Posts Tagged ‘Strength


Strengthen Me Lord

Some of the most famous words in Scripture are found in Philippians 4:13 (NLT):

I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

This verse gets plastered on posters of mountain climbers.  It is quoted by victorious athletes.  It is used to motivate people to new heights of success.  It is used to remind people that they can overcome any obstacle.
But it isn’t what the verse means.  In its original context, this verse means quite the opposite.  Look at verses 12-13 (NLT) together:

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. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Paul is writing about being content.  No matter what he’s going through in life, he can be content in any situation.  Whether he’s hungry or stuffed.  Whether he’s got a little or a lot.  Whether he’s living high on the hog or underneath it.  He can do it because Jesus gives him the strength to be content.
Contentment.  That’s a word we don’t hear very often in our world today.  We don’t hear people say things like, “I could have bought a brand new car, but I was pretty content with my old clunker that still ran fine.”  We don’t hear anyone say, “I went to the store to buy some new clothes, but I realized that I was pretty content with last year’s styles.”  You won’t hear these words, “I was going to take the family out to dinner, but then I remembered that we have plenty of food at home and we were content with that.”  Nope!  Even if we are blessed beyond measure, we still want more.
We don’t hear the reverse, either.  “We can’t afford a new house, but we’re content with the one that we have.”  “We’re content to eat peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches for the next four days until we get to payday and can afford strawberry jelly!”  “We’re content with the three outfits we have in our closet.”  Nope!  We may be struggling to get by, but what do we do?  We start maxing out our credit cards so we can buy more.  Then we’re in a heap of trouble!
The reality of the situation is that it Paul knew that it takes a lot of strength to be content.  We’re not a content people.  We like stuff.  We like new stuff.  We like the shiny and the latest and the greatest.  The new and improved.  It takes all of the strength that Jesus can give us to be content in any and every situation.  It’s a real struggle when we live in a land where we don’t have to be content with what we have. We can be instantly gratified with gadgets and possessions and stuff.
The challenge for today is to pray for contentment.  Perhaps that car will run another year and you could send that car payment money to a missionary (who may or may not have a car at all).  Maybe you could wear those jeans another six months and give that $50.00 toward the children’s ministry at your church.  Instead of going out to eat tonight take that $75.00 you would have spent (you really should tip well) and buy a couple of bags of groceries and ask your church to give them to someone who is struggling more than you are.  It’s going to take some strength to do it, but you can do all things through Jesus.  We can even learn to be content.
PRAYER: Father, You have blessed me in so many ways.  Help me to be satisfied with what I have been given.  Give me the strength through Christ Jesus to be content in You.  I love You, Lord.  In Jesus’ name, amen.
 Philippians 4:10-23 (NLT)

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 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. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.

18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Paul’s Final Greetings

21 Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. 22 And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.

23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


Unity Among Generations

1 John 2:11-14 (NIV)

I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.

14 I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

​John lists three groups to whom he is writing when it comes to the reasons he wrote this first letter.  He addresses his “dear children,” “fathers” and “young men.”  The first group, “dear children,” is how John refers to the entire church to whom h he was writing.  Then he addresses the older people in the church and then the younger people in the church.  The Greek words are masculine in gender, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were only referring to men.  ​The form he uses could have been used for both men and women according to one commentary (The IVP Bible Background Commentary).  In any case, John is not writing to them because of their ages.  Rather, he addresses these groups on the basis of spiritual maturity.
All believers have been forgiven by calling on Jesus’ name (Acts 22:16).  The older people in the congregation knew Jesus from the beginning meaning that that they had been walking with the Lord for quite some time.  The younger people, even though less spiritually seasoned, still had the Word of God living in them and had overcome the evil one.
What does all of this mean?  I believe that it means that we all, no matter our ages or maturity levels, have to be united in the church.  We have all been forgiven by the same grace through the same cross.  We need spiritually mature people to pass on the faith to the younger people.  We need younger people to use their vigor and strength to continue the work of the older generations.  There is a place for everyone, regardless of age or maturity, in the Kingdom of God.  We may be tempted to dismiss the older folks because they’re perceived as “out of touch.”  We may be tempted to dismiss the younger folks because they’re “not mature enough.”  We have to learn to work together to build the Kingdom of God.  By His grace, we can do just that.  How do we do that?  By keeping our eyes on Jesus.  He can make us one in purpose.  When we focus on what Jesus wants instead of what we want, the differences between the generations can melt away.
PRAYER: Father, I pray today that we can be one in the church.  That we will not allow our differences to divide us.  I ask that we would be united in our purpose and our mission to share Your love and grace with the world.  This is not possible apart from Your Son, Jesus.  I ask these things in His name, amen.

