Our Weakness: God’s Strength

Our Weakness: God’s Strength

“All power is given UNTO ME in heaven and in earth.” —Matthew 28:18

“Be strong IN THE LORD, and in the power of his might.” —Ephesians 6:10

“My power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians12:9 (R.V.)

THERE is no truth more generally admitted among earnest Christians than that of their utter weakness. There is no truth more generally misunderstood and abused. Here, as elsewhere, God’s thoughts are heaven-high above man’s thoughts.

The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.” The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

All our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use. This power flows into us as we abide in close union with Him. When the union is feeble, little valued or cultivated, the inflow of strength will be feeble. When the union with Christ is rejoiced in as our highest good, and everything sacrificed for the sake of maintaining it, the power will work: “His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.”

The lessons these thoughts teach us for practical life are simple, but very precious. The first is, that all our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use. It is there as an almighty life, which is in Him for us, ready to flow in according to the measure in which it finds the channels open. But whether its flow is strong or feeble, whatever our experience of it be, there it is in Christ: All power in heaven and earth. Let us take time to study this. Let us get our minds filled with the thought: That Jesus might be to us a perfect Saviour, the Father gave Him all power. That is the qualification that fits Him for our needs: All the power of heaven over all the powers of earth, over every power of earth in our heart and life too.

The second lesson is: This power flows into us as we abide in close union with Him. When the union is feeble, little valued or cultivated, the inflow of strength will be feeble. When the union with Christ is rejoiced in as our highest good, and everything sacrificed for the sake of maintaining it, the power will work: “His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.” Our one care must therefore be to abide in Christ as our strength. Our one duty is to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Let our faith cultivate large and clear apprehensions of the exceeding greatness of God’s power in them that believe, even that power of the risen and exalted Christ by which He triumphed over every enemy (Eph. 1: 19-21). Let our faith consent to God’s wonderful and most blessed arrangement: nothing but feebleness in us as our own, all the power in Christ, and yet within our reach as surely as if it were in us. Let our faith daily go out of self and its life into the life of Christ, placing our whole being at His disposal for Him to work in us. Let our faith, above all, confidently rejoice in the assurance that He will in very deed, with His almighty power, perfect His work in us. As we thus abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of His power, will work mightily in us, and we too shall sing, “JEHOVAH is my strength and song: IN JEHOVAH I have righteousness and strength.” “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Andrew Murray

You can read this entire teaching here.


Taken from Abide in Christ, Day 28, “As Your Strength.”

What Does It Mean to Be Ready to Meet the Lord?

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready to Meet the Lord?

By Randy Alcorn

A reader asked me, “I often hear the saying ‘I want to be ready to meet my Lord.’ Can you explain what exactly you mean by this, please?”  

First of all, and most importantly, being ready to meet the Lord means you’ve made sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ, and are trusting only Him to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done. R. A. Torrey put it this way: “I am ready to meet God face to face tonight…for all my sins are covered by the atoning blood.”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And in John 5:24 Jesus tells us, “Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Once you’ve accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, being ready to meet the Lord means living in a way that pleases Him so that whenever He calls you home—and knowing that could be any time—you can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  

Scripture teaches with unmistakable clarity that all believers in Christ will give an account of their lives to their Lord (Romans 14:10-12). Even if Christ does not return for two hundred years, we will meet Him in our deaths, whether in twenty years, twenty months, or twenty minutes. God encourages us not to be surprised about the soon coming of our appointment to stand before Him. If we are ready to meet Christ, we will long for His return. If we are not ready, we will dread it. If we do not feel ready to meet Him, now is the time to get ready.

Readers of my books are probably familiar with my emphasis on how five minutes after we die, we’ll know exactly how we should have lived. But we can’t do life here over again. There’s no retaking the course once we’ve failed it. There’s no improving a D to an A. No rescheduling the final exams. Death is the deadline. There’s no extension.

The good news is we don’t have to wait until we die to know how we should live! God has given us His Word to tell us how to live and His indwelling Spirit to empower us to live as we should. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).  Every day God gives us is an opportunity to live for Christ: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Read the rest here.

