Strength In God Part 2
We talked about Strength in God last week. I ended with how we seem to get closer to God in times of trouble and stress; we rely on Him so much to get us through the hard times. Then we seem to walk away from Him in the good times, forgetting that He can do the same things in the easy times as He does in the hard times. How easy is it for us to limp along in our own strength when there is no trouble? David understands this concept. He lives this concept. I asked everyone to read and meditate on 2 Samuel 22. David’s Song of Praise. I hope everyone read it at least once.
David’s Song of Praise. David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave he flew, soaring blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were confused. Then at the command of the Lord, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence. To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them. O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory; your help in the gutter like dirt. You gave me victory over my accusers. You preserved me as the ruler over nations; people I don’t even know now serve me. Foreign nations cringe before me;as soon as they hear of me, they submit. They all lose their courage and come trembling from their strongholds. The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted! He is the God who pays back those who harm me;he brings down the nations under me and delivers me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies; you save me from violent opponents. For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever.2 Samuel 22
David is giving everything to God, every bit of strength, every bit of glory, every bit of existence. Knowing that it is God and not himself that accomplishes everything. I wish I had a faith like that. I briefly mentioned that there was another person in scripture that gave God everything and walked in a strength that I can only dream to achieve. That person is Paul. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 (NLT).
Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again — I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Now that’s a resume! How many of us have been beaten for Christ? Whipped? Stoned? Shipwrecked? How many of us have lost a job for Christ? Maybe a friend? Such a little bit of sacrifice, yet we so often feel that we are being persecuted for our belief in Christ … how little we really are.
There are times in our lives that we feel embarrassed about our relationship with Christ. This is a statement, not a question. How many times do we NOT say what we should? How many times do we keep silent when we know we should be speaking for Christ? How many times do we fail to pray aloud, or give glory to God, or pray for someone who is hurt, or sad, or spiritually broken? We see it, I know each and every person in this room knows the Holy Spirit and hears Him clearly on many occasions, yet we are too afraid of what men think to do what He asks us.
So how does Paul do it? How does Paul have the faith, the strength to do what he does?
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:14-21
What is it that gives Paul his incredible strength? His incredible faith in Christ? I know that I struggle and I’m only faced with things like: Should I say God bless you to the cashier at the grocery store, or should I pray out loud for lunch, or maybe a really hard day is when I have to pray for an injured player on the football field. Compared to Paul, I live an idyllic life. Paul has a strength I can only hope for, that I can look to attain, but have as yet, not even come close.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.Philippians 4:11-13
But where does the strength he talks about come from? Paul says, “I am strong in my weakness.” We read the last few verses of 1 Corinthians 11. Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:1-10.
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.1 Corinthians 12:1-10
How is it that Paul is strong in his weakness? I talked about how we seem to rely on God when we are in the most trouble, or the most pain, or the most fear. This is what Paul is talking about. Being strong in our need, because it is then and only then that we really begin to rely on God for everything. When we can do it ourselves, when we can accomplish everything without help, we do not seek God, we do not rely on Him for our strength. HOWEVER, when we are weak, when we are suffering, when we are in need, we cry out to Him and ask Him to hold us up, strengthen us. So when are we going to learn to rely on His strength all the time? How, or what, is it that allows us to rely on His strength all the time? Or maybe a better question would be: What is it that prevents us from relying on His strength all the time? The answer: fear. We are going to continue this next week. Homework for this week is to read 1 John 4, pay special attention to 17-19.