Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 7th April, 2019
At the end of 2017, I went to the doctor for a check up and had a blood test. This is a good story by the way – it’s all good.
But the doctor looked at my blood results and said, you need to go to the gym.
Well it took me until the beginning of 2019 before I actually did what I was told. However I did start to get my act together before that… cut back on the hot chips and the whipped cream – two of my favourite things in the whole world.
And I started walking a bit more.
After I “finally” had a few months at the gym, I had another blood test. And my triglycerides had dropped by a third. I don’t know much about that stuff – except that it’s about fatty acids in the blood and the higher the number, the higher the risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The doctor was happy. I am feeling more healthy and stronger in myself. And no more of those evil, wicked chips that the devil keeps tempting me with. It’s always the devil!
If anyone is feeling convicted right now – I can put the screws in ever harder if you like. There’s nothing like a reformed chip eater.
I do feel stronger. I said to one of you a couple of weeks ago – and you know who you are – that I don’t think I’ll ever be like Arnold Schwarzenegger… and you said – don’t worry, that’s not going to happen!
I felt a bit deflated after that.
Anyway – enough of my personal life.
The point of telling you all that, is that the kind of health and strength that I might be able to gain, or you might be able to gain, through better eating and more exercise – is important – but it is nothing compared to the strength that is available to us in Christ.
As you well know – the strength that is needed to live life – to walk through difficult and even traumatic seasons of life – doesn’t come from simply being healthy. In fact, you can be the picture of health – but without that deep, inner strength that only comes from knowing Jesus – you will crumble in weakness in the face of adversity. And not just adversity – but simply dealing with the everyday pressures and stresses of life.
Ephesians 6:10, Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
So here’s the thing: we are not called and set apart as sons of God, to just survive and drag ourselves from one day to the next.
There’s a strength in the Lord – there’s a power in His might – that we are meant to be walking in every single day.
To be strong actually means to be endued with strength – or to be empowered with strength. It’s actually an impartation of divine strength. To be endued also means to put cloths on… it’s the perfect description because it’s like we are clothed with God’s strength. Just like we are clothed with His righteousness.
We can put on strength and walk in it.
And the power of His might means literally a mighty force, an authority… again it’s a vigor or strength that is freely available to us.
Put it on – receive it by faith – walk in it – be empowered by it. We’re not talking about some new age, mystical concept. We’re talking about the reality of life in Christ.
I know I need this. I know what it feels like to be weak. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed. I don’t have the resources within myself to deal with some of the really hard aspects of ministry.
But I know that I have strength that isn’t mine. I’ll be totally honest, it’s only when I look back sometimes that I realise that I have had a strength and stability that has to be Christ’s strength.
When someone in our church family faces a tragedy – and some have been horrific – it’s only when I look back that I think to myself, how did we all get through that?
I know I’ve shared this before, but when we first came back to this church as pastors, we had a series of funerals… multiple funerals… just one after another… a suicide, a new born baby, a child… as well as people who just seemed to be cut off in their prime…
And yet, we walked through it… God carried me through it – and he carried all of us through it…
I even got to the point of saying, God, I can’t do this any more. I can’t do one more funeral…
But here we are – not just me – but all of you – many years later – and we are continuing to walk in a strength that isn’t ours.
The words of Jesus that Paul quoted in one of his letters to the church in Corinth, simply says: “My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
By the grace of God we have all walked through really hard and difficult seasons. By His grace something has changed within us. Something has been imparted to us. It’s divine strength.
Grace is just one way in which we have been strengthened.
Grace is something that is God’s perfect gift. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. And yet God says – My Grace is yours – and it is sufficient. You have as much as you need. And our hearts begin to change. Our thinking begins to change. We become stronger.
The Apostle Paul had an incredible father/son relationship with young Timothy. As Timothy was sent out into the world to make disciples and to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul, his father in the faith, continues to disciple him and encourage him.
In fact, Paul was used by God to bring strength to young Timothy. Paul was God’s means of grace to Timothy. And having shared the challenges and the wisdom of ministry to him, Paul says:
2 Timothy 2:1, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
I want to encourage you this morning – you also be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It’s a precious gift of divine strength… put it on like a cloak. Receive grace to walk through your trial, your grief, your challenge.
This is part of the foundation that we are able to stand on… when the winds blow and the storms come, when everything around us seems to be shaking… the bible describes them as vehement floods… when they wash against our house – we won’t be washed away, because our lives are built upon a foundation that cannot be removed.
Grace says, (Philippians 4:13), “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It doesn’t say, Christ will help you avoid all the circumstances of life that are too difficult. No – it says, He will strengthen you, by His grace, to walk through the circumstances.
So grace is our precious gift.
Then there’s faith!
I love the story of Abraham… he had his failings… he was a man like you and I… but he carried an unwavering faith.
And in Romans 4, it reaffirms that Abraham’s greatest attribute was that he was a man who believed in God. And God accounted it to him as righteousness.
He knew God to be One who brought life to those things that were dead, and who calls those things which do not exist as though they did.
He believed God when God said that Sarah, even though she was old and way beyond child bearing years, and Abraham Himself was an old man… he believed God when He said that she would bear a son, and that Abraham would be the father of many nations.
It was an outrageous declaration… But the Word says of Abraham:
Romans 4:20-21, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”
I believe there is a depth of faith and a conviction of God’s faithfulness that we are all yet to walk in. It’s not a striving thing. It’s a depth of belief that the promises of God are as real for us today as they ever were.
