Spiritual Strength


Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,

but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2: 4

 

Soufflés are interesting baked items. When they are perfectly done, they stand tall and have a delicious lightness in the experience of their taste. However, they seldom stay tall for long, and there is really not all that much substance present when you cut into them, for they are mostly filled with hot air that rapidly dissipates when its inner soul is exposed. Now, a well prepared soufflé is still tasty and worth eating even after it falls, but a puffed up person is another matter entirely. In this passage, Habakkuk is discussing the king of Babylon in contrast to people who follow God. Yet, the reality of what he says is still with us today. I would guess that almost all of us have known people whose greatest promoters are themselves and who are continually working to let others know how great their ideas are and how important they are when it comes to things that matter.

 

The soul, our internal spiritual self, requires care and nurture. It does not grow strong and wise out of the resources that we can give to it alone. We all need the input and the influence of God in order for our souls to become substantial and be filled with a knowledge of the Lord that leads us into living a life that is oriented toward eternity. This sort of depth cannot be founded on ourselves and is not formed up out of the content of our hearts and minds alone. God takes what we have been given as our birthright and He works within us to shape and to mold it so that we begin to function in a manner that more closely resembles Christ. The Spirit reveals deep truths to us as we seek after them, and this revelation provides the substance of Godly truth to our souls that we can rely upon in making decisions and in setting the course for our days.

 

It is in this seeking after the Lord and His wisdom that people who truly live out of their faith in God differ from others. This is what made that difference between Babylon’s king and God’s people in Habakkuk’s times. The substance of a soul that is founded upon God’s truth and that conducts the affairs of life based upon the guidance of God’s Word stands tall but never proud in our world.   In stark contrast, the arrogance of people who are standing proudly before the world as they declare themselves to be great and whose glory is based upon the shallow accomplishments of human endeavor does not contain the sort of eternal basis and strength of character to withstand the test of righteous application in our world. These people do not meet God’s standards for love, care, justice, and living out His truth, and their glory will last for only a moment and then it will follow after the king of Babylon as it is blown away into oblivion as the dust that is its true identity and worth.

Advertisements

Wondrously show your steadfast love,

O Savior of those who seek refuge

from their adversaries at your right hand.

Psalm 17: 7

 

There are enemies at the gate, and enemies at the door to our houses. There are enemies all around us in this world and even beyond its bounds. This is one of those hard aspects of real life, and it is the sort of thing that we do not always fully appreciate, either. Although there may be a number of these life foes that we can see and who concern us in tangible and even obvious ways, there are myriads more of them that are outside of the visible and beyond the readily tangible. Yet, even with their existence being in the realm of spirit and much of their negative work being accomplished in the area of spiritual life, they are real, and their impact upon people is powerful and significant. The impact that they have on God’s people may be far greater than we realize; yet, their true power is minimized by the presence of Christ, and because of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross, they have no lasting authority over this world or the one beyond.

 

When these foes turn their angry attention to us, we can look to our Lord for protection, for guidance, and for healing from the wounds that they inflict upon us. Christ goes with us into life, and He provides us with His protection and guidance as we journey forth. There is no better preparation for the adventure that is life than prayer and meditation upon God’s Word, and we have no greater source of strength and encouragement for the tasks that we face than that which comes from Christ and through His Spirit. This world is a hard place to dwell, and it is even a harder one in which to reside as a true and faithful follower of Christ. So, seeking after the Lord’s will and wisdom in all that we think, do, and say is of vital importance. When we enter into all of life with Christ as our guide and as our protector, we have gained an unbeatable advantage over these spiritual enemies and over the human ones that operate under their influence.

 

The way that Christ cares for His people is truly wonderous, and it is miraculous as well. There is nothing else in our experience that compares to the love that is poured out upon people by God. There is also no power in our world that is beyond or above that which is used by Christ to save us from Satan and from his vast array of spiritual forces. In Christ we find salvation for our souls, and through His presence in us and with us throughout the balance of our days, we know protection and saving grace and mercy for all that will attack us along the way. Lord, let us turn to You for wisdom and for guidance as we chart our course today. Also, grant us grace for our missteps, mercy for our times of distress, humility of spirit in order to give all glory to You, and cover us in the protection of Your blood, Christ, as we cling to the wonderous and eternal salvation of Your cross.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4: 1-3

 

People will be people. This common expression contains a lot of painful truth, for even on our good days, we humans are a challenging and a difficult collection of creatures. We often do things that cause friction to arise among us, and we too frequently seem to focus on the negativity of our interactions and relationships rather than spending our time gazing upon the extraordinary beauty and great wonder that God has given to each of us as His hands shaped us. Even in the body of faith in Christ, we are given to a form of individuality that leads to separation and eventually that distance brings about the isolation that is one of Satan’s greatest weapons against God’s people. Paul has seen all of this, and he understood the dangers that came from going through life on our own, and he also knew the importance of surrendering self to Christ and to each other in the process of living out God’s will for our lives.

