3 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Strong – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
If you close your eyes and imagine the characteristics of a ‘strong person’ you may well think of someone who is confident, bold, assertive or single minded. ‘Strong’ by the world’s standards conjures up images of the Strongest Man in the world, or as my 7 year old described as “someone who is a WWE Wrestler!” With the Rio Olympics looming ahead, my mind turns to the heptathlete Jessica Innes as an example of a strong woman. Winning gold in the London 2012 Olympics she also won Gold at the World Championships in Beijing in 2015 after giving birth to her son just a year before! What discipline and determination. Many of these qualities are celebrated by the ‘world ’ by what it means to be strong – if you are the loudest, strongest, fastest or fittest – you win! The worldview of strength focuses on ‘self’ and ‘self reliance’ and if we are honest with ourselves we aspire to be like such people, don’t we? But what is God’s view on being strong? And how should that shape us on a day to day basis?
Jesus was strong. Full stop. Jesus displayed his Almighty power and strength as he calmed storms, healed the sick and raised the dead. We say these events so glibly and so casually without ever really stopping to digest the enormity of Jesus’ power and authority over nature, disease and life! Jesus showed supreme mental and physical strength in the desert for 40 days and nights, food deprived and being tempted by the devil with his own words being thrown back at him. He stood firm. Resolute in his commitment to his Father, rooted in love for his mission to save us and to bring each of us back to His Father. And what about Jesus’ strength through supreme self control as he was arrested, tried and beaten. His physical carrying of the cross and the subsequent pain and separation and death which he endured. Jesus really did show his Almighty strength when he was at his physically and emotionally weakest.
And so as we look at God’s view of being strong today, we see Jesus on the cross. As believers – we can delight in this. We can delight in being weak. When we are weak – He is strong and able to do far more than we can ask nor imagine. I know that when I get ill, I am softer and more gentle and slower and I see God masterminding more meaningful time with those I love around me. At our times of weakness we are often more finely tuned to see him at work – perhaps through a perfectly timed verse or the comfort of a friend to listen and pray with. So before we start idolizing our favourite athletes or friends, let our gaze move to Jesus – the author of life. Seeking to do today in his strength so that whatever we do, we may not boast in ourselves but in him. We can therefore say with confidence ‘I can do all things through Him who gives me strength’.