A Little Strength Conditioning
And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b
As I write, AmyJo and I are in deliberations about what to give our daughter Abby for her upcoming birthday. We have six children that we love and cherish; birthdays come around often. Yet, twenty-one is special and we endeavor to make it a “really good one”. Our considerations are into their 3rd hour and it feels like there may yet be a while to go.
Through the years we have executed on many ideas. Some were huge hits; some were singles; some were, frankly, swings and misses. We give things less and less. Currently, our preference is to gift experiences that linger in the heart and mind long after one’s birthday. We especially like to focus on relationship building among our family members or perhaps learning experiences that can be taken forward. The possibilities are endless, and thus the dilemma; we enter our 4th hour.
As we study the First Epistle of John, I return often to the thought of strength. John is writing to a people that have been weakened in their faith and tossed by the culture. It seems to me that they, and we, can use a good infusion of strength. How can we as Christians be stronger amid the decay of our society? How can we be stronger when trials come our way? How can we be stronger when temptation comes calling and doubts arise? How can we be stronger when we wonder about His plans for our lives?
The Bible has much to say about strength, specifically, where and how we are to seek it:
I am your God; I will strengthen you; I will help you, I will uphold you (Is. 41:10); The Lord is my strength and my song (Ex. 15:2); Be strong in the Lord (Ep. 6:10); My power is made perfect in weakness (1 Cor. 12:9); He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength (Is. 40:29); God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s (Hab. 3:19).
Do you see it too? Page after page in Scripture affirms God – His strength given to us; His strength through us; His strength in us. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:26).
What then shall our response be when we tend to pursue our own strength, think of ourselves as either strong or weak as we journey through our days, fight our own battles? The writer of Chronicles puts it straightforward, Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! (1 Chr. 16:11). What if we committed to spending more time seeking the Lord and His strength and presence, and less time pondering our emotions and feelings and personal weaknesses? How might outcomes be different?
The Old Testament provides clarity. When God’s people went forward of their own power, they were defeated time and time again. When they advanced under the Lord’s strength, the victory – some astounding – are recorded in the history of God’s chosen people. Own power, defeat. God’s power, victory. Shall we think it different today? Beloved, we must go forward with His strength and power! What a gift to the child of God if we only allow it.
Abby turns twenty-one is just a few days. AmyJo and I consider the possibility of strength and flexibility conditioning for her under the tutelage of a coach, someone that can encourage and teach her, point her towards readying herself for the years ahead, imparting confidence and belief. Such are goals that she has communicated to our family and we stand with her in these worthy endeavors.
Spiritually, all children of God benefit from strength conditioning as well. The Word urges nothing short of commitment, preparation, work, and the steady encouragement of others in conditioning ourselves well for “in the Lord”. The times will surely come when strength in the Lord is required for each of us. Will we be ready? I pray that you may proclaim in that day, God, the Lord, is my strength.
Truth, Grace, and Peace to you, Pastor Jeff