 

At the center of the Apostle’s statement here are the powerful words humility and gentleness. These are simple words that convey very large concepts. Humility is perhaps the most striking singular descriptor that one can apply to Jesus. He was God in human form, King and Messiah come; yet, He was also simple, caring, observant of the lowliest of people, and always submissive to the will of the Father. Jesus was able to surrender all comfort, relinquish every ounce of pride, and grant worth and great dignity to people who were unlovely and without value in our earthly system of evaluating people’s place and position. Jesus walked this earth in a humble manner, but even more than that, He lived out His days as humility’s definition. In addition, Jesus’ humility found expression in the gentleness of His touch. He sought to bring about restoration of relationship with God by the way that He engaged with others. His gentleness was expressed even in contentious and difficult situations as Jesus did and said everything with redemption as the objective and healing as the desired outcome.

 

The manner of walking through life that Jesus employed and the humble and gentle way that He went about it are, frankly, beyond the capacity and the capability of almost all people. We certainly don’t function like this in our natural state of being. Yet, we are called by Christ to be like Him in all ways; so, this must include the God-given characteristics of humility and gentleness. These are gifts that Christ will give to us as we seek after them. They come to us as we set aside our own desires and yield to His Spirit. They also grow within us as we seek out others and engage with them in a manner that sets aside our wishes, wants, and preconceived ideas in order to enter into the deep places of their hearts and minds and to walk through the day in observant understanding of who they are and what is important to them. This sort of approach to life does make us vulnerable to hurt and to disappointment, but it also expands our understanding of people and also that of our Lord. As Paul states, humility and gentleness are qualities that lead us into the deep love that Christ has for all people, and they operate together with love as the glue that bonds us together with the sort of strength that stands up to all that the forces of this world can hurl our way.

And if you call upon him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

1 Peter 1: 17, 18

 

God operates like a father when it comes to us, His children in faith. His approach to this form of parenting is total, complete, and consistent. He loves us beyond all reason, and He is engaged with all aspects of our lives in ways that may even exceed our comfort but that are always what we actually need and what gives to us a grace and a wisdom that come out of heaven. We know that there will come a time, after the days of this life are completed, that we will stand before God to have Him pronounce judgement upon the way that we conducted life. This is something to hold in great awe and respect, and it is a day to consider when we make choices about how to conduct ourselves in this life.

 

Yet, we also know that Christ stands as our advocate when we face this final judgement, for the penalty for our sinfulness, for our disobedience to God and to His Word, has been paid in blood upon the cross. Still, as any good and engaged parent would do, the Father does hold us accountable for the way that we put the gift of redemption to work during the course of the life that was given to us by Christ as a gift of love, grace and mercy. At the point of conjunction between the cross and our lives, Christ’s absolute perfection of purity and holiness becomes our new identity, and we are no longer dead in sin, but we are thereafter renewed as living beings who are filled with Christ’s Spirit and placed into God’s kingdom of faith for the balance of our time upon this earth.

 

God will judge the deeds that we do during these days of our redemption. This new life that Christ has purchased for us at such a great price is what will be evaluated and that we will be held accountable for using well. God is fully aware of our weakness and of our failings, but He also understands the remarkable potential that each of His people possess. We are not strong or capable in ourselves and by our own skills and knowledge; rather, our strength, giftedness, and capability are given to us by Christ. He leads us into the expression of God’s will that is designated for us, and Christ also provides us with His Spirit to guide and to inform our journey. In Christ we are given a new opportunity to live life in a manner that is filled with God’s love, framed in by His grace, and focused on living out the Lord’s peace and justice in all places and in every way.

For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of truth, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 7: 28

 

We can play at being God, but people will never do a very good job of it. We are weak, and we are sinful. We can’t seem to keep our own fleshly desires and wants out of the equation long enough to do much real good. The stories of the messes that people have made of serving God are far too numerous to be ignored, and as they have been happening from the beginning of time and they continue to this day, this sort of misbehavior is not the product of any time or of any singular culture. The failure of human priests is something that seems to go hand in hand with our humanity; so, it runs with our need for a Savior.

