The Anchor Holds


Written by Lawrence Chewning performed by Ray Boltz

 

I have journeyed
Through the long dark night
Out on the open sea
By faith alone
Sight unknown
And yet His eyes were watching me

CHORUS
The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees
As I faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
In spite of the storm

I’ve had visions
I’ve had dreams
I’ve even held them in my hand
But I never knew
They would slip right through
Like they were only grains of sand

CHORUS

I have been young
But I am older now
And there has been beauty these eyes have seen
But it was in the night
Through the storms of my life
Oh that’s where God proved His love to me

28 years on today and the anchor holds. He has shown the light around me and this is a trustworthy saying that Christ came to save sinners of whom I am the worst. Thank God for grace, I am what I am. For twenty and eight years, the Lord has done me nothing but good. I am happy today to reflect on my journey to the kingdom.

 

As I think of my journey this far, the words of this song are on my lips and here is a brief story behind this song.

 

This song has been popularized by Ray Bolz but was written by Lawrence Chewining and here is the inspiring background. The story behind the writing of this song begins in 1992 when Lawrence and his wife experienced what they called their year of sorrows.

Lawrence’s father died that year, and as a family they were facing health problems. Lawrence had come to a point of burnout from being in pastoral ministry for 19 years, and the church that he had helped plant was entering the first phases of what became a devastating split. Lawrence who was a pastor was also re-evaluating the focus of his calling. He was weary and discouraged.

Then, in the summer of ’92, Lawrence’s wife experienced her third miscarriage. They wept as they held the tiny 14-week fetus of their son in their hands. It truly felt as if their visions and dreams had “slipped right through like they were only grains of sand”. It seemed as if the best years were over.

That year, Lawrence was given a sabbatical from pastoring for six months. During that time, his wife and him grieved and prayed. Pastor Lawrence also began to play the piano again for hours at a time, alone with God. During this time of sadness and uncertainty, the Holy Spirit gave him a song which he entitled “The Anchor Holds”. As he would sing it, he began to experience God’s comfort, encouragement and hope. Eventually, fresh vision came and Lawrence entered a new phase of the calling on his life.

In the spring of 1993, Lawrence’s old friend Ray Boltz heard about the song during a time of sharing together after one of his concerts in Maine. A few months later, Ray called Lawrence and expressed interest in possibly recording it. Lawrence immediately sent the song to him “in the rough” and told him that he was free to adapt it for his purposes. Ray reworked some of the lyrics, shortened it a bit, and added a musical bridge and recorded it for his “Allegiance” project. It was released for national airplay in November 1994.

The response to this song has truly been overwhelming. “I am so grateful that God can take our broken pieces and make something of value out of them. I am also thankful Ray Boltz who saw the potential of this song and utilized it for God’s glory” said Lawrence in his testimony.

 

As I look back on my own walk with the Lord the last 28years, I find myself singing the same words. The anchor holds. This indeed for me is from a heart that has known what it really meant to be saved; to be delivered from peril by the hand of God. Like the Psalmist I express my praise and gratitude to God. While there is much to digest in Psalm 116, I have chosen for today to focus on a question raised in verse 12. “What shall I render unto Jehovah for all His benefits toward me?” Indeed we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. (Heb 6:19). My anchor holds is a comforting truth, in any difficulty. However, the greater the storm, the more you appreciate an anchor that is completely steadfast. Perhaps that is why I’ve made it to date.

Thank you for all who have upheld me and my family in prayer over the years. Much thanks to Enid for walking the valleys and mountains with me. The anchor holds, though the ship is battered.

For that reason I will echo Psalm 116 as my tribute to the Lord. “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars. What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.”
(Psalms 116:1-19, KJV

Lessons from the Big Brother in Luke 15.


Rock at the bottomThis coming week marks  28 years since I started for the kingdom. I started my journey in fresh childlike trust and I believed that the Lord’s way was best. I would read in His word how He mothered the bird and grieve when it fell from its nest. Many times I felt His delight when I chose to do right and I prayed I would not make Him sad. I would meet my lord the cool of the day and fellowship of the brethren. What a pure sweet communion we had.

However, as I have journeyed, the road I have traveled has sometimes been steep, through wild jagged places of life. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and fallen so hard that the stones cut my soul like a knife. But the staff of my Shepherd would reach out for me. And lift me to cool pastures green With oil of the spirit anointing my wounds. There I’d rest by the clear healing stream.

Sometimes my God has led me through troubled waters, not to drown me, but to cleanse me. Oh but now more than ever, I cherish the cross. More than ever I sit at His feet. All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true and He is so precious to me.

As I reflect on my years of my journey to the kingdom, I am reminded that others may be going through what I have experienced this far and I ask. Is love’s old sweet story too good to be true? Do you find all this hard to believe? Has the cruel world we live in so battered your heart that the hurt child inside you can’t grieve? I can’t say I blame you I’ve been where you are
But all I can say is, “It’s true.” You’re wanted, you’re precious, and you’re the love of his heart. And the old rugged cross was for you. (Adapted from Bill Gaither).

During this journey, I have learnt a few more lessons which I now share. This lesson is about the story of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. Not so much about the younger son who we usually concentrate on, but the older brother. I want to share my experiences about the Big brothers and sisters in our lives. Have I not met many along the way? An early reading of the Prodigal’s story this morning prompted me to quietly whisper to myself, “I am so glad the Prodigal encountered his father first when he returned home, rather than his brother.”

I know, as do you, that had he encountered his older brother first, the Prodigal would have never