Christ our strength

8 08 2012

The great need of the human heart is something upon which to lean. As the climbing plant sends forth tendrils in search of a support, the soul reaches out and up for something upon which to stay itself. A dying infidel, urged by his associates to “hold on,” lifted up his weary eyes and asked with a look of blank despair, “Tell me what I am to hold on to?” That is a vital question with every man when forced to go out of himself for help. He wants someone to tell him to what his sinking soul can cling securely; he wants someone to tell him to whom he is to look for help when all around his soul gives way; he wants to be sure that he is grasping a reality and not a shadow; that he is standing upon the solid rock and not upon the sinking sand.

“Man is weak,” said one of the ancients, “let someone give him a hand.” But he does not always feel his weakness, and hence is not always prepared to accept a hand of help, much less ask for it. For a time he may be so self-centred and self-satisfied as to have no feeling of dependence upon a higher power. Upon his complacent brow may be read “Sufficient unto myself.” But sooner or later, repeated failures are certain to bring a sad revelation of weakness; the feeling of creature-sufficiency, the feeling of religious self-conceit is certain to vanish away; a collapse of power is certain to come; the need of a fixed centre of rest and strength is certain to be felt; and the bitter soul-cry,

Rom 7:24 MKJV  O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  is certain to be heard.

Over against this feeling of helplessness and impotence, which comes to every man when he comes to himself, Scripture places in the strongest possible relief the power which is made available to him through Jesus Christ.

Rom 5:6 MKJV  For we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

When we were powerless for good; destitute of all moral strength to walk in the way of uprightness; when we were in a state of spiritual infirmity “and could in no wise lift up ourselves;” when we were unable to extricate ourselves from the awful depths of misery and despair into which we had been plunged by sin, “in due season” Christ died to bring us deliverance. “It is after the manner of God,” quaintly remarks Matthew Henry “to help at a dead lift.” The inability of man to save himself makes divine intervention necessary. The situation is desperate. Man is “without strength.” He is like a child trying to lift a load which is beyond his power to move. In his extremity his help is laid upon One who is mighty, and through His aid he succeeds in performing the impossible. Of good King Hezekiah it was said that “he was marvellously helped.” All are marvellously helped who are divinely helped.”

Heb 13:6 MKJV  so that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear …..

In what way does Christ bring succour to the weak? How is His strength made available to the strength-less? Does He put himself under their burdens, or does He put himself into their souls, helping them “in their infirmities,” and enabling them to bear their burdens? He helps in both ways, but the latter way is the one usually adopted. Writing to the Ephesians Paul says,

Eph 3:14-17 MKJV  For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (15)  of whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named,  (16)  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man;  (17)  that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

Here the power by which self and sin are conquered and duty done is traced to the presence of the Indwelling Christ, working by his Spirit within the hidden depths of our nature, pouring His strength into our enfeebled wills, transfusing His life-blood into our diseased and lying souls, and making the flickering pulse-beat of our spiritual life firm and strong. When Christ is within, His strength is ours. Weak in ourselves we are

Eph 6:10 MKJV  Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

We are,

2Ti 2:1 MKJV  Therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Concerning every victory won or work accomplished we thankfully acknowledge,

Gal 2:20 MKJV  … and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. ….

Concerning every failure and defeat we sorrowfully acknowledge,

Rom 7:20 MKJV  But if I do what I do not desire, it is no more I working it out, but sin dwelling in me.

The discouragement arising from futile attempts to live the Christian life is traceable in every case to a lack of dependence upon the power of the Indwelling Christ. How often is the sad confession heard, “I have tried and failed.” “You have tried and you have failed” Of course. But did Christ fail? Did He have a fair chance with you? Were you trusting for success to your native strength, or to “the strength of the Lord God?” Did you look to the Christ within you to slay your bosom sins? Did. you seek for present victory over inbred corruptions “through the blood of the Lamb?” Did you give Christ complete possession of the castle of your heart, and then trust Him to keep possession of it against all assailants ? Was there free concurrence and full co-operation with Him in all that He was doing on your behalf? Be sure that Christ did not fail; be sure that all the failure came from your unwillingness to allow Him to work unhindered. No one can ever fail who allies himself with the Indwelling Christ as the secret source of His strength; and no one can escape failure who leaves Him out, and attempts to fight against the powers of evil single-handed.