Strong Weakness and Foolish Wisdom

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. — 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NIV)

I guess it never occurred to me the implications of this verse.  Is there such a thing as the foolishness of God?  Or the weakness of God?  God is all-powerful and all-knowing!  How could He have foolishness and weakness?  It’s all in how you look at it.

God’s Foolishness

God is, obviously, no fool.  He has infinite knowledge and wisdom.  It is God’s message of salvation by grace through faith that seems foolish to humanity.  How could believing in a Jewish carpenter who lived nearly 2000 years ago and died a humiliating, torturous death on a Roman cross bring forgiveness for horrible, awful sinners such as us?  That doesn’t make any sense!  Surely there are rules that need to be kept, right?  There must be something more to it than simple faith!  It just seems so…foolish.

God’s Weakness

God is not weak, right?  He can move mountains!  He can shake the earth that He spoke into existence!  Nothing is impossible for God!  How could anyone say that God has any weakness?  Because Christ came.  The One by and through Whom all things were created emptied Himself of Himself and came to earth as a helpless, weak human baby.  He limited Himself and though He was fully God, He was fully human as well.  Yet, even in this weakness, He demonstrated incalculable strength by enduring the agony of the cross!


Why?  Why would God do all of this?  Because of His intense desire to see His most prized creation be restored to a right relationship with Him.  So He sent a weak, helpless baby to bring a foolish message of grace to the world.  Though we may think we are strong and wise, we may just be too strong and wise for our own good.  May we be a little weaker and a little more foolish today.

PRAYER: Lord God, help me to trust in the power of the cross today.  To the world, Jesus seems weak and foolish and the cross seems powerless.  Help me to know the unfathomable power of Jesus’ cross to give me hope, healing, strength and wisdom today.  In Jesus’ name, amen.


Using What You’ve Been Given

Solomon recounts a story of a king who laid siege to a city.  The wealthy king had a powerful army, but the city had a poor, wise man.  The wise man came up with a plan that saved the city, even though they were outnumbered.  Solomon’s point is that “wisdom is better than strength” (Ecclesiastes 9:16, NIV).
It reminds me of a proverb I read about in the book Good To Great by Jim Collins.  There are two animals: a fox and a hedgehog.  Inline image 1The fox is bigger and stronger than the hedgehog and tries a myriad of ways to eat the hedgehog.  The hedgehog is small and easy prey for the fox.  The hedgehog knows one thing – roll up in a ball.  He may be small, but he wisely uses what he’s been given to live another day.
The point is to use what you’ve been given in a wise manner to overcome the obstacles, temptations and struggles in your life.  Sometimes the answer or solution is the most obvious one – prayer.  Don’t try to overcome your struggles on your own.  You’ve been given the power of the Holy Spirit!  Trust in the Lord with everything you’ve got and let Him lead you and guide you to safety.  Let God protect you and your heart.  Let God defeat your enemies.  He’s given you what you need (His Word and His Spirit), so use the tools you’ve been given to overcome a formidable enemy.  Victory is assured if you will use wisdom and the tools you’ve been given to seize it!
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 (NIV)

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
    than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
    but one sinner destroys much good.


When God Says, “No.”

NOTE: I wrote this post 5 years ago.  My wife hasn’t had any more back surgeries since then, but she still lives in constant pain.  The answer has still been, “No.”  But we put our trust in a God who sees the bigger picture and His unfailing love and grace gets us through.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” —  2 Corinthians 12:8b-9a

No one really knows what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 12 when he wrote about his thorn in the flesh.  Does it really matter what it was?  Not really.  What we know is that Paul asked God to take it away three times and God said, “No.”  God told him that he could lean upon God’s strength to make it through.  However deficient Paul’s understanding, God’s grace was sufficient.  However strong Paul’s weakness, God’s strength was stronger.