The Faithfulness of Christ in the Little Things

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

The Faithfulness of Christ
in the Little Things

by Sinclair B. Ferguson

It is a principle in Christ’s kingdom that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). But in that kingdom, the Lord Jesus also practiced what He preached. His whole life illustrated “little-things faithfulness.” The theme merits book-length treatment, and this brief essay is intended simply to encourage us all to notice some of the little things we may have tended to overlook in the life of the Savior. Here are five of them.

1. Jesus was an Exodus 20:12 boy: He observed the command to “honor your father and your mother.” We know this was already true of Him when He was only twelve, as we see in Luke 2:41–52. When Joseph and Mary took Him to the Jerusalem Passover feast that year, they actually “lost” Him. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it . . . but then they began to search for him” (vv. 43–45). When they eventually found Him in the temple, Mary’s frayed nerves snapped a little: “Why have you treated us so? . . . Your father and I . . .” (a phrase most boys recognize as a hefty rebuke). She blamed Jesus even though He was their responsibility (v. 48). But watch Jesus: He gently explained that He had gone to the one place in the city they should have known where to find Him (“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”). And then notice what Luke adds: “He went down with them . . . and was submissive to them” (vv. 49–51). Yes, although they had wrongly blamed Him, Jesus honored His Father’s fifth commandment in obeying His earthly parents. Indeed, He paid detailed attention to all His Father’s commandments.

Our Lord’s faithfulness in little things was simply the reflection of the perfect beauty He saw in the face of His Father.

2. Jesus was also a Deuteronomy 8:3 man: He lived “not . . . by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (see Matt. 4:4). Every word. Jesus believed not only in “verbal plenary inspiration” but in obedient “verbal plenary feeding.” Each word of His Bible was vital to Him. He took a delight in detailed faithfulness—He wanted to know, love, and obey every single word God had breathed out.

Read the rest here.

Polka Spotted

Polka Spotted

By Pat Knight

Among our three grandsons visiting Christmas day, the 5-year old suffered a fully developed case of chicken pox. The disease had no regard for person, place, or time; no indication it was interrupting our celebration of the birthday of the King. The chicken pox boy endured long enough to unwrap his Christmas gifts before he collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day. Occasionally a whimper erupted from his direction as he tried to resist the complete lethargy and generalized soreness that accompanied the disease.

Our grandsons coined the phrase ”polka spots” for the skin lesions populating his body, including his lips, throat, inside his nostrils, and on the soles of his feet. The generalized outbreak of chicken pox, if blended together, had the potential to change his skin color. As I performed a close inspection of the polka spots on his back, it occurred to me that God could devise a method of registering our transgressions; a pox assigned for each sin. Over our lifetime, I wonder if we would have enough room on our bodies to register all of the pox? Thankfully, God does not choose any means of broadcasting to the world the mistakes we make. Sin is a private matter between God and the believer. Never does He make our indiscretions known to others. He has promised, “‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:12).

If we are wronged by another person, we remember the incident to prevent similar hurt again, applying what we’ve learned, but not for the purpose of retaliation. God assures us, “‘I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my sake, and remembers them no more’” (Isaiah 43:25). Our Lord is not interested in flaunting our sins to the world. Once we repent of our sins and he redeems us, he destroys sins’ memory, never to be retrieved. Our God is patient and long-suffering, identified by justice and loving kindness. “‘I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist’” (Isaiah 44:22, NLT).

The Son of God’s death on the cross paid all debts in full to redeem our sins. God is not interesting in brow-beating; His forgiveness is merciful and full of grace. Conversations and dealings with us are held in strictest confidence, never to be revealed. Our Lord is kind and compassionate. “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Psalm 86:5, NLT).

In some societies slaves wear collars to identify their status and their owners. As Christians, our uniqueness is displayed by our love of God and our fellow traveler. No physical marks are necessary. We exhibit an outward manifestation of inner peace and joy, secured by hope in an unfailing God. Job, who suffered untold physical and mental anguish, said, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him’” (Job 13:15).

