I previously wrote that Christians aim to live a life that is centered on God, but you can also avoid one. I want to discuss this by looking at the life of Jonah so that you won’t avoid a God-centered life but cultivate one. You can avoid it for a...
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-13)
One of my many part-time jobs in college was working as a stage hand at the university theater. When musicians, dance troupes, or theater companies came to campus, all the stage-hands reported to the loading dock behind the theater in the dark hours of the early morning to unload props and set up. Then, when the last curtain call ended, we tore down the set and loaded up the moving truck.
I don’t know why I applied for the job. I have the physical strength of a wet paper towel. I only survived because I convinced my friend to take the job with me; she was a former swimmer for the university team and she could lift what I could not.
Natural Strength, Power, and Endurance
Some people are naturally powerful. They can lift heavy loads and just as easily open jars of mayonnaise. Some demonstrate emotional strength in the event of sudden emergency and others show endurance during a long, slow illness.
The dictionary defines strength, power, and endurance like this:
- Strength: The capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure
- Power: The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events
- Endurance: The fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way
I, on the other hand, have never figured out the source of physical strength. No matter how hard I try, the table won’t budge, the box won’t slide over, and the lid won’t turn. But I do know the source of spiritual strength. This is the strength available to those who put their trust in Jesus, rather than in themselves.
When Natural Strength Is Not Enough
While we have varying degrees of natural strength, we all come to the point where our physical strength is just not enough. Maybe a financial crisis has you discouraged, making you unable to see a solution from the mess. Or perhaps you suffer with a habit you want to break, but the habit is stronger and more persistent than your best efforts to change.
That overwhelming sensation of drowning in darkness is what Jonah felt the night he ran away from God:
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head. (Jonah 2:5)
Jonah’s natural strength couldn’t save him. The circumstance was too dire, and he was too weak. Natural strength can’t overcome the darkness that threatens to destroy.
Faced with difficult circumstances, we are presented with the world’s counterfeit sources of strength: intelligence, eloquence, willpower, health, family connections, wealth, or politics. Like Jonah, we need the power and endurance that can only be found in Christ.
The Supernatural Strength That Rescues Us
After sinking, Jonah was rescued:
At the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God. (Jonah 2:6)
The rescue that Jonah experienced is the rescue available to us. However bleak the outlook, we know that God is powerful enough to save us. We do not need to live in the bondage of sin and darkness. We have access to the “immeasurable greatness of his power.”
And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
From Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest (April 14):
“…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Where do the saints get their joy? If we did not know some Christians well, we might think from just observing them that they have no burdens at all to bear. But we must lift the veil from our eyes. The fact that the peace, light, and joy of God is in them is proof that a burden is there as well. The burden that God places on us squeezes the grapes in our lives and produces the wine, but most of us see only the wine and not the burden. No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.
The inner invincibility described above is what we can experience in the midst of life’s storms. When physical illness darkens a brother or sister’s world, the power that raised Christ from the dead is the power that allows this saint to carry on with daily tasks despite the pain. When a wayward child breaks a mother’s heart, the power that seated Christ at God’s right hand is the same power that gives the mother the endurance to continue praying for restoration. When financial distress crushes a family’s future, the power that put all things under Christ’s feet is the power that allows them to step out from under the despair with hope. Only the power of God—the immeasurable greatness of his power—can get us up in the morning in spite of the days ahead.
My days as a stage hand didn’t last very long. My capacity to withstand the weight of the equipment I had to carry was limited. My ability to manage my work load was minimal. And though working with my friend was fun, my endurance for physical work was fading.
Willpower, positive thinking, and education are not strong enough to carry us through the pain, heartbreak, and failures of life. My natural strength, power, and endurance were (are) remarkably limited. But I have a promise of supernatural power—I can be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might.”