I am Strong in the Lord

Courage in His Strength

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9, NASB

Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.” – Charles Spurgeon

Failure stinks. Failure because of fear is devastating.

I’m not a quitter. I push through things with (probably annoying) determination. So when I failed to summit a peak several years ago, the disappointment I felt was increased significantly by the shock others displayed by my sudden breach of character. “Why didn’t you summit?” This was the echoing question of the day. I hated that my honest answer was a cowardly one. “Because I became afraid, and I could not go on.”

Sometimes that kind of failure propels a person like me. Sometimes, however rarely, it paralyzes us. In that case, I was grounded. I never wanted to try to summit another mountain again. That very real, cold fear snuck into my sleep, disturbed my day-to-day living, and shriveled my confidence.

But I’ve been on top of some mountains since then. Fourteeners, actually. But not because I overcame that terror–not by myself. My husband developed a taste for high altitude after summiting Long’s Peak, and he wanted me to give the thin air another try. He picked a peak he thought we’d enjoy together and spent two years convincing me to go. “I’ll be right there with you, Jen. When you’re afraid, I’ll be there. When you’re tired, I’ll be there. We’ll do it together, and you’ll get to the top this time.”

His strength saw me through my fear. And my first glimpse at the world on a fourteen-thousand foot high peak was amazing. I don’t regret going, and I’m so grateful to my husband for ‘making’ me try it again.

I know the illustration breaks down, but there’s a bit of spiritual truth in that journey. Here are some things I’ve taken away from that experience:

  • Pride can take us places where we end up feeling cornered—trapped. At some point we all need to admit we cannot do everything, especially not on our own.
  • There are some things I simply cannot do in my own strength.
  • Sometimes God allows failure to show us our weakness.
  • Sometimes God takes us back to that weakness to show us His strength.

There are times our souls will cower in terror. Sometimes we quit. But God is calling, reassuring our feeble hearts, “I am with you. I am always with you, and I will see you safely through.”

And I’m pretty sure that just like that first summit was for me, the journey will be worth it. Can we take courage in his strength?

I am Strong in the Lord

False Hopes for Victory

The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength.  A horse is a false hope for victory. … Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name.  Psalm 33:16-18, 20-21

Imagine an epic battle, fought with thousands of horsemen, swords swinging, slow-motion cameras catching their grimaces and mighty blows.  The music swells in the background, our hero charges forth to win his cause, his steed’s mane flowing and nostrils flaring.  Strength.  Great, manly, strength.

We draw those images from movies, but back when this Psalm was written, those battles weren’t the stuff of popcorn and date night.  That was real life … and real death.  Nations stood or fell on battles like that.  Individual lives were torn apart, women and children of defeated nations sold into slavery … all because of battles fought by kings leading soldiers on horseback. So, it would stand to reason that those real-life people would put their hopes in strong warriors and exceptional horses.  They were the strongest things on earth.

But those sources of strength were false hopes for victory.  And pondering that led me to question myself: What are false hopes for victory today?

For an army, perhaps it is the strength of their tanks and missiles, or maybe the wisdom of their commanders.

For me, it is often my own ability to do the right thing.  I (mistakenly) think that I can be good enough, moral enough, loving and kind enough to win personal victories – to overcome temptation, to triumph over negative thoughts, to achieve happy relationships.  But my own strength will fail me.  It has failed me.  It is failing me.  In every verb tense, my own good works wither.

I am strong enough to gain victory over my own faults and also in the spiritual battles that rage around me only as much as I rely completely on God.  The moment I begin to give myself the credit is the moment I stumble.

My soul waits for God.  He is my help and my shield in every conflict I face, during every heartache and every exhausting trial.  God alone is my knight in shining armor – no man, mentor, friend, job, hobby, house, or more pleasing situation will ever fulfill me or be strong enough to win my battles for me.  My strength is in God alone.

May I remember that this week.

I am Strong in the Lord

Strength To Do His Will

“My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” 1 Samuel 2:1-10, NIV

A long section of scripture, I know. But I invite you to read it again, and then guess (no peeking) the context.

A great battle? The coronation of a king? The release of captive people?