Grace and faith go together.
In fact Romans 4 actually says, “it is of faith that it might be according to grace…”. They are intertwined.
I want to come back again for a moment to that scripture in Ephesians that says, (Ephesians 6:10), “…Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
Because it’s not only His grace; it’s not only His gift of faith; but it’s His might.
When you are feeling weak in yourself… when you are feeling overwhelmed by life… it’s not more of your own strength that you need – whether that’s your own physical strength, mental strength, emotional strength…
It’s not more of anything else that you think you might be able to draw upon. It’s His might, His strength, His power that you need.
You won’t ever be able to tap into some inner resource of your own to deal with the issues of life. You just aren’t that strong on your own. Because you were never ever meant to deal with life on your own.
God’s empowerment and strength might come purely as an outpouring of His own grace upon your life. It might come through His love and encouragement via another person. But it will come if you look in the right direction.
It’ll never come through a bottle, a needle, a co-dependant relationship, an escape into unreality… We were designed and created to be strong in the Lord.
And we have been strengthened for bigger purposes than our own victory in life.
And one of those purpose is to be able to serve others and minister to others.
In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, he says: (1 Timothy 1:12-13) “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…”
Actually in the Amplified Bible says it this way:
1 Timothy 1:12 (Amplified), “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has granted me [the needed] strength and made me able for this, because He considered me faithful and trustworthy, putting me into service [for this ministry],”
God has strengthened you to serve and to minister.
He has strengthened you through what you yourself have experienced and been through… and you then have an incredible ability to help others walk through similar things.
This is when your life becomes an expression of the love of God to others.
And so – not only are others blessed by the precious grace and faith that abounds in your life – at the same time you are bringing glory to God… you are pointing people to Him… because you know in yourself you are weak… but He is the strong One.
This becomes clear in something that Peter said in one of his letters:
1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
What an incredible privilege… to serve others on behalf of God – with the ability that only He can provide. And what a blessing that out of God’s strength that we carry deep inside, God is then glorified.
I really hope and pray that when you see an opportunity to serve, and you step up and make a difference in other people’s lives, in the life of the church, or in the community that you are part of, that you grasp the reality of where your strength for that comes from, and you also get a glimpse of how your life then brings glory to God.
If we simply do things out of duty or because of other people’s expectations, or out of guilt, for example… then we lose sight of the blessing…. we lose sight of the glory…
Here’s another way we find purpose in being strengthened, and again it comes from Paul’s fatherly advice to Timothy, his son in the Lord.
2 Timothy 4:17, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.”
Oh – and by the way… “Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Which some commentators believe was a metaphor for the devil.
But the point here is, we are strengthened to bring the gospel – to have the boldness to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world – to our generation.
And let’s face it – sometimes it takes a bit of courage and boldness to speak up and declare that you are a follower of Christ. Because that simple statement then brings up so many social and cultural issues – and we as Christians are often persecuted for our biblical response.
But I pray that we would be like Apollos:
Acts 18:24, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.”
That would be an awesome testimony to have – that we would be mighty in the scriptures. It’s speaks of an anointing to share the Word of God. It speaks of a supernatural empowering and authority to bring truth.
We are strong and Anointed because God has strengthened us in Christ.
I can’t talk about strength without bringing:
Isaiah 40:29-31, “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.”
There’s a message here that I think is really important for all of us – but particularly for us in the more mature set.
Weariness can come at any age – any stage of life. Weariness is a symptom of trying to find strength from our own resources to cope with the world we live in. But our own resources run thin. They are limited and exhaustible.
So that even the youth, the young people – who are usually lifted up as the strong ones, the ones who can endure anything, the ones who have limitless energy – even these ones can become weary and even faint.
The message I take away from this is that it’s not about our age. Weariness can come at any season of life. Young men can utterly fall.
But the answer for us all is right there. ‘those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
To wait means to bind together through twisting. So it’s not a passive word. It’s a proactive, dynamic relationship where we enfold ourselves in the presence of God, in the Word of God, in the power and might and strength of Who He is.
The more we seek after Him, come and pray to Him, spend time with Him, ask for His grace to be poured out over us, allow faith to grow, step into opportunities to serve with His strength and power, to talk about Him with boldness and courage… the more we do all these things and entwine our lives with His, the more and more our strength will be renewed.
I don’t know about you, but I could do with some renewed strength.
Why don’t we pray for that right now – just as you sit there in your seat…
Let’s pray for God’s Grace to be poured out over us… let’s put our faith into practice and believe for renewed strength in our lives.
Just close your eyes and allow this to be your prayer…
Heavenly Father we ask you right now – as we hear Your Word preached – as our hearts are in that place of openness and conviction – we wait upon You… we entwine ourselves with Your presence – Your Anointing – Your strength.
We pray for supernatural strength – for power – for might… because we want to finish this race with joy – with passion – with strength still in our bones.
We desire to be strong in You and the power of Your might.
Increase our strength – renew our strength – equip us in every way for the work of the ministry – and to glorify You in all that we do.
Father we know that it takes discipline to keep our bodies healthy. We want to glorify you in our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
But we also ask that you help us to be disciplined in the health of our soul – that we would be strong spiritually… strong emotionally… strong mentally…
And so we wait upon You… Come Holy Spirit – pour out Your grace upon us we ask… In Jesus’ name. Amen.