God's Strength is Sufficient for Us... Even When We Think We are at Our Weakest
Brethren, we are so scattered now and separated from others that it is very difficult for most of us to meet with others on the Sabbath or to have any kind of fellowship with our Christian friends, the kind of fellowship most of us enjoyed when we attended the large groups in the former days. Sending out emails is a means that God has provided for us to keep connected and to communicate our thoughts and to encourage each other as we wait for God's Kingdom.
Sending these emails and/or posting them on Facebook is my way of assembling on the Sabbath and reaching out to my spiritual brothers and sisters who have come into my life and want to be my friends. Thank you for allowing me to send you my emails these past couple of years and thank you for the many emails of encouragement that you send to me in return and for all your "likes" and adding comments on Facebook! Paul tells us that we are to not forsake getting together to worship together and to exhort (encourage) one another when we can.
Hebrews 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
(And we do see the day approaching in all that is happening in the world.)
Many of us who have been part of the Ekklesia for quite a long time are now getting older and most of us are having to endure various health problems that, for the most part, are caused just because we are humans living in a toxic, unhealthy world and also because we are aging. Even though God designed the human body to be a wonderful and marvelous tool that enables us to live and to experience all that He has for us (Psalm 139:14), like all living things our bodies have expiration dates.
We are generally given 70 – 80 years (some more and some less) to live out our lifetimes, but at a certain point the flesh begins to wear out and deteriorate. Knowing God's Word and all the promises contained in it, we do see that it is actually a good thing! for all that God does is GOOD. Who really wants to live forever in the human flesh with all its limitations and subjection to the evils that are in this world? One of my favorite chapters in the Bible speaks of what life is really about and what we have to look forward to. And not only us humans, but all of nature is now in bondage but is looking forward to an exciting time of renewing and restoration:
Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
This brings to mind of what life must be like for a little fetus living and growing in its mother's womb. When a baby starts out it has nine months to develop into a fully formed human being. Toward the end of those nine months, it becomes very uncomfortable for the mother to have a 6-9 pound baby constantly pressing against her inner organs, and to carry the extra weight; but I imagine that it is just as uncomfortable for a baby who wants to move and kick and stretch but finds himself in an increasingly cramped space.
If the baby could think and speak he would be saying, “Okay mama, it's time for me to come out, I want to be free from this restriction and I want to finally meet you face to face and be held in your arms (and daddy's too); and I want to experience real life in all its fullness in the outside world.”
What a vivid metaphor of what we go through as God's children in this physical life. Toward the end of our allotment on this earth, we, too, at some point begin to age and it becomes, oh so, uncomfortable toward the end of our (physical) lives and we long for the time when we can truly see our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ and begin to live life as a spiritual being in all of its fullness, and a life with no end in God's Family. And of course we have other descriptive verses that reflect this metaphor of being born into God's Family:
John 3:4 “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
1st John 3:1 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1st Corinthians 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
1st Corinthians 15:50 “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In the final verse of this beautiful chapter Paul exhorts the brethren that, because we have this marvelous future to look forward to in the resurrection, to remain steadfast, hang in there, and in the meantime do God's Work the best we can knowing that no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time or how hard it is, that our efforts will not go to waste.
1st Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
The amplified version brings this out more clearly, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].” (1st Corinthians 15:58 Amplified Version).
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians he writes that he had weaknesses in his body and it must have been very hard for him for he petitioned God three times to take a particular painful condition away.
2nd Corinthians 12:7b “… there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”
Paul then tells the brethren that God spoke to him explaining why He was not healing him. God said to Paul (and this is admonition for all who suffer and are not being healed as quickly as we may like): “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
Paul then resolved to just accept his affliction, for he came to realize that there was a greater purpose for the fact that Christ was not healing him at that time. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelation....” (2nd Corinthians 12:7a)
Paul further wrote that though he was weak, his ability to carry on and move forward was not being done by his own strength, but that God could put His strength in Paul to accomplish the things He wanted to do through him; and Paul could even rejoice in his condition.
2nd Corinthians 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
We need to pray for God to give us strength and healing when we need it and then praise Him for those things when we receive them; but also praise Him when we do not get the healing or the strength we would like, knowing, like Paul, that we must hand over our inadequacies to Christ and be allowed to be used to demonstrate God's power operating through us in spite of all our weaknesses.
If we went through life always self-sufficient and capable of meeting every challenge on our own, we would never have this opportunity to experience God's supernatural empowerment. And besides that, we would become prideful, thinking more highly of ourselves for all our achievements believing that we had done them by our own abilities and strength. Part of our pilgrimage toward the Promised Land is to see and experience God's wondrous power; and our trials, inadequacies, afflictions, burdens give us the chance to come to know and personally experience God's Glory!
And there is another reason we suffer and have to live with debilitating health problems and other kinds of trials in this life. We know that God is allowing these trials to teach us, to humble us, but also to build empathy for and to show kindness to others. It is when we ourselves suffer through hard things (we think of dear Paul), that we are truly able to admonish and encourage others who are suffering because we know intimately what they are going through. Which, of course, brings to mind what Paul had to say about comforting others as we ourselves have been comforted by our heavenly Father:
2nd Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”
And if we are suffering and going through hard trials it is really a "light affliction" (it may not seem like it is at the present time) compared to the abundant blessings we will have for ever and ever if we hang in there and attain to the resurrection to spirit.
2nd Corinthians 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”
Whatever we have to suffer, it will not last that long for our lives are really like a passing shadow and a fading flower.
1st Peter 1:24 “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
Psalm 144:4 “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.”
This is not about thinking that this life is all gloom and doom and keeps us miserable and we are just waiting it out until we can be born to spirit and then really begin to live. No, we are to be living holy and righteous and ABUNDANT lives even NOW by seeking to always be in God's presence just as a fetus lives in the presence and tender love of his mother in the womb, even though she is not visible to him yet.
Knowing and meditating about how fleeting life is reminds us how important it is to learn all we can to grow in the likeness of Christ, to take on His divine attributes and divine nature while we have this life. If we know how fleeting our lives are, it helps us to be motivated to use our days wisely to prepare for the life that is coming if we hold fast to God and to His Word until the end.
In the meantime, as God's called out children we can have an abundant and joyful life now in this life! Knowing and living by God's truth, having His Holy Spirit and knowing what His plans are (for us and all humanity) fills us with joy and makes this present life all worthwhile. Knowing and faithfully following Christ provides us with all the spiritual blessings that God has to offer and no matter what trials we must face, we have that ever abiding sense that we are in His presence and that He loves us. We are to live life joyfully because we already have His life in us if we are walking obediently in His light.
2nd John 1:6 “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.”
2nd Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Photo Credit: By Cindy Timbs taken in Montrose, Michigan.