. But the guy in Revelation chapter one and what He looks like with His armour as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Many times as I've walked around dealing with men. I've noticed that they have a hard time relating to Christianity because it really does, if it's not careful present a wimpiness when it shouldn't be presenting a wimpiness. Love is not wimpy. Okay? If you don't believe me, then just find a man and try to take his kids away. His love for the kids just, you know. I often share the story of a woman who's paralyzed by a fear of snakes. But one day she's walking by her nursery and she sees a poisonous snake curling its way up the crib to her infant. That is one dead snake. She's going to take his head off with her teeth. Why? Because her love for her child is more powerful than her fear of the snakes. And so don't ever think that love is wimpy. That love isn't going to work. We've got to understand that you and I were designed to get up and to win and to succeed.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God would come upon them. And they could tell it when God wanted them to do something. In the new covenant, He never leaves us. There's something wrong with the church of Jesus Christ if the Old Testament just couldn't wait for God to move and would have it sporadically. I mean, I saw fourteen miracles by time I was 20 years old. He never leaves us. It means we should be walking this incredible life of rising up and speaking to storms and praying for people and sharing this amazing good news of the gospel of freedom. But instead so much of the church is cowering around because of what's going on in the government, or cowering around because we're just trying to keep ourself happy and our head up and we're struggling with all of our own emotions. And people who've often talked, "Please pray that this would go away". What would go away?
Well, this problem that I'm dealing with. Well, I'll pray with you but I want you to overcome it. Because if you don't overcome it, and it goes because away because I pray. Then what you're going to do? Be handcuffed to me so anytime you got a problem, I can pray for you? Or can you become an overcomer? Can you be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit? Can you feed on the bread of life and the Word of God and learn to relate to Holy Spirit, and get the nine gifts of the Spirit flowing through you. They weren't designed. The nine gifts the Spirit weren't designed like some people say, "Well, to one is given the Word of knowledge, to another gifts of healings. I sure hope you don't get sick by yourself out camping because you don't have the gifts of healings. I guess you've just had it". No. All nine are in you because Holy Spirit is in you. The word for Holy Spirit they use in the King James is comforter. And it's very accurate. It's a very accurate word.
And there's seven different meanings for the word that talks about Holy Spirit. He's your comforter. And that means that in the midst of whatever you're going through, there's a comfort that you can't explain that keeps you at peace. There's a comfort when you lose somebody you love and you go through some things that are rough. He'll be there to comfort you. But that same word comforter also means strengthener or hardener. The same Holy Spirit that comforts you. And a better word would be the word coach. Holy Spirit is your coach. I had some really bad coaches. Now they got some of the best stuff out of me but so mean and angry. And a, now there's other coaches, you know, they were too soft. Well, how can you be both? Well, Holy Spirit is so full of love for you like a dad that He cares about you. He'll hold you, comfort you. But He believes in you to such a degree that the Word of God rising up and you will be, "No, you can do that. Get up. Come on".
We're going to go and believe God for stuff. And we begin to learn to use the incredible playbook of the Bible and the training and recognize that I can literally take the fruits, the strengths of Holy Spirit and just grow in them. And the, I can have the gifts of Holy Spirit. He never leaves me. In any situation I rise into, healing flows out of me. A word of knowledge flows out of me. The discerning of spirits will flow out of me and out of you. The church today is living in this crazy, a lot of them anyway, in this craziness of, "Just keep your head down. And we could just pray for you, and believe God for the best. And Jesus is going to help us". Jesus works through us. Which is why in the old covenant, He had to strengthen David's and Elijah's and Jeremiah's and Elisha's. He had to strengthen them because He worked through them. And the same is true in the New Testament, that Holy Spirit is your helper. That when you begin to think that through, that kind of gives you a brain cramp.
Well, I'm supposed to follow Him. Yes. But He's your helper meaning you're doing it. What am I doing? You speak to the mountains. You get up and take on that bully. You get up and speak to sickness. You get up and make a difference governmental. You get up and begin to use everything that you can at your disposal to bring change in life. And rise up and let God to use you to advance His kingdom. I don't know who's defined you and how tough you are. But you can be a whiny princess or a warrior princess. You can be this, "Jesus, help me". And think you're a real spiritual guy, or you can allow Holy Spirit to flow through you and strengthen you and make you strong. And by that I don't mean where you can't have emotions, of course not. And love, of course. But it'll flow through you and people would go, "Why aren't you freaking out"? Because I know who my God is.
What are you going to do about this situation? Don't even know. But He'll see me through and I'll know. He'll bring me wisdom. He'll give me wisdom. And you begin to recognize He'll never leave you, never forsake you. I'm just challenging you with one word because I preached it to myself. Toughen up, Leon, toughen up. Handle it, Leon. God's in you. If people in the world can handle a hundred times bigger organizations and go through a lot of stuff worse than me and they still can smile at some point. Then Jesus in me. Come on, Leon. Get a little harder. Get a little stronger. Let Holy Spirit strengthen you. And that's my desire for you today. It is, when as soon as you start to whine, or as soon as you start to go, "People don't understand". People aren't going to understand what you go through. No one 's going to know what you're going through.
So you've got to decide, who cares. I'm going to get up and be awesome for Jesus. I'm not going to try to be awesome for people. I'm going to get and be awesome for Jesus. The King of kings and Lord of lords who died and gave His life for me. He's worth serving and nothing's going to stop me. Nothing's going to make me quit. Nothing's going to get me off the rails. It's Jesus. And then when you make that decision on the inside, just like Paul, he gloried in his trials. He said, "Yeah, people say I'm not an apostle but I've been shipwrecked three times". That was before he got shipwrecked the fourth time. And I've been beaten three times with thirty-nine lashes. I was beaten. That was a Jewish punishment. I was beaten three times with rods.
That was a Roman punishment. They flip you upside down. Put your bare feet up in the air. And they beat you with rods and break the fine bones in your foot and many never walk after that. He was healed, get up and go, "I was stoned. I was in the deep three times floating for a day and a half after the shipwreck". He started to share this, and all of those things where him bringing the gospel to the world. They weren't, "Yeah, I had a bad sickness here and I had". And everyone wants to make him look as if. No. He knew what Jesus had done for him. He wasn't talking about those things. He was talking about this aggressive forward motion for the kingdom of God.
And someone say, "But Leon, I don't know if I could really do that". Of course, you can. Look at a football player. That guy gets out there and he gets hit every time. You know how many cracked ribs you have. I remember them taping my fingers together when I play football because there's a possibility I'd cracked one of my fingers. And they would spray my ankles when they got sprained and taped them solid and put me back on the field. I was crazy. But I love the game so much that I had the wind knocked out of me and lay on the field doing the guppy, trying to get my breath back. And then go back out there and play because my love for football overrode my cracked ribs and my cracked finger and the wind get knocked out of me and getting checked all through the game. Can't we just get up and say, "Come on. Let's go do great things for God". And things aren't going to shake me. They're not going to make me go down. Then I may say, "Come on. We must be doing good if things are coming at us". And let's go do greater things for God, amen. Praise the Lord.