The Problem of Seeing God’s Strength as Your Own

October 29, 2013 at 8:47 AM 2 comments

God proves He is superior to all "gods."

God proves He is superior to all “gods.”

I have spent time memorizing and praying Isaiah 41:10 lately. The verse says this:

Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God.
I will strengthen you.
Surely, I will help you.
Surely, I will uphold you…
With my righteous right hand.

There are numerous versions of that text, but they all mean the same thing, of course. In essence, the true child of God has no reason to fear solely because God says that He is with us. Beyond this, we should not be dismayed. Another way of saying that is to say that we should not be looking anxiously around, fearful of what might befall us.

In essence, the first two sentences above are commands. “Do not” fear and “do not” be dismayed. Why? Because God is not only with us, but He is our God. There is no greater measure of safety that can be afforded us.

By the way, this does not mean that we will never have trials in this life. It simply means that as we lean upon Him, He will provide strength in the midst of those trials.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three men who faced a painful deal. They were literally thrown into the fiery furnace that Nebuchadnezzar ordered to be heated seven times hotter than usual. That’s how angry he was at the men. Read about it in Daniel 3.

Did God spare the men from the fiery furnace? No, but He provided peace and he even provided safety. In fact, according to Scripture, they came out without even smelling like smoke. Does God promise to do that for all of His children? Certainly not as many have actually given up their lives for His sake and did so willingly.

But Isaiah 41:10 speaks to the fact that God will fight our battles in and through us. Sometimes, that means that we actually do something on our behalf, submitting ourselves to Him so that He will work in and through us. Other times, it means to do nothing and allow God. Each situation is different.

Lately, as I’ve memorized Isaiah 41:10 and repeated in prayerfully, I’ve noticed that He has provided strength and peace. Situations that previously affected me so that I became worried no longer did that. It really is amazing how He builds up our faith and trust in Him through His Word.

But I feel I need to issue a warning as well. Because of our fallen nature and our propensity to submit to “self” instead of to God, once God begins strengthening us as He promises to do once we begin to submit to Him in earnest, another temptation comes along that we need to be ready to deal with. That temptation is to think that the strength He provides is something we created.

I noticed it today. On one hand, I was praising the Lord for His strength and empowerment. On the other hand, I caught myself actually starting to think that my inner strength and peace was due to me! Oh, I was having a real blast in my mind thinking of how I would respond to this person or that because of the strength I felt within.

Then I realized that I was certainly on the verge of sinning by claiming what God had done in me was something I had done myself. This is one of the quickest ways to fall headfirst into failure. It is a constant danger for us.

Realizing that God has strengthened us from within because of our faith in Him is good and right. It gives credit where credit is due. But allowing ourselves to think that we had a hand in it, or to be carried away by the sense of strength within that would cause us to do things that are not glorifying to God is 100% wrong.

Let me give one example from Scripture that, for me at least, provides a picture of what I’m talking about. In 1 Kings 18, we read about Elijah and the contest between the priests of Baal and Elijah, whose God was the LORD. Essentially, the test was to see whose god/God would devour the sacrifice placed on an altar. Elijah allowed the priests of Baal to go first.

They prayed, yelled, pranced around, and even cut themselves in the hopes of gaining Baal’s attention. Nothing worked. Elijah got into the act by essentially making fun of them. “It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened’,” (1 Kings 18:27).

Personally, I believe this was a bit of a failure on Elijah’s part. He felt the surge of God’s strength within and had absolute confidence in Jehovah God. Instead of standing back and allowing God to speak by Himself, Elijah ridiculed those who were lost. I fully believe that this is why he became completely downcast after this event.

We know that God spoke mightily and devoured the sacrifice even after Elijah ordered a great deal of water to be poured out onto the sacrifice. God’s fire ate it up anyway. But then what?

We ready about Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. I think (and it’s merely my opinion) that Elijah allowed God’s strength to seem as if it was his own and because of that, when Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life, Elijah ran as fast as he could away from her. Does this make sense? It only makes sense if we consider the fact that Elijah allowed God’s strength to feel as though it was his as well.

I believe though the Scriptures say God was with Elijah (1 Kings 18:46), when Elijah stopped feeling that strength from God, he cowered. The danger for the Christian is to go from one extreme to the other. God wants us solidly in the middle, depending upon Him, being renewed by His strength and always trusting God for His provision.

We do not see these types of extremes in the life of Daniel. He didn’t seem to run past God. He learned humility and walked accordingly.

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Theology. Tags: .

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  • 1. Lester  |  October 29, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Perhaps that was part of Elijah’s overcoming of this flesh. Jesus was said to have overcome this flesh the world and the devil. Even He had to overcome maybe when he thrashed the money changers and again when He said to Nicodemus, “you are a teacher in Israel and you do not know these things?” So we must all follow the overcomers to the fullness and stature of Jesus the Christ! Amen!

    • 2. modres  |  October 29, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      Very possible, Lester. 🙂

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