No. To all of those, and likely to anything else you’d guess. These are Hannah’s words, and they were not prayed right after the birth of her son. She uttered them at Shiloh, after she brought her son, Samuel–the very son she’d fervently begged God for, to the point that Eli the priest thought she was drunk. Her only son. And here she is, delivering him to the house of God. To stay. Forever.

Because she’d promised God she would.

I’m a mother. I have four children, and this idea of handing them over for the remainder of their little lives makes me tremble. Could I give my three-year old son over to the full-time service of God? I don’t know that I’d have the strength to do that.

But here we see Hannah making good on her promise. How could she do that? How did she not shrivel up as her heart shattered into pieces?

Consider her words . . .

“I delight in Your deliverance.”

“There is no rock like our God.”

“The LORD is the God who knows.”

“He will give strength.”

I’m learning from this tender warrior-woman. She knew her God. She took refuge in her God. And she found strength in her God. Even, no, especially when His will seemed impossible.

I am Strong in the Lord

I am Strong in Him: a Joint Post

From Susan

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  Ephesians 6:10-11

I was 19, and worn out.  I’d been studying for college final exams, skipping sleep and feeling sorry for myself.  I’d yet to really experience deep pain in my life, and to me – at age 19 – final exams were a mighty trial.

“I have no strength left,” I told my mother over the phone.

“Ah, well, that’s when you are your strongest, when you have none of your own strength to lean on.  That’s when you have to rely fully on God.”

Her words, spoken to her college sophomore, have echoed through the decades of my life as I’ve faced weariness and trials far beyond the scope of a biology exam.  God’s strength is what really makes me strong – not my own effort, my own physical stamina, my own brain power, my own logic or ability to solve problems.

When Satan hurls temptations and heartaches, when he aptly aims fiery darts of doubt and peril, I must put on God’s armor, stand in His strength, and prevail.

From Jen

It seems that God takes us to places our strength cannot match on purpose. Like Gideon, in the book of Judges.

Outnumbered something like 450 to 1, Gideon’s army shouldn’t have overcome the Midianites. Not by any calculative measure. Not by any stroke of luck. And the reality is, even if Gideon’s army had remained at the diminutive number of 32,000 (verse somewhere around 135,000), their chances were slim at best. But by God’s direction, the fighting men of Israel were whittled down to three hundred. Three hundred men with trumpets and pottery against trained soldiers, yet they won. Soundly. After that battle, Israel lived in peace for forty years. No one wanted to mess with the power that protected the Hebrew people.

That’s amazing. That’s the power of God.

Am I resting in that strength? Am I trusting Him to do what I can’t? Do I believe He can accomplish the impossible?

David Peach writes: “The truth is, whatever God wants from you, it probably will be even more impossible than you could imagine.”

God specializes in the impossible. He calls us to believe, and to act on it, even when the odds are overwhelmingly against us. That way we know it’s Him, not us.

His strength, and not my own.

I am a warrior

A Warrior After All

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

I’ve been struggling this week to know what to write. I am called to be a warrior? If you couldn’t tell from earlier posts, I’m tired. Discouraged. Talking about battles and training and perseverance didn’t delight my fancy.

Funny how God’s more concerned with our relationship with Him than He is with our personal space and comfort, right?

But today, as I was mulling over what to write, the Spirit whisper this word from Second Peter straight into my heart and mind. Everything you need. He’s give everything I need.

“But I’m not much of a warrior,” I argued. I think He laughed (because He knows it’s true, but also because He knows I’m nearsighted). And then, He showed me.

I’ve spend the week as a coach in a youth basketball camp sponsored by our church.  Our teaching leader caught me this morning before camp with a smile. “Jen, you are just totally in your element here. Basketball and Jesus, and eighty kids.”

Yep. Life doesn’t get much better than that. I’m having a blast.

Everything I need . . . A few weeks ago we wrote about being God’s workmanship, about being equipped to do what He calls us to do. It’s funny, though. See, I love basketball. Used to be I loved it maybe a little too much—like it became an idol in my life. Coaching was my dream, but after moving to rural Nebraska and then started having kids, I had to unclench my fists on that hope. It wasn’t a conducive career for the kind of home my husband and I wanted to create, so with many tears, and a bit of disillusionment—and a long process of surrender, I let that one go.

