A Little Strength

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
— Revelation 3:8

Each time I come across this verse, I’m reminded of its usage in my favorite movie, Facing the Giants. Though it is a film centered around a football team (which is typically not my thing), the spiritual applications within the movie have impacted my life in so many ways.

Grant is a failing coach with a losing team. His house is falling apart. His car breaks down regularly. And though he and his wife long to have a family of their own, the possibility of conceiving seems unlikely at best. On the verge of losing all faith and hope, Grant is visited by an older gentleman who claims to have a message from God. The man reads Revelation 3:8, which encourages Grant to view life from a different perspective—God’s perspective.

I won’t tell you the outcome because I don’t want to spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it, but I wanted to outline the premise for those of you who can relate. Those who are frustrated about things being harder than they should be, taking longer than they’re supposed to, and leaving you grasping for any thread of hope. You’re tired. You’re weary. You’ve tried so hard to serve God, but it seems like your only reward is fatigue and frustration. You’re ready to quit and looking for one good reason to keep going.

To you, my dear one, God offers these words: “I know thy works.” Yes, God is keeping track. He is aware of your faithfulness. He knows all you do for Him and is working on your behalf night and day. He loves you and wants only what is best for you. So. . .

He has set before you an open door that no man can shut. Yes, my friend, God has made a way. He has opened that door of opportunity. Of ministry. Of relationship. He has given you something to do, and it’s up to you to do it.

Then, notice this next phrase: “for thou hast a little strength.” Not a lot. Just a little. Just enough to grasp that last thread of patience. Just enough to keep your mouth shut when you want to tell that coworker what you think. Just enough to keep from throwing in the towel. A little strength.  

It doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, does it? But, in God’s eyes, a child with a little strength is much better than a mighty warrior king. The strong are self-sufficient. They think they can do anything and everything. They have no need of God. Those with just a little strength, on the other hand, are at the point where they have nothing left to give, and they know it. In their weakness, they are made strong because it is when they turn it all over to God. And so, God looks on and says, “Yes, she has a little strength. I can do something with that.”

This verse has reverberated in my mind over the past couple of weeks. As I’ve crawled on my hands and knees to stretch protective coverings over the floor and climbed ladders to tape off the moldings around the house, I’ve heard God’s voice reminding me, “You have a little strength. That’s good. I can use that. I can multiply that. I can use that weakness to show you just how strong I am.”

Sometimes a little strength is all you need. Hang in there, dear one. God is doing a mighty work. Look for those open doors and rely on His power. He’ll see you through.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
— II Corinthians 12:9

A Full-Time Job

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For the past few weeks, I have renewed my effort to keep my house clutter under control. No more mail piling up on the dining room table. No more dishes sitting in the sink for hours. No more pulling clean clothes out of the laundry baskets because they’ve yet to be folded or hung up. Nope! I’ve been vigilant, and let me tell you, it’s like having another full-time job.

When we’re home, we’re HOME, and the house takes on a very “lived in” look. When we’re away, it’s typically for a longer trip involving luggage and coolers and other items that end up piled up in the entryway for a few days while I work up the energy to unpack and put everything back in its proper place. This being the case, every day consists of straightening, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, doing a load of laundry (from start to finish), wiping down the kitchen counters, etc. And some of these chores I do multiple times a day.  

Just last night, I was wiping down the counters for what felt like the fifteenth time that day, and all I could do was sigh. On the one hand, it’s been nice living in less clutter. It’s refreshing to walk out to the kitchen in the morning and not be greeted by a sink full of dishes and sticky counters. And, yes, it’s a joy not to have to sort through three baskets of clean laundry to find one pair of matching socks. I assure you I’m not a slob, and I love things orderly, but with health and time constraints, housekeeping takes a backseat around here. At least, it did, but no more. . .Lord willing.

The whole process reminds me of the effort it takes to keep my spiritual house in order. “One and done” doesn’t apply in caring for my spirit. Nope, it’s a lot of work. Before I go on, let me clarify I am not talking about salvation. We do not and cannot work for that. It is a free gift. I’m referring to what the apostle Paul was talking about in the book of Philippians.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
— Philippians 2:12

Work out your own salvation.  In other words, you have it within you; now it’s time to let others see it. Bear some fruit. Share some love. Become more like Christ to the point where others want what you have. That’s a tall order and takes constant effort and awareness. Just as my housework requires daily attention, so does my spirit. It needs quiet time in prayer and the reading of God’s Word. It needs me to guard my mind and heart against that attacks of the enemy. My spirit requires me to wipe clean the worry and anxiety, sometimes multiple times per day. It’s a lot of work, but just like maintaining a clean home, it’s worth it.

