strength

Rejoice, believer

I recently rediscovered a fantastic hymn written by John Newton. Many a time I’ve sung a hymn which was particularly refreshing and looked up the author only to find it was Newton. I think what I love about many of his hymns are that they show God’s grace not on its own, but in the light of human failing. Amazing grace is obviously Newton’s most famous hymn, and the first verse illustrates the point well. In it, grace is not an abstract concept, but a gift to “a wretch like me” who was “lost” and “blind”. This is what makes the grace amazing – the extent to which we don’t deserve it!

The hymn below is similar, but instead of applying grace to wretches it speaks of how the gospel applies strength to the weak. I find it helpful to regularly remind myself of God’s strength in the context of my weakness, rather than as an independent concept. This way my expectations of a Christian life are accurate. I do have God’s strength, the incredible strength that makes anything possible, but I am also living in a weak body, and I should expect a daily tension between the two.

I won’t say anything else about the hymn, just enjoy Newton’s voice echoing down the centuries.

Rejoice, believer, in the Lord
who makes your cause His own;
the hope that’s built upon His work
shall ne’er be overthrown.

Though many foes beset your road
and feeble is your arm,
your life is hid with Christ in God
beyond the reach of harm.

Weak as you are, you shall not faint,
or fainting shall not die.
Jesus, the strength of ev’ry saint,
will aid you from on high.

Though unperceived by mortal sense,
faith sees Him always near.
A guide, a glory, a defence;
then what have you to fear?

As surely as He overcame
and triumphed once for you,
so surely you that love His name
shall in Him triumph too.

I broke the plate!

One thing I’m finding out about Relay is that it’s tough. I think that’s one of the blessings of it. I was speaking the other week to someone who was struggling to cope with everything on their plate, and it really resonated because I was in exactly the same situation. I’d wasted a lot of time that week, and wasn’t feeling close to God. I was feeling overwhelmed by my workload, and I stopped looking at God and started looking at myself. I could have used the gospel to rebuke myself, but I didn’t.

Then a friend got in touch.

It’s always easier to rebuke other people.

But this rebuke hit me as hard as it hit him.

We were talking about how much we each had on our metaphorical plates, and my friend commented he didn’t have the strength to cope with such a big plate. He felt he not only had too much on his plate, but that he broke the plate, so hopeless was his situation. He couldn’t cope. There was really only one thing to say. He was correct.

Stop trying to be able to cope. You can’t cope! You know that! Give up the natural pride that wants to be able to cope with all the things you’ve taken on, and throw yourself on God’s mercy!

When we feel overwhelmed it is because we are weak. It is pride to deny this truth. We are weak beings. We cannot cope with life at the best of times. We broke the plate. This is why I love the lesson God teaches the apostle Paul when he asks for deliverance from weakness.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9

God doesn’t give some feel-good message affirming inner strength. Neither does He reduce Paul’s load. As He addresses Paul God implicitly affirms both the weakness and the inability of each and every person on the planet. But the Christian, though weak, is strong, because God gives us grace which is sufficient to overcome our weakness. More than that, the weakness actually glorifies God as His strength is seen more clearly by the sharp contrast!

We can’t cope with life. There is always too much on our plates, and sometimes we feel like we’ve broken the plate. But God’s grace is sufficient. All we can do is cast ourselves on it.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness.

Psalm 51:1