But this week, I got to be coach. Not in the setting I’d hoped, not in the way I planned, but coach none-the-less. And it’s been a blast.

So, there’s a connection in here, I promise. But it took me a bit to see it—to understand what God was showing me—because what’s a basketball game have to do with being a warrior, anyway?

It isn’t the game. Not at all—it’s why we’re there, running this camp in the first place. Our slogan for AWANA is “Kids matter to God.” I know on Wednesday nights when I go to AWANA, I’m doing battle for those kids. Because they matter to God. But this week? On a basketball court?

I’m doing battle for those kids. Because they matter to God.

Isn’t that ironic? A dream to which I’d bid farewell over ten years ago has come back full circle. I’m equipped to coach basketball. But more than that, He has given me everything I need to coach kids. To do battle for them. Because they matter to God.

I love that. I’m a warrior after all. Isn’t God just so good?

I am a warrior

Weapons of Our Warfare

For although we are walking in the flesh, we do not wage war in a fleshly way, since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Several years ago, I realized I had a stronghold.  I had a pattern of thinking that was sinful, but comfortable and even pleasurable.  When the Holy Spirit finally got through to me that I was sinning, I tried to stop.  Really.  But I couldn’t stop thinking in that sinful pattern.

I was sitting on my back porch in Africa, watching my children play under the mango tree, whining to God that really – I couldn’t stop this sin.  It was just a thought pattern, God.  And I couldn’t get rid of it.

In my lap was a Bible study by Priscilla Shirer.  And while I’m not quoting her exactly, she wrote something to this effect: “The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of you.  Don’t tell me you ‘can’t’ get free of a stronghold.  The very God of the Universe indwells you.  Can He not do anything?”

God wasn’t taking my wimping out for an answer.  He wasn’t going to pat me on the head and say, “That’s ok, darlin’.  You tried.  I know the intent of your heart, and you wanted to get rid of this sin.  It was just too hard for you.”  No.  God expected me to draw out my weapons and go to battle.  He expected me to take His power, His presence, and demolish that stronghold.  Not just poke at it.  Not put it on a back shelf.  Demolish that sucker.

Even as I type these words, pondering a past victory, God is convicting me of a different stronghold in my life – a quite current pattern of behavior that is long held and comfortable, even justifiable.  But I know He doesn’t like it.

It’s time to draw out my weapons again.  Sigh.  This is hard, sweaty, long-term work.  This isn’t a one-time, glamorous, sunlight-flashing-on-my-sword battle.  This is marching and fighting and marching again, wearing holes in my boots, digging trenches, and staying the course.

But my victory is assured.  Because my weapon is not my own strength.  It is the Spirit of God Himself.

 

I am a warrior

Not easy. Delivered.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of [this] life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. ~ 2 Tim. 2:4

“I don’t need easy. I just need possible.” ~Bethany Hamilton

Uh, I think I’d like easy.

Life’s not working out that way. And you know what? The hard stuff isn’t obvious from the outside. The warfare’s on the inside, and I somehow have managed to reach a time a fierce conflict. All hidden under my made-up face, my seemingly perfect life.

That’s more common than not, isn’t it? And here’s what I think—I’ve entangled myself in the affairs of this world, and the spiritual hardship has done caught me by surprise. An explosion in my soul has recalled my attention—“Hey, you. Girl with her mind on the carnal. There’s a war going on in here, and you need to stand your ground!”

Okay, but does it have to be hard? Can’t I just readjust my sights without it having to be painful? Apparently not. Because I’ve enlisted in the Lord’s army, and the battle is not against flesh and blood, that’s why. See, I have this deal with taking on a cause. I have a pretty fast tongue, and a quick mind for an argument. I don’t mind going to battle in that way (which, by the way is often a fast-lane pass to trouble, but that’s another post). But when the battle is in my soul? Ugh. That’s some flat-out H-A-R-D work. Weariness. Tears. Aches. They’re all involved in that kind of warfare. And if it weren’t for strength beyond myself, I’d be done. Right now.

I like that Paul ended his second letter to Timothy with a parallel word of strength. He writes in chapter four, verse eighteen, “… the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

I don’t need easy. I just need delivered. Amen indeed.