January 10, 2016

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This verse is set to music as one of my favorite verses of the hymn, How Firm a Foundation. In a way it is general, so that it applies to any believer in any situation, but at the same time it feels rather specific as to the sort of thing God is going to do for us. First, He will strengthen us. He’s not going to leave us as weak and helpless as a rag doll. Of course our strongest is totally weak compared to His infinite strength, but we don’t like to feel weak, and He takes mercy on that. Then, He will help us. That is to say, He will enable us to do that which we need to do. Again, this is not passive. Any parent should know that always doing everything for your child will not enable them to grow, but sometimes their input is pretty minor, or even gets in the way of what really needs to be done. God is the prefect Father, and whereas He sometimes does things for us without any input from us at all, those times are rare. At the very least, our decision, our will, is called for. A lot of people fall flat at this very point, expecting God to do things without any input from them whatsoever. I had a friend who desired the baptism in the Holy Spirit, specifically with the gift of tongues, but he wouldn’t open his mouth to start speaking on his own, and to my knowledge has never received that gift. Anyone with that gift is free to choose whether to speak or not; God doesn’t force your mouth to move, He just shows you how to move it. Next, this says He will help us stand, upheld by His “right hand of righteousness,” as the Japanese expresses it. (The hymn says “omnipotent,” rather than “right,” but that is very much in keeping with the feeling of the original.) There are many things that, if unopposed, could knock us down, and sin is the chief of those. Righteousness is exactly what we need to counter it. As always, our will is involved. If we relish temptations (and let’s face it, all too often we do exactly that) we aren’t “submitting to God and resisting the devil,” as James said. (James 4:7) It is as we choose to receive the help, the righteousness that God offers, that we are enabled to stand in the face of all the storms of life.

This of course applies to me as much as it does to anyone. As a pastor I am constantly seeking to help people decide to receive all that God offers them, but I’ve got to be careful I don’t get cocky and think I can get by without Him myself. My weaknesses are glaring, to me at any rate, and I know full well what a mess I’d make of things without His grace and protection. Some people look at me now and think, and even say, that they could never emulate me. They just don’t know! I’m not to parade past sin or even current weakness, but I need to make it very clear that I am as dependent on the grace of God as they are.

Father thank You that Your grace is indeed sufficient for us all, on every level. Help me be an open channel of that grace indeed, so that as many as possible may receive it, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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