When any one has suffered an inglorious defeat, and a sense of failure has fallen upon him like a chilling shadow’, he will be saved from hopeless despair by keeping in mind the cause of his failure. Were it attributable to the breakdown of his own strength there would be nothing to hope for. Under a similar strain he would break down again. But seeing that it has come from the giving way of faith — from taking the eye off the Unconquerable Leader–it is something that can be remedied. The defeated soul that remembers what he has to fall back upon, rebuking his despondency, will renew the conflict saying,

“Rejoice not over me, 0 mine enemy; for though I fall, yet shall I rise again;”

“Out of weakness he will be made strong,” as

“All noble souls through dust and heat
Rise from disaster and defeat the stronger;
And conscious still of the divine
Within them, lie oil earth supine no longer.”
–LONGFELLOW.

The consciousness of “the divine within,” which to the Christian means the Christ within, nerves the impotent arm for the battle, and girds the prostrate soul with strength to triumph over every foe. And blessed is the defeat that drives the soul back to the source of her help in Him who is the Bruiser of the Serpent, the Conqueror of sin and death! Blessed is the loss of power that leads the soul to take a firmer grip upon the everlasting arm Blessed is the most humbling experience that takes the soul out of itself to Christ and enables it to say, ” Most gladly will I glory in my weakness that the strength of Christ may rest upon me.”

From the presence of Christ in the heart comes plenitude of power to meet every moral demand. Strong in his strength we rise into joyous and victorious life; made vigorous by the impartation of His holy energy we are able to resist temptation as the strong and healthy resist the winter’s cold. Supplied by Him with overcoming grace our moral nature is braced and stiffened to withstand and master evil in every form. Experiencing the all-sufficiency of His power we can say with McCheyne: “As Christ for us is all our righteousness before a Holy God, Christ in us is all our strength before an ungodly world.” Knowing that He is ever in us struggling with us against our sin, and knowing that greater is the Saviour that is in us than the sin that is in us, we know that “sin hath no more dominion over us.” Its mastery is broken. With clear discernment of the source of the power in which the Christian evercometh, Luther aptly remarks, ” How often do Christians stumble; and to look at them outwardly they seem to be all weakness and reproach. But this matters not, for beneath their weakness and foolishness dwells in secret a power that the world cannot know, and which yet overcometh the world–for Christ dwelleth in them.”

Strength also to endure comes from the divine within. “Through conscience of God,” or more correctly, “through consciousness of God,” that is, through consciousness of God’s presence in the soul–“men endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” Whatever trials they may have to bear they are conscious that One who is the very element of their lives provides, and brings within their reach strength proportionate to their need. When stooping under heavy burdens of care and trouble, when staggering under the weight of a cross too heavy for their feeble shoulders, He puts His strong arm beneath them to keep them from sinking. His aid is equal to every emergency.

2Co 12:9 MKJV  And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may overshadow me.

Hearts of oak have they whom He inwardly strengthens. Although keenly sensitive to life’s calamities they learn to overcome their natural shrinking of heart; and dwelling in quietness and repose they show to others “how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong.”

From the Christ within likewise comes strength for service. When disagreeable and irksome duties fall to our lot, He matches the hardest task with strength sufficient for its performance; when spiritual life is at low-water mark He gives abundance of power to drive all the machinery which we can profitably operate; when we are spiritually infirm and can barely perform the functions of living, having no strength to spare for the productive activities of life He reinvigorates our feeble souls, filling them with an over brimming vitality which makes labour for others a delight. The weakest soul that has his springs in Him can say,

Php 4:13 MKJV  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

That is, all things I am commanded to do, all things within the circle of my prescribed duty, I can do through Him who is the present and continuous source of my help. He who appoints my task, difficult though it be, impossible though it appears, will surely supply the strength that is necessary to its accomplishment. All that I can do through Him shows what He can do with the feeblest instrument. And as His is the power, let His be the glory.

“The possibilities of the Christian life are, therefore, measured,” as Dr. R. W. Dale points out, “not by our own natural resources but by the infinite perfection of Christ himself.” No limit is put to the measure of our power save the limit which we put to the working of His power in us. When He is allowed to have free course in us, we can adopt the words of the prophet Micah,

Mic 3:8 MKJV  But I am full of power by the Spirit of Jehovah, ..

What a delightful experience the life – forces within the soul at full flood. Fullness of power from God, fullness of power for good! Power sufficient for daily duty; power that is replenished as often as the world drains the spirit dry; power that, renewed like the eagle’s, endures in all the freshness and vigour of everlasting youth; power that enables its possessor to run swiftly in the dusty way of humble toil and not be weary, to walk steadily in the hard and stony way of self-denial, and not faint.

Full of cheer and hope is this Gospel of strength for the strength-less. An open door of deliverance from weakness and of entrance into strength stands before every man. “The Strong Son of God” proffers power to all. And where power is possible it is sinful to be weak. The feeblest saint, realizing where his strength lies, should ever be ready to join in the triumphant song;

Eph 3:20-21 MKJV  Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  (21)  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, forever. Amen.


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