Yes, there’s peace in a spirit that isn’t weighed down by fear and anxiety. There’s joy in a life that isn’t cluttered by guilt and ingratitude. It’s refreshing to walk through the storms of life and find you can still sing a song. And the only way that would be possible is by putting forth the time and effort day after day, week after week until that behavior becomes “the norm.” And even then, we can never grow complacent. Remember, our enemy is seeking whom he may devour. He loves it when we grow weary in trying to live right. He knows we’re easy prey at that point.

The best way to keep that from happening is to keep the end goal in mind. When I’m tempted to leave the dishes for later, I recall how good it feels to have a clean kitchen, and that prompts me to do what I know to do. The same works in our spiritual life. When we’re tempted to skip out on our daily time alone with God, if we’ll remember how refreshing it is to be filled with His spirit as we began our day, we won’t want to miss out on that.  In other words, don’t think about the work; think about the reward!

The Right Way to Respond to Weariness - A Repost

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Yesterday, I shared with you an older post discussing the wrong way to respond to weariness. Today, I’d like to share with you the follow-up to that devotion: The Right Way to Respond to Weariness. I want to talk with you about the right way to handle the overwhelm and disappointments of life.  Let's begin with John 4:1-42.

“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

— John 1:1-42

I know that's a long passage, but I wanted you to see the entire story.  It helps to understand precisely how far Jesus went to step outside of his discomfort and reach out to others.  Verse six tells us plainly that Jesus was wearied with his journey.  He was tired and, no doubt, discouraged.  He had come to earth to minister to others, but it seems He made as many enemies as He did friends.  Many clung to His teachings while others cast Him out, claiming Him to be blasphemous and an imposter.  Day after day, He journeyed, fulfilling His mission to draw others to Him, and He was fatigued.

It's easy for us to overlook the fact that Jesus--though 100% God--was in a human body and therefore subject to all the same physical distress to which we are subject.  He got hungry, thirsty, tired, weary and so much more.  At this point in John 4, we see where He needed a rest.  He had been busy about His Father's business, and the effort had taken its toll on His physical body.  So, He stopped by the well in Samaria and rested while the disciples ran off to find some food.

At this point, the Samaritan woman enters the scene.  I could teach several lessons about her, but that will have to wait until another time.  For now, let me point out that she was coming to draw water in the middle of the day because she was a laughing stock among her people, particularly the other women.  To put it nicely, she wasn't of the utmost moral standing.  But that didn't hinder Jesus from reaching out to her and offering her what He had to give--Himself.

He could have ignored her.  After all, Jews didn't talk to Samaritans.  They didn't even like each other because of various disagreements between their peoples.  No one would have thought it odd for Jesus to dismiss her and focus on what He really needed, which was rest.  But Jesus knew the secret to dealing with weariness in the right way.  You don't lash out at others; you reach out to others.  And that's exactly what He did.

After a somewhat lengthy and personal dialogue, the woman comes to understand that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.  Upon her realization, she drops her bucket and runs off to town to spread the news.  Interestingly enough, the disciples had just returned from town with some lunch, but there's no indication they spoke to anyone about Jesus.  They were busy meeting their own needs and dealing with their weariness.  In short, they were self-focused, much like the children of Israel were in our previous devotion.

Upon their return, they offered food to Jesus, but He calmly told them He had food of which they weren't aware.  In response to their confusion, He declared, "My meat is to do my Father's will."  In other words, "There's something much more important here than filling my stomach."  Jesus understood His body was weary, but He looked beyond Himself to see an entire village who was spiritually weary and discouraged.  

Ironically, the woman also looked beyond her own needs and risked the ridicule of the entire town by rushing off to tell her tale.  She didn't have to.  She could have kept the information to herself.  After all, with the way everyone treated her, they didn't really deserve an opportunity to meet the Messiah personally, did they?  Evidently, she never even considered such a thing.  She told everyone she could find and convinced them to travel with her back to the well to meet the Messiah for themselves.  Because of her faith and her decision to reach beyond her weariness, many in the city believed in Christ.  What a tremendous impact she had on the town that day!  I'd like to think people saw her in a different light after that.

Both Jesus and the woman displayed selflessness even in their moments of weariness.  They chose to look beyond themselves and their own needs and to reach out to help others.  And what each of them discovered was that their response was healing and restorative.  While they may have each still been physically tired, there was a new light in their eyes and spring in their step.  Their hearts were lightened when they chose to reach out instead of lash out.

What about you?  How will you respond the next time weariness and discouragement strike?  Will you complain, blame, exaggerate and express ingratitude as the children of Israel did, or will you reach out to others who may be weary as well?  The first will leave you miserable while the second will completely shift your perspective and give you a new reason for making the most of every situation.  Lash out or reach out?  The choice is yours!