 

“He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Believers in Jesus Christ do not require a distinguishing physical mark. Rather than brand us as His followers, God expects us to minister for Him with our speech and actions. “Just as the body is dead, without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26, NLT). Our external actions reflect our heart’s allegiance.

If we yell from the rooftops our love for God, we would be summarily labeled as wacko. But, if in our daily lives we consistently display the love and peace of God, our positive actions and benevolent outreach will impact many lives, including our own.

People also listen to what we do not say. Non-verbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words. If we refuse to be controlled by anger, resentment, or bitterness, others take notice. Are we active listeners, conveying a sense of importance to others? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19).

Our goal is to be a conspicuous Christian, to imitate Jesus and His actions. The slogan so popular with Christian teens years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W. J. D.), is still an appropriate question for us to consider prior to decision-making. We are commanded, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Eph. 5:1-2, NLT).

Let us evaluate whether we exhibit joy and patience amidst the disappointments and losses in life. Are we able to cling to our faith in Jesus when all hope seems lost? Are we patient and long-suffering when awaiting answers from God? Others observe confidence, joy, and gentleness as correct responses to unpleasant situations, those features that cancel negative behavior in every scenario.

Unlike the Nazi practice of tattooing Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or the fanciful idea of a chicken pox for each sin, as followers of Jesus Christ, promises are the only brands we will ever receive from our Lord. His words are believable, His love magnificent, and His gifts generous beyond our imagination. Polka spots represent a hurtful, temporary disease. Give God your sins and He will exchange them for an abundant life on earth and a home in heaven forever and ever!


[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

How God Changes Our “Why Me?” Questions in Suffering to “Why Not Me?”

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

How God Changes Our
“Why Me?” Questions
in Suffering to
“Why Not Me?”

By Randy Alcorn 

There was a time when I could not fully accept any explanation for evil and suffering that didn’t make sense to me, start to finish. However, over the years, and through the process of writing my book If God Is Good, I’ve come to trust my own understanding less, and God’s Word more.

I find a strange delight in being swallowed up by the immensity of God’s greatness and by the divine mysteries that once disturbed me. Know­ing that I’ll sit before God’s judgment seat—not He before mine—I choose to trust Him. And the more I do, the more sense the story makes to me.

And I am certain about this: the best answer to the problem of evil is a person—Jesus Christ. I’m convinced He is the only answer. The drama of evil and suffering in Christ’s sac­rifice addresses the very heart of the problem of evil and suffering. And one day it will prove to have been the final answer.

So whenever you feel tempted in your suffering to ask God, “Why are you doing this to me?” look at the Cross and ask, “Why did you do that for me?”

In this excerpt from his 2018 book God’s Grace in Your Suffering, David Powlison writes about how God changes our “Why me?” questions in suffering. (My thanks to Justin Taylor for sharing this ohis excellent blog.)

So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is

Why me?

Why this?

Why now?

Why?

You’ve now heard God speaking with you. The real God says all these wonderful things, and does everything he says.

Read the rest here.

Fisherman, Follow Me

Photo credit: freebibleimages.org

Fisherman, Follow Me

By Pat Knight

Peter’s extroverted personality may have been responsible for his leadership as spokesman for Jesus’ select group of twelve disciples. He was a flamboyant fellow whose brusqueness created trouble for himself and for his Master. Have you ever pondered the reason Christ recruited Peter as a disciple, when He fully recognized Peter’s propensity for aggression? Though impulsive and roughly hewn on the outside, Jesus looked into Peter’s heart to identify his potential for loyalty, submission, and reliability. Jesus knew Peter would develop into a powerhouse for the Kingdom of God in the future. But first, Jesus must sand the rough edges of Peter’s personal approach, teach him tenderness and tact, and impress upon His disciple the nature of his Master’s mission on earth.

Jesus’ disciples were a varied assortment of professions and personalities. None among them were important or accomplished. God chose ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats. The most unprepared were believers God could mold and make into a useable instrument for His glory. God peers into hearts, searching for a person’s capacity to serve, obey, and to conform to His will. God’s methods have not changed over the centuries. He converts His weak children to towers of strength to promote His important assignments, as the Spirit infuses us with power and direction.

