The First Commandment: Strength

The First Commandment: Strength

man in black reebok shoes about to carry barbell
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“HEAR, O ISRAEL; THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD: AND THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THY HEART AND WITH ALL THY SOUL, AND WITH ALL THY MIND,

AND WITH ALL THY STRENGTH:

(from Mark 12:29,30)KJV

He ripped apart a lion with his bare hands, killed thirty men, and killed another thousand with the jaw bone of a donkey. He possessed strength of body but weakness in heart, soul, and mind, which resulted in the loss of his physical power. In his death, by God’s grace, Samson’s physical strength was renewed, and he brought the house down on his enemies, killing more in his death than in his life.

Over a thousand years later, another man stood unimpressive in physical strength and suffered much in the weakness of his body. But what he had, the apostle Paul offered to the Lord, along with all his heart, soul, and mind.

“And he trembling and astonished said,

Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

And the Lord said unto him,

Arise, and go into the city,

and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

Acts 9:6, KJV

The Lord chose Paul to bear his name to the nations, kings, and the children of Israel. He would suffer much in this mission.

Paul labored through the whippings, the prison stays, near death experiences, and adverse elements of nature. He endured beatings, dangers by thieves, Israelites, and false brothers. He knew weariness of body, mind, and soul; pain, hunger, thirst, and want. He bore the responsibility of the churches he had planted. And he says,

“Who is weak, and I am not weak? 

Who is offended, and I burn not?

If I must needs glory,

I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.”

2 Corinthians 11:29,30, KJV

When Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn or weakness he suffered from, the Lord answered him,

“My grace is sufficient for thee:

for my strength is made perfect in weakness …

Paul’s response—

“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,

that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches,

in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:

for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9,10, KJV

Paul knew the Lord’s strength, his power, would enable him to be God’s chosen vessel of the gospel. What strength he had, Paul traded for the power of the Lord. He could say,

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Philippians 4:13, KJV

When facing his death Paul told Timothy—

“For I am now ready to be offered,

and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight,

I have finished my course,

I have kept the faith:

Henceforth

there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,

which the Lord the righteous judge,

shall give me at that day:

and not to me only,

but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

2 Timothy 4:6-8, KJV

Two men:

  • Samson the weakest strong man, whose life and death leave us with questions.
  • Paul the strongest weak man, whose life and death leave those who love the appearing of Christ with living hope.

Ours is to offer the Lord all the physical strength we have, be it little or much, and he will multiply it by his strength for his glory.


When has God’s strength been evident in your life?

Grace Trumps Excuses

2 Corinthians 12: Grace Trumps Excusesblog ten comthL1JRHTI7

The Story: (adapted from Exodus)

Step, staff, step, staff—Moses leaned heavily on the staff with each step up the sandy mountain. He leaned one hand above his knee and the other on the staff as he walked around the huge boulder—and stopped. A fierce orange, red, and blue flame encased a scraggly broom bush—but it stood unharmed in the midst of the fire. No smoke, no crackling twigs. Moses scanned the area for footprints, stroked his long gray beard, and fixed his eyes on the burning bush engulfed in flames but not destroyed. He took a step closer.

“Moses! Moses! Stop!” The voice roared like a fire fed by a fierce wind’s updraft.

Moses froze—leaning on his staff with both hands, and answered, “I— am— here.”

“This is holy ground. Take off your sandals.”

So began the discourse between God and Moses when God chose Moses to be his voice and his avenue of deliverance for his people from Egypt. Moses began to argue with the Lord’s choice.

“I can’t go before Pharaoh.”

“I can’t speak.”

“The people won’t believe me.”

Fear of failing a second time, fear of Pharaoh’s wrath, fear of the people were the fires that consumed Moses in the beginning.

Moses fully felt his weakness and knew he couldn’t do the job God had chosen him to do—a feeling many others, who came after him, understood.

  • Joshua had to follow in Moses’ footsteps.
  • Gideon could hardly believe what he heard when the angel of the Lord called him a valiant warrior.
  • Isaiah knew he was merely a man of unclean lips—how could he be the right one to deliver God’s message.
  • Jeremiah was too young and no one was going to listen to him anyway.
  • Peter was a coward when courage was needed.
  • And Timothy—he didn’t offer excuses, but Paul had to encourage him concerning what others thought about his youthfulness—apparently he also had a weak stomach.

Speaking of Paul—he had to overcome his past, times of discouragement, persecution, and a thorn in his flesh. But he didn’t use them as excuses to quit. Instead he saw them as opportunities for God to display his power through him.

God delights in taking the weakest, which Paul claimed to be among the apostles, and reveal his strength. He answered each man’s weakness with his strength. He said—

To Paul—

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB

To Moses— “Certainly I will be with you.”

To Joshua—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

To Peter—“but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Exodus 3:12; Joshua 1:9;Luke 22:32, NASB)

God has called us to represent him and his kingdom of light in a kingdom of darkness.

 “Now all these things are from God,

who reconciled us to Himself through Christ,

and gave us the ministry of reconciliation …

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ …”

2 Corinthians 5:18, 20

We are no longer walking in the flesh but in his Spirit. He is with us as He has always been with his own. He supplies our every need.

“And my God shall supply all your needs

according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever.

Amen.”

Philippians 4:19,20

For Thought: Have you accepted God’s calling on your life? How are you living it out? If you’re not, what fear holds you in its grip?

Our Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us all we need to live the life you have called us to. When we grow weary or feel weak, help us remember your joy is our strength—through Christ we can do all things. Help us remember it is through our weakness your power is made evident. May we be quick to answer as Isaiah did—“Here am I. Send me!” —and be ready to serve whenever and wherever you go with us.