 

God always knew that this is the way that it would be. That is why He promised the answer of that Redeemer to us, and that is the reason that the Father gave all in order for our Savior to come, dwell, be sacrificed,, and then risen on our behalf. Christ came through it all in perfect and sinless order. Now He reigns from Heaven and has given us His Spirit to continuously dwell with and in us. Unlike the best of human priests, they may be called pastor or minister or by any other title, Christ remains true, faithful, and beyond sin for all time and in every way. Christ is completely trustworthy in all matters. We can rely upon His presence with us throughout the days of our lives and in any and all circumstances that we might encounter. Nothing can cause Him to turn away from us or to view the situation that we are in as too hard or beyond His capacity.

 

God’s love for us is infinite, for it has no top or bottom and does not contemplate a beginning or an end. He is in this life with us from before we were born and He considers the reality of eternity as the next aspect of our existence. This priest does have answers to our unfathomable questions, and He responds to our cry for care and for comfort at all hours of any day. The price for His service has already been paid by the Son, Himself, and access to our Eternal High Priest has been granted to us by the Father as He so painfully sacrificed the Son for the sake of our redemption. Now, in Christ, we dwell in a new kingdom that has no walls and that is not confined by the reach of human hands. In this new temple of flesh and blood, we serve a High Priest who is also King of all, and we are sent out in that service to bear witness to all that Christ has done, is engaged in, and to the perfection of His being.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands.

Psalm 19: 1

 

This is the passage that the Spirit of God lead me to reflect on a little over eight years ago during the first two mornings that I was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery. It is interesting how the effects of having pain medication soaking your body impact so many really basic aspects of function. Reading is certainly one of those. The surgeon didn’t work anywhere close to my head, and it would seem reasonable to think that with all of that uncommitted time on my hands, I would be able to at least get in some good reading; yet, I would find myself reading the same sentence over and over, often four or five times in a row, without making any progress through a page.

 

If I had possessed the ability to care about such things, there was something in the ingested medication cocktail that made caring rather unimportant, and this certainly could have become frustrating. Instead, it seemed that God was telling me to slow down, to take in His word more deeply, and to allow His Spirit to speak to my heart from the treasure chest of rich understanding that is behind every single one of those words. I must have read this verse a dozen or more times in two days, and every time through it, God spoke to me in a new way.

 

The Lord’s words of love, provision, care, and strength came drifting out of my surroundings, for they were apparent in the high tech equipment that was monitoring my moment by moment condition (we all did come to agreement that when the heart rate monitor’s alarm went off because I had no heart rate, the monitor was probably wrong, just a bad sensor connection), and in the very low tech hands of the nursing staff as they provided a cold cloth for my head when I was feeling ill. The Lord was present in the first rays of dawn that brought the night sky out of its restful slumber and in the reassuring light from the hallway outside my room that told me that those nurses were there if I had any needs. God’s voice speaks clearly and continually through all elements and aspects of Creation, and He wants us to take the time to look closely at the depth of His love until we can see Him in everything that surrounds us.

 

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27: 1

 

There are some things that we should not forget. People should always carry identification and some means of paying for the things that they might require along the way during the day. It is good to remember where you parked the car, if driving one, and it is even more important to know where you live. Recognizing and celebrating the birthdays of people who are important to us is a very good thing to do, and being on time for appointments is proper, polite, and saves us from paying the doctor even when we didn’t benefit from that person’s knowledge and wisdom. Yet, above all of these worthwhile remembrances, there stands one that is both crucial and essential for successful living, and that is remembering the Lord in all things and in every way for all of the remaining days of my life.

 

The Lord is the one who puts perspective on all of the rest of these places, actions, and people. He brings wisdom to bear on the way that I evaluate what is important and sift through what is needful today. It might seem trivial to consider that every element of my day is something that involves my relationship with God, but He sees it all quite differently. For God actually wants to be a part of the way that I process data and make decisions. His presence in my life should reshape my thought processes and the decisions that I make as well; while His love and attitude of righteous care and concern influence and even reshape the manner in which I think about others and form the thoughts behind my words and actions.

 

This sort of deep, personal, and total relationship with God is the foundation for confident forward movement into life that also holds other people as valuable and precious. The Lord’s prompting and guidance bring the sort of wisdom and understanding into all of the interactions that we have during the day so that even the most difficult of people might be understood and even valued and appreciated as God views them. The fearlessness that the Lord grants to His people is not so much one that comes out of conquest or that is based upon His promise of victory over the world, for it is founded upon Christ’s complete conquest over the forces of this world with their legacy of sin and death. In Christ we are granted the boldness that we need to face adversaries with love as our primary weapon and with understanding as our relational guidance. Through Christ we can face the day with confidence in His desire to guide us safely through it all as we seek to care about and for everyone that we meet along the way. So, remembering who my Lord is and what His heart desires matters far more than anything else that I might hold foremost in my mind today.

Next Page »