A life-long fisherman by trade, Peter was self-assertive and independent, intrigued by the authority of the man who urged, “’Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people’” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus issues the same command to all believers, encouraging us to depend on His leadership for every aspect of our lives. When questions or calamities arise, we need not scramble to find our own solutions; Jesus is our close companion, ready to answer and aid at a moment’s notice. In fact, our Savior already knows in advance what will occur in our future. Trusting His guidance and grace offers tranquility when we are surrounded by anxious moments, allowing Jesus to fight our battles and achieve the victory He promises. “Do not be afraid or discouraged … for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld” (2 Chronicles 20:15b; 17a; 20b).

Peter was impetuous. When he recognized Jesus walking on water, he requested his Master summons him to walk toward Him in the middle of the lake. Peter successfully took several steps on water—until the gusting wind distracted him. Doubt overwhelmed his faith and he began to sink. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “‘You of little faith,’ Jesus said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).It took courage for Peter to leave the safety of the disciple’s boat, depending solely on Jesus to enable him to step onto the surface of the water. Whenever believers divert their focus from Jesus in the midst of a storm, our present fear claims more prominence than our trust in Jesus. Like Peter, we lose faith and begin to sink from the Master’s presence. The tangible difference between fear and faith is Jesus!

The Messiah began preparing His disciples by teaching them about His future suffering and death. “Peter took him {Jesus} aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, my Lord!’ he said, ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Matthew 16:22-23). Peter was struggling with unbelief, exposing his own impulsive methods. When Jesus compared Peter’s actions to Satan, his arrogant behavior exposed an adversary or an accuser.

In the garden the night Jesus was arrested, Peter’s combative nature was revealed when he instinctively whacked off the high priest servant’s ear with a sword. “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away!’” (John 18:11). Did Peter still believe that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to condemn and destroy? Jesus touched the servant’s ear, healing him instantly. When would Peter learn to trust the saving grace and mercy of the Son of God?

Photo credit: freebibleimages.org

At the Passover feast, Jesus predicted Simon Peter would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed. A few hours later, still vacillating between fear and courage, Peter took his focus off Jesus until the last rooster crowed, the moment when the servant and the Master’s eyes met. “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. And he went outside and wept” (Luke 22:61-62). How would Peter compensate for such personal failure? By running to the garden, the first of the disciples to meet his risen Savior. Later, Peter was the only apostle to be spiritually reinstated by his Lord (John 21:15-19).

Like the audacious disciple, we may be unaware of our own spiritual deficiencies. Following Jesus from afar as Peter did the night of his betrayal, is a dangerous posture for any of us to assume. When believers learn to trust Jesus wholeheartedly, there emerges a vivacious, vital person whose sole purpose is to concentrate on the Savior. Let us readily admit, as the Israelites did long ago:

“‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’” (2 Chronicles 20:12), a prayer that God the Father honored.

Simon Peter is a vivid example of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Peter was the emboldened orator on Pentecost Sunday, where 3,000 people were converted to Christianity. He had evolved from headstrong to humble; from arrogant to obedient; from timid to fearless. Simon Peter’s spiritual metamorphosis was evidenced as the first disciple to confess to Jesus, ”’You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the uneducated disciple authored two New Testament epistles bearing his name. He became a pillar of the emerging church and the first apostle to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. A self-sufficient heart was rehabilitated into a dependent servant fashioned for heaven’s work!

We are confident that each life responds to miraculous spiritual reform. The most bombastic attitude can be tempered and used for God’s glory. Our Lord chooses ordinary believers for colossal assignments, strengthening and empowering them with Jesus’ attributes. God modified Peter’s rebellious characteristics, substituting qualities and sensitivities previously undeveloped in the disciple. All believers are blessed with capabilities that blossom under sovereign tutelage. Jesus is the compassionate Son of God, willing to invest his own perfect life for the purpose of redeeming and reconstructing each of ours.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
(I John 3:1).

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.