From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:2 (NKJV)
Our heart is the most important part of our bodies. It’s no wonder that God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above all else because this is where the enemy takes aim at. That is what falls into despair. Our heart carries the load and gets beat down through all the stresses life throw our way. Fortunately, we do not have to rely on our own strength in any situation, no matter how extreme or minor it may be. We have a Rock and a Refuge higher than ourselves. We have a Savior that is greater than all that may come our way. We have the endless peace and joy that comes from knowing Him. We have Someone who wants to build us up and encourage us always. We have Him who is greater than all our problems to call on no matter where we find ourselves. We have strength that is greater than anything we ourselves can muster. We have the protection, strength, and love of the One who molded and made us in our mother’s wombs. He who is the author of your life wants what is best for you and only He knows what that is. I pray that if you are in need of hope at this moment, you find that in His love. You are not alone. You are not too far gone. Let the One who began your life, sustain your life.
On Apostle Paul’s final missionary journey he had been all over the Mediterranean. Towards the end of that journey Paul had been touring Macedonia and Greece for months. Then he spent a week at a place called Troas. Here a man named Eutychus was raised from the dead after falling from a third floor balcony (you know, you’re average trip to Troas). He continued his tour to Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. There he calls the elders from Ephesus to address them one more time before his departure to Jerusalem. He didn’t want to go to Ephesus because he didn’t want to be delayed on his mission to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. Here he makes a few final statements to the leaders of the church because he feels his time is coming to a close. Included in those closing remarks is the following statements.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
What kind of message is Paul trying to give? He starts by focusing on the consistency of his manor of living since day one of meeting them. He also emphasizes his boldness in sharing his faith. All along the way he was opposed constantly. But that never caused him to waiver. Paul was also undeterred by the uncertainty that lay before him in Jerusalem and beyond. He concludes his statements by making sure the leaders knew that the mission is more important than even his life, and the life of every believer. Verse 24 is the life statement for what it means to follow Jesus. This is what we are all about.
We label ourselves by a lot of titles, husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, our career titles, or even by the things we enjoy doing. But there is only one label that matters the most: follower of Jesus. All the other labels are good and fine. But only when they don’t derail us from the most important one. We have to stay focused on what matters most. Paul’s statement is exactly that. Your life, and mine, has been redeemed in order to testify to the world of His redemption. We’ve received grace to show grace. We’ve experienced His love in order to pass it on. We need to be true to who we are in the sense that we belong to Jesus. We need to have consistent living, not altering who we are based on who we are around. We can’t waiver or shrink back based on the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Truth is, we have far more differences than we do things in common. We have physical, emotional, political, and even theological differences. We all have different backgrounds and upbringings. We are ethnically and culturally different. And if we allow those things to dominate our view of others then we will never be as strong as we’re meant to be. Now more than ever, we need to be committed to fighting the spiritual war with a common purpose, in a unified effort. Because that which unites us is far greater than all the differences we may have. In the midst of all the divisiveness we have to stay on target. Reaching the world with the gospel. Our lives only matter to the extent we bear the image of God and show His love to the world. Everything else pales in comparison. Let’s spend our time giving it away. To encourage. To bring healing. To bring truth and love.
According to the dictionary, strength means the quality or state of being strong, mental power, vigor, moral power, firmness, or courage.
“He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.”
Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV)
Often times we think of the word strength as meaning physical might, but this word is by no means limited to this definition. Strength is more often needed in terms of mental toughness, courage to follow through or step out, and to maintain moral integrity in a fallen world. As we think about challenges that we face throughout the course of a day, we’ll find that the vast majority of them require a resolute mind, steadfast soul, and the firm knowledge of who God is in our lives. We get bombarded by messages of insecurity and insufficiency. We are told to seek pleasure and to make ourselves and our dreams come true (don’t mind the expense that others pay along the way to get us there). We’re told love is love and to disregard a moral standard that can be defined. We’re told our identity can be whatever we feel like it should be rather than who we were made and intimately crafted to be. We’re told life evolved which discredits any notion of the unique and overwhelming value of each human being. We’re told that one person’s comfort, future, and even health can override another person’s right to exist and be born.
The message of the world is to eat from the forbidden fruit and denounce your allegiance to your maker. Place yourself in the seat of God because you know what is best for your life. Those are the messages that take real courage and strength to stand against. Because the world does not share a message that values life, morality, integrity, and our true identity as being made in the image of God. Weakness goes with the flow and bends to the moral compromises that common culture offers. But there is an endless source of “mental power” and “moral power” offered through Jesus. However, that power comes through devoting our hearts, decisions, words, thoughts, and total lives to Him. Albert Einstein is quoted saying that, “Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.”
Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Deuteronomy 30:6, 14 (NKJV)
As the body of Christ, being among God’s people, we have His law written on our hearts and in our minds. This means we have His love written on our hearts and in our minds so that we may walk in it. Jesus told us that loving our God with all our heart, mind, and soul and loving our neighbor as our own fulfills the law. We are far less likely to break God’s eternal law when we are living from a place of love and constantly focused on Jesus. We are far more likely to make the impact we’re called to make when we love Jesus from the depth of who we are. When it’s genuine, the love of Christ’s church can change to world. He is our God and we are His people. He calls us the light of the world. How brightly are we shining right now? We need more love and more truth from our mouths and from the expression of our lives. The world doesn’t need discord and discouragement. The world doesn’t need legislation or new leadership. The world needs the gospel. It needs Jesus. They will know we belong to him by our love.
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Jeremiah 31:33 (NASB)
Peace in Christ brothers and sisters. Shine brightly.