Grow Strong

These are trying times. We’ve had our secure and comfortable lives upended for the past year and a half. And there seems to be no end in sight. There’s a lot of upheaval and unrest in the nation. People are fed up and angry. People are frustrated and have lost trust in leaders. We’re tired to the point of exhaustion. And it isn’t necessarily a physical exhaustion. There are those who are uptight and at the end of their rope. They say they are followers of Christ. Followers of Christ can be anxious during uncertain times.

It’s time to strengthen our relationship with Christ during these uncertain times. It’s time to take the next step into being more like Christ. It’s time to look to his example to see how he was able to stay true to his calling when he was being pursued by those who hated him. When he knew he would be the sacrifice for a lost world.

What did Jesus do to guard against anxious thoughts and fears? When he knew he was going to the cross, what did he do? What were the routines in his life that gave Jesus strength? Because in his humanity, he experienced every emotion that we humans experience. He faced the same temptations we face. By studying his life, we can see how he lived not by emotions, but by God’s Word.

Now I know he was God. He came in human form and experienced life, just as we experience it. He faced the same challenges that we face. The same trials and temptations. So when I look at the life of Jesus, what do I see?

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

As he began his ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with people who believed his message. These followers weren’t just yes men. They were people who believed what he was teaching. They accepted the truth that he was Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in human form. He handpicked those who he would disciple and lead.

Now they didn’t necessarily understand what all that meant, but they believed in his teaching. They believed he was the Messiah. He spent a lot of time with them. In fact, he had a small inner circle who he trusted and relied on. That’s what we as believers need to do. We need to find a small group of like minded believers who will encourage us and challenge us. We need others who will mentor us and hold us accountable. We need close friends to strengthen our faith. We need those who will stand in the gap for us in our time of need. These friends can help us understand what we believe and why we believe it and to help us articulate it. Iron sharpens iron, as Scripture says. We need individuals in our lives who are the iron to sharpen us. We weren’t meant to do life alone.

Jesus was also in the temple on a regular basis. As a child he was taught the law. The Jewish law. He was taught Scripture. He could quote Scripture from memory. He knew the laws by heart. And when he became an adult, he still went to the temple where he began teaching. He began teaching as his Father gave him words and understanding. He opened up the Scriptures and explained them to those following the Jewish traditions.

We too must attend church. We must meet regularly with other believers. Listening to God’s Word preached to us. Worshipping God. Giving of our income to help spread the gospel. Fellowshipping with other believers.

Jesus challenged some of the regular day teachings, because his teachings were of a new way. He was teaching the promise that he was the Messiah, and that he was the hope of the world. And sure. There were many people who didn’t believe him. They knew this Jesus of Nazareth was the son of Mary and Joseph. Why would they believe what he’s saying. They asked. But he spoke the truth. And they didn’t believe him.

As believers, we need to spend time in God’s Word. Not just casually reading the Bible, but digging deep and studying what we are reading. Learning the heart of God. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Reading the Word of God is one of the ways we get to know God.


Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33


Jesus spent time alone with his Heavenly Father. He went alone into the wilderness. He fasted and prayed. He spent time in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took a boat ride to the other side of the lake, so he could renew himself alone with his Father. He knew that his work was demanding and that he would pay the price. He needed time alone with his Father to prepare for his ministry.

It may not be popular these days to fast. To intentionally give up food for a period of time just to pray. Some would say it’s an unnecessary act of self denial. But it will cause breakthroughs in our relationship with God. When we humble ourselves to the point of denying ourselves food. The thing that sustains our human life. When we can forego food in order to feed our souls. When we spend one on one time with God. Communing with Him. Sacrificing our physical needs for our spiritual needs. We will touch heaven.

Jesus sacrificed his life for everyone on earth. He sacrificed himself. He was spit on. He was tortured. His robe was taken. A crown of thorns was placed on his head. And after all of that torture he was forced to carry His cross.

He paid dearly. Physically, for our sins. Yes, he asked to be removed from this suffering. He asked for this cup to be taken from him. There are times that we go through deep trials. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. Financial. Relational. We ask to be removed from these situations. It’s okay to ask for that, but maybe the thing we should ask is for God to be with us during these times. Because if we’ve declared that God is enough for us, then is he enough in our weakest, most trying moments of life?

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8

In order to be like Jesus, we need to be able to identify with him. To recognize the struggles that he faced in his life as a man on earth. We see that he accepted those challenges. He didn’t run from trouble. He faced his trials head on and came out the winner. Our strength cannot come from ourselves. Our strength must come from God and God alone. That is only possible if we have a deep abiding faith in God. That comes by spending time in God’s Word. Reading and studying God’s word. Spending time in prayer. Perhaps it’s time to fast and pray. It’s time we humble ourselves to the point that we can face the challenges thrown at us. No matter what they are, come what may, God is our Redeemer. He is our refuge and strength. He’s always ready to help in times of trouble.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

When It Seems God Is Failing

In Exodus 3, God called Moses to return to Egypt to deliver his people.  The Israelites.  Moses fought the call.  Who am I to do such a thing?  He didn’t think he was good enough.  He didn’t think he was a good speaker.  He didn’t think he could make the Egyptian leaders believe him.  Even when God allowed Aaron to speak so Moses could perform the miracles, Moses resisted.  Even when God gave him clear instructions, Moses still wavered.  God reminded him that his people’s misery and oppression had been seen.  His people’s cries for mercy had been heard.  Moses was to go.  That was God’s clear command.  And God promised to lead Moses and his people to a land that was flowing with milk and honey.

So Moses went to Pharaoh.  Aaron spoke God’s words and Moses performed God’s miracles before Pharaoh.  But Pharaoh refused to give in to God and caused greater suffering for the Israelites.

Even with God’s promise, the Israelite’s suffering worsened before they were delivered.  They had done no wrong, but their workload was increased.  They were beaten.  They were abused.  They were threatened.

Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”  Exodus 5:22-23 NRSV

Could this have been the same cry that rang out from Jesus’ lips as he hung on that cross?  My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  Jesus was in agony.  He felt abandoned by his Father.   Had God left him all alone on that cross?  Not only was the physical pain of being nailed to the cross unbearable, but he was bearing the weight of the entire world’s sins on his shoulders.

Death by crucifixion was barbaric.  It brought immense physical suffering.  It was cruel.  It was painful.  Nails were hammered into his hands and feet.  His breathing was ragged.  He had severe blood loss.  Broken ribs.  Collapsed lungs.  Exhausted thighs.  Shoulders pulled from their sockets.  A slow agonizing death.

Yes, there are times when life doesn’t make sense.  When things are going wrong.  Horribly wrong.  Others make decisions that impact innocent lives.  We feel abandoned.  We may feel that we’re in exile with no way of escape.  It would seem that God is failing.


Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.  John 16:33


The thing is.  I’ve said some of those same words.  I’m not good enough.  I can’t do this.  God, why am I going through this situation?  When will it end?  God, where are you?  God, why have you forsaken me?  God, why have you done nothing to deliver me?

When it seems that those you trusted have failed you, there is One who never fails.  God is not slow.  He is patient.  He is working behind the scenes.  Putting everything in place.  Oh.  It may seem as if he hasn’t heard the prayers.  It may seem as if he hasn’t seen our plight.  It may seem as if he doesn’t care.  He has said that we will have trouble in this life.  We will suffer.  We will face trials and deep sorrows.

But God has given us a promise that we must hold to as long as we have breath.  He will right our wrongs.  Oh.  Not necessarily as we would like, but in His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-present way.  God does not fail.  He is in control.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”  Jeremiah 29:11-14

God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.