“Powering Up God’s Way” (Isaiah 40:27-31)

What kinds of strength or power does the world recognize and reward?

  • Physical power
  • Military power
  • Athletic power
  • Persuasive power
  • Glamorous power
  • Attractive power
  • Prestigious power
  • Seductive power
  • Intimidating power
  • Charismatic power
  • Racial/ ethnic power
  • Sizable power
  • Political power
  • Financial power
  • Intellectual power
  • Social power
  • Manipulative power
  • ???

Some of these powers are intrinsically good and helpful. Some of these powers are intrinsically evil and harmful. Some of these powers are neutral – the way we use them determines their morality.

God’s power is incomparably greater than every conceivable form of human power, but human powers are more tangible and more sensory, aren’t  they? Because God’s power functions subversively we can miss it, especially when we feel powerless in this world.

Isaiah wrote this prophecy to exiles, people whose nation had been swallowed up by the dominant empire of that day – Babylon. From Israel’s desolate and conquered perspective God was disregarding their troubles and ignoring their rights (Isaiah 40:27).

It’s easy to read God that way when our faith is in a weakened condition.

In the passage, God argues otherwise. Isaiah 40:28 says God is Almighty whether we see it or not. God’s resources are never exhausted. God’s perceptiveness never dims.

Isaiah 40:29 is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. According to this verse, we qualify for God’s strength when we own our weakness! This reminds me of the first three steps in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

BRILLIANT!!! We own our weakness, we choose to believe in God, and we entrust ourselves to God.

Isaiah 40:30 gives us valuable information about people who epitomize humanity at its dynamic peak. That strength eventually declines. At our very best and even with our technologically advanced powers, we cannot compete with God’s power.

Isaiah 40:31 continues that line of reasoning by presenting the alternative. “But those who wait on (hope in, trust in) the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not get weary. They will walk and not faint.”

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? We identify primarily with passive waiting, like standing in line or being put on hold. But “wait” in verse 31 refers to active waiting. We entrust ourselves to God moment by moment, wrapping ourselves around God and tenaciously leaning against the wind into the solid hope that God is still faithful to His promises and is still capable, no matter what powers in this life have destabilized us or enfeebled us.

People who live in such intentional and trusting hope “gain new strength.” This means far more than God supplying a boost or a power surge to what we already have going for us. Rather, we come to an end of ourselves and we exchange our failing strength for God’s sustainable power (verses 29 and 30).

God’s strength manifests itself in three scenarios. In the first scenario we soar high on wings like eagles. There are seasons in life when we are effortlessly and transcendently gliding. In this scenario it is all good.

In the second scenario we run without getting weary. There are seasons when life is challenging and there is resistance (like hills during a marathon), but we are making progress. We hit our pace and keep moving. In this scenario it is not all good but we are okay.

In the third scenario we walk without fainting. There are seasons when life stinks, when faith wobbles, when we are disillusioned or discouraged or deflated, and the best we can manage is to shuffle one 5,000 pound leg forward and then move the other leg in generally the same direction or in no direction we can detect. In this scenario it is not all good and we are not okay but by God’s grace we are still standing. Success is defined as not totally shutting down and giving up.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose which scenario or season characterizes us? The faith journey does not work that way. We do, however, get to choose the source of our strength. We do not have to settle for human strength or power that is ultimately inadequate. We can own our weakness and exchange our ebbing strength for God’s strength.

God most emphatically demonstrates divine strength in the weakness of the crucified Christ. On the cross, worldly powers were broken from the top down and humble love secured our redemption from the bottom up. God offers us that kind of strength.

Are you soaring? Are you running? Are you walking? Are you collapsing? In the grace of the Gospel we come as we are, not as we should be.

May you and I exchange our powerlessness for God’s enduring and adaptable strength.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

“Hope for People Who Have Tried Everything” (Mark 5:25-34)

Mark 5:25-34 chronicles an account about a woman who had been bleeding internally for twelve years. She was afflicted with a beastly medical condition for which she had tried everything, but she kept worsening for reasons that were not her fault. This disorder was a chronic physical drain, a financial disaster, a social disease, an identity assault, and a shaming pile-on. She was shunned, and who knows what else, because mean people have always preferred stationary targets.

Jesus was in the area, so she somehow summoned another round of spunk, snuck through the crowd she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near, squirmed through all of the bodies, and brushed the edge of His robe or tassel.

In a crowd like this all manners of people would have been bumping into Jesus, but He experienced a power drain from her negligible touch and the woman felt her bleeding instantly dry up and stop. After twelve years, what was that like? Was it an electric jolt, or maybe a delicious stab of healing pain?

She began reversing course out of the crowd. Then Jesus halted everything and insisted on looking for her. Was this another vicious disappointment? Was He going to take the healing back because she wasn’t supposed to be in the crowd? Was He like the others she had tried?

After twelve years the woman would have become an expert at avoiding eye contact, at being invisible. But she could not dodge His gaze. She fell down in front of Jesus and her story spilled out of her. Jesus responded, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

What? She had already been healed, and Jesus knew it because He had felt it happen. What did she receive during the second encounter that she had not received during the first encounter? Initially she was healed physically, but she had not been healed from everything the sickness did to her socially and emotionally. Face to face now, Jesus called her by a family name and gave her credit for trusting Him and healed her shame and made her whole.

Don’t you love it that Jesus could sense the faith in her puny touch of His garment? Don’t you love it that Jesus insisted on looking for her and continuing what had begun a few moments earlier? Welcome to the heart of our crucified and risen Christ. He has not changed. God in Christ always has more for us than we are experiencing. Jesus seeks you out because He has so much to offer you. Like He felt her brush of desperate faith against His clothing that day, Christ picks up on your faintest cry for help. And He responds.

The best thing you can ever do is move toward Him in prayer, placing your own story between you and Jesus so that He can demonstrate, face to face, how fond He is of you and how ready, willing, and able He is to liberate you. I do not know what it will feel like, or what form it will take. But I know your hope is in good hands with Jesus, because I too have been indescribably jolted by His wild love in response to my despairing and grasping prayer.

May you and I know the grace that is definitely not out of reach,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

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