“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
Do you ever feel like less than a conqueror? I do. In fact, I visit that place far more frequently than I would like to; I was there a few days ago.
I can’t even explain to you how it happened. No earth-shattering event crashed in on me. Rather, it was lots of little things. One tiny frustration after another until the pile got so heavy I felt crushed under it. And to be honest, I wanted out. I didn’t want to do “ministry” anymore.
I wish I could say it was the first time I’ve felt that way, but it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong. I love sharing God’s truth with anyone who will listen, and seeing Christ work His transforming power in a life lifts my heart in ways I can’t express. But intermingled with the many blessings of touching lives with Glory come many challenges and frustrations. And through it all, the constant hiss of the serpent sows seeds of doubt . . . and tells me to run. “Who do you think you are? Your life would be so much easier if you quit.”
I’m not alone. Scripture tells us that Elijah, one of the great Old Testament prophets through whom God revealed Himself, had moments when standing up for the LORD he served didn’t seem worth it. In fact, right after God displayed His power mightily through him by consuming a water soaked altar with blazing fire and defeating 450 prophets of Baal, we read,
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life . . . He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life . . .” 1 Kings 19:3-4
You see, we say that if we could just see God move in the miraculous ways described in the Bible it would give us the boost we need to keep going. We think that if we saw what the OT prophets saw—or even what the Disciples saw—we would have the strength to persevere with boldness. Yet Elijah witnessed marvelous displays of God’s power . . . so did the Disciples. And all of them ran when it got hard (Mark 14:50).
It isn’t witnessing external works that will give us the strength to stand, beloved. It’s grace, poured out for the moment, that causes buckled knees to rise. Strength and sustenance loosed by God’s hand restores, renews and enables. We don’t need to see more works; we need grace. We must learn to draw on the Spirit Jesus sent us to strengthen us in our weakness.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12-13,
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
The thought seems absurd to the natural mind. To experience equal contentment from both nourishment and hunger? Whether having plenty or suffering abundant need?
Yet Scripture offers this secret to contentment in any and every situation. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Consider Max Lucado’s description of the apostle who penned those words. (Grace for the Moment, p. 328)
Peer into the prison and see [Paul] for yourself: bent and frail, shackled to the arm of a Roman guard. Behold the apostle of God. . . .
Dead broke. No family. No property. Nearsighted and worn out. . . .
At times his heart was so heavy, Paul’s pen drug itself across the page.
We might not find ourselves shackled in a prison cell like Paul. But when oppression comes, the black hole it creates feels as real and constricting as a locked cell. And we can’t free ourselves. But, praise Jesus, He can.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 teaches,
But we have this treasure [the Holy Spirit] in jars of clay [our human bodies] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
I’ve journeyed far enough with Jesus to know that the victory is worth the battle. As the overwhelming desire to run crashed in on me last week, I decided I would. But I didn’t run away from the ministry God has called me to. No, I ran straight to Jesus.
I wept with Him. I told Him how I felt, although I know He already knew. And I asked for His help. For strength to go on. For peace to revive my soul.
As I knelt in prayer, my eyes rested on a devotional book someone gave me that sits on a table in my bedroom. I felt compelled to open it for the very first time. It was written for each day of the year, and I opened the book to that day’s date. I saw these words at the top of the page:
“You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God.” 1 Peter 2:9
I felt His presence pour over me and wash me in His love. I read further, and the oppression began to lift, pushed out by the all-encompassing presence of the God who fills.
He’d always been there. I just forgot to quiet myself so I could see Him. I let the onslaught of frustrations get me down instead of letting Him lift them from me. I should’ve known better. A couple of months ago, He gave me this promise.
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
Now I rest, safely under the shelter of my strong tower. I think I’ll stay right here for a while.