I am at the hospital…again.  Today is back surgery number 5 for my wife.  We have tried various forms of treatment and surgeries.  There have been numerous trips to physical therapy.  There have been prescriptions and injections and promises.  Nothing has worked.  We have prayed and prayed and prayed for healing and pain relief.  Thus far the answer has been, “No.”  While I would like a different answer, I have to trust in the sufficiency of God’s grace to get us through.  I have to trust that God knows what He is doing and that in times of weakness, He will give us His strength to make it another day.

Sometimes that is what it takes.  We need God to not only provide daily bread, but we need Him to supply daily strength.  When we are at our weakest, He proves His strong strength.  When we are at the end of our rope, He catches us.  When we are falling down, He is picking us up.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.  Physically.  When we are in the thick of it all it can be hard to remember that this life is only temporary.  All the pain, heartaches, frustrations and brokenness is only temporary.  We have the promise of an eternity of pain-free, abundant life in God’s presence.  The answer may be “No” for now, but even the “No” is temporary.  And when we hear God say, “No.” we can rest assured that the grace we need to get through the hard times will be there.

One last thing.  Just because God says, “No.” doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love us with all of His heart.  It just means that what we want at this time is not in His loving will.  It means that He has something better in mind down the road.  Keep the faith, my friends and please pray for my lovely wife as she begins another recovery.  May we have the grace and the strength that God provides to get through it.


A Prayer For Strength

Jesus’ simple prayer in verse 42 reflects His humanity as well as His submission to the will of the Father.  He prayed:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”​ – Luke 22:42 (NIV)​

He knew that God could have provided another way.  Jesus, in a moment that revealed His human side, prayed that if there could be another way, then let there be another way.  Yet He also knew that if there were no other way, then He would submit to the Father’s plan and go through with it.  Jesus knew that the cross awaited Him at Golgotha.  God the Father, mover of mountains, could have moved the Hill of the Skull.  Yet Heaven was silent.  The Hill called Calvary was not moved.
Don’t mistake silence for a lack of care or concern.  Verse 43 says that an angel from Heaven appeared to strengthen Jesus.  The Father’s care for His Son was evidenced by the angel’s appearance.  God knew that humanity’s salvation depended on Jesus going through with the cross.  Jesus couldn’t have a way out, so God gave Him strength instead.
When we face the daily call to take up our cross, we might have moments where our resolve needs strengthening.  The cross we are called to bear is no less real.  The cross we are commanded to carry is no less painful, albeit ours is not a physical pain, the pain of sacrifice is real.  Pray to God to strengthen you, not give you a way out.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can give you the strength to take up your cross and follow Jesus whatever it may cost you.

Luke 22:39-46 (NIV)

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”


Tragic Words

One of the more famous stories of Scripture is the story of Samson and Delilah.  Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah.  She uses her charms to get Samson to reveal the source of his strength.  Samson lies to her three times when she asks him his secret.  The Philistines rush in to attack him and he fights them off successfully.  What amazes me is that Samson never puts two and two together.  This woman is betraying you into the hands of your enemies and yet you keep going back to her!  What is wrong with you, dude?!?  Delilah asks Samson a fourth time about the secret of his strength and this time he tells her the truth.  She cuts his hair and he loses his strength.  When the Philistines come to attack him, he is subdued and they gouge out his eyes and bind him and carry him off as a sort of trophy.
To me, the saddest part of this story is not that Samson loses his strength.  The saddest part of this whole story is these words:
 But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

​ – Judges 16:20 (NIV)​ 
This is the great tragedy of Samson’s story.  He didn’t just lose his strength.  He lost his special relationship with the Lord.
How is your relationship with Jesus going?  Have you thought about Him today?  Have you thanked God for His many blessings today?  Are you walking with the Lord today?  Or have you and He parted ways today?  Are you aware of His presence in your life today?
Take a few moments to pause and whisper a prayer to the Father.  Ask Him to fill you with His presence and His love right now.  Don’t go another day feeling as though you are alone and that God is not near.  He is waiting to hear from you…right now.

Judges 16

New International Version (NIV)

Samson and Delilah

16 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. 2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

3 But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

4 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”

6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”

7 Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”

8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”

11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”

12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.

13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”

He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and tightened it with the pin.

Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.

15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.

17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

18 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. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.

20 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.

21 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 grain in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

The Death of Samson

23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”

24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying,

“Our god has delivered our enemy
into our hands,
the one who laid waste our land
and multiplied our slain.”

25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.

When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

31 Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years.

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