Isaiah 52:1 “Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to you.”
I remember as a young man working out in the weight room with my fellow classmates, the other boys would be on different machines trying to get larger muscles than the next guy. We would periodically show off how strong we were to one another, and there were usually one or two guys that were simply in a class by themselves. We stood in awe of the giant mammoth of a man who would press the massive weights on both sides of the bar as if it were nothing to him.
What is it about strength that people are so enamored by? What use do an abundance of muscles have except for showing off or occasionally lifting the couch if something rolls under it. Maybe a friend comes calling because they are moving and really need the strength you provide? It all seems fairly superficial now that I’m older and the muscles just aren’t the same as they used to be.
When it comes to the things that we should be striving after, we see a different perspective from God.
Psalm 53:2 “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”
There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of scripture that says God looks down upon men to see who is the most muscular. Matter of fact, it seems that from God’s perspective there are far more worthy endeavors than how fit or strong we might be. Strength is a typical attribute of a young man, the increased testosterone and youthful energy drives him to developing his stature through work and play. The strength that is acquired is not in question, the question is:
What are you going to spend your strength on?
Proverbs 31:3-4 “Do not give your strength to women,
Nor your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
There are many things in life that can sap our strength, bad relationships and substance abuse is just a couple of them.
Solomon was a perfect example of someone who gave himself to every form of fleshly desire he could acquire, 700 wives and 300 concubines is just part of the story. These women brought with them all forms of pagan and idolatrous worship into Israel and led Solomon astray. In the end, Solomon had the Kingdom taken from him by God and the legacy he left became the foundation for Israel’s slide into rebellion and eventual captivity.
When it comes to alcohol, an estimated 88,0005 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women5) die from alcohol–related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. (niaaa.nih.com)
Does the scripture in Proverbs 31 really pertain to us? Many may say that it was just for kings, like Solomon, but when we thoroughly examine scripture, we see a different perspective.
Revelation 1:5-6 “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
You see, for those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, male or female, we are all considered kings and priests in the Kingdom of God. We have an expectation of how we conduct ourselves and what we allow into our lives since we represent the King. We have been given strength but not the kind of strength the world looks for.
Our strength is found in our King.
Exodus 15:13 “You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation.”
We have a source of strength that goes far beyond our ability. The Spirit of the Lord fills His people with His strength as they rely on Him. The Lord does not expect us to be strong in our own right, He knows our weaknesses, He knows the temptations we endure and sometimes fall into, He knows our frailty and the number of our days…He knows we need Him.
Habakkuk 3:19 “The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.”
Not only does God provide us the ability to follow, He elevates us into a position we are not deserving of…His presence. The metaphor of a deer, prancing in joy, running through the meadow, in grace and speed is how God leads us.
How often in the midst of this world do we look for all forms of comfort, whether it is with alcohol, relationships, or any other form of entertainment, the idea of temptation leading to indulgence might lead us to what we desire was coined so well by O. Chambers.
“As temptation comes to me, it suggests a possible short-cut to my highest goal.”
What is our highest Goal?
Isn’t the goal of people worldwide happiness? If I seek good health, strength, relationships, or even to be faithful in my life, the goal is happiness. I know personally, if I walk obedient to the leading and conviction of the Spirit, I am most happy. When I fail, sin, or act contrary to God’s goal and expectation in my life, I am miserable. I seem to drive a wedge of darkness into my relationship with God that inhibits my walk with Him when I sin. The fellowship of the Spirit becomes more and more important the longer you walk with Christ and you begin to realize with each passing day, your strength is drawn from Him.
Psalm 23:3 “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”
How does God renew our strength?
He Gives Joy!
Nehemiah 8:10 “Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The happiness you think you long for is fulfilled in much greater measure by joy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion and can be interpreted differently based off our nature. If you really like the outdoors, you may feel happy when you see that large redwood or pristine valley but once you leave the place of happiness, the emotion that was tied to that moment goes with it.
Joy is different, it isn’t fleeting, it isn’t tied to a moment but is directly linked to our life in Jesus. Jesus likened it to a well of water that springs forth into everlasting life. It is the Spirit of Christ in us that changes our perspective, regardless of our situation. Whether we go through the valley of the shadow of death or we ascend into the highest heaven, His joy carries with us, it does not diminish when our eyes are fixed on Him.
This is where we are to invest our strength, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
Mark 12:33 “And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
If we don’t place our strength in His hands, if we spend our days seeking after our own pleasure and filling our homes with entertainment, we will miss all that God has to offer….and our strength will vanish.
Leviticus 26:20 “And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.”
There is just too much insecurity in life, to many variables that will leave us hanging and without anything to show for our efforts.
Since I work in healthcare, I see far more deaths than the average person in society. I see men and women, advanced in age, having lived their life to its end and striving to hold on to whatever health may remain. Do you know what I never hear from them as I chat with them about their lives? Not one of them has said they wished they had worked more hours, spent more time in the office, or accumulated more wealth…they all wish they simply had more time. Time to spend with friends, family, or in enjoying the things they love. I’ve never heard one say they wished they had pumped more weights or spent more time in the salon, beauty is fleeting and strength wanes with age, but they that wait upon the Lord….will renew their strength.
Isaiah 40:28-31 “Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
As the Lord gives you strength, He gives you victory.
Luke 10:17 “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name”
Ultimately, where does our strength in Christ lead us?
Exodus 15:2 “The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”
His strength that He provides gives us the ability to finish the journey! This world is not our home, this body He has given us is not our final form. We are destined for a different time, a different place, and to be a people united in a Holy nation. He is leading us there….all we have to do is follow.
Psalm 118:14 “The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.”
What is on your horizon? What plans have you made that are dictating your future? If you think heavenly minded, your goal will be secure in Him, if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior your strength will not diminish and in everything you do will prosper.
That is His promise….not mine.