January 25, 2012

God’s strength in daily life

It’s been said that Christians should always have something in their lives that cannot be explained in any way other than God is at work. I’m trying to think of examples. Today’s devotional verses offer one:
And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:5–6)
God told Isaiah that restoring Israel was too easy for His servants. The bigger challenge was that they would be a light for the rest of the world, bringing salvation to the nations. For that, God must become their strength.

Modern day examples are a bit harder to find, at least in North America. The current mindset seems to be that God should deliver us from all discomfort and threat rather than make us stronger and more able to meet those challenges. We visited a church while on holidays that put their current prayer list in the bulletin. It was nearly one hundred percent requests that God cure health issues.

We know that God cares about wellness; Jesus cured many sick people. However, where is the prayer for increased grace to live with chronic pain or to be a testimony to those around us when we suffer? Perhaps it is “too light a thing” to be made well and God would rather “become our strength” and give us an awesome and Christlike bearing during illness, suffering and struggles?

During the past few weeks of this crazy heart rate and fluttering, I’ve been aware of a spiritual war. It has not concerned whether I am well or not, but whether I respond to all of this the way God wants me to respond. For one thing, He says,
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life . . . . (Philippians 2:14–16)
No grumbling, not even when my health is threatened? That is beyond me. Without Christ, I cannot behave like that. It is too easy to feel sorry for myself.

The Bible also says,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)
This does not eliminate self-care, but when life is tough, God still wants me to consider others, not turn inward and become selfish. Again, this is not possible apart from Jesus. It is far too easy to think of me-only when I am well, never mind during any illness or health struggles.

Just these two examples show that people who have those “God at work” things happening in their life does not need to be moving mountains or performing spectacular miracles. All they need to do is stop grumbling and care about others, no matter what is going on in their own life. For many of us, those two responses alone can be explained only by the presence and power of God. 

While my experience is far from his, I am thinking about Job, Lord, and Your dealings with him. The first part of that story reveals that all his trials happened as a spiritual test to prove that the faith You give can withstand anything. Like anyone else, Job wanted his sorrows to go away, but he realized that he was being refined and would eventually “come forth as gold.” I also realize that You have a refining process for me. It can and does include all manner of trials. As I experience them, I want them to go away, but I also want to eventually come forth as a light in the world — living like Jesus — because in these things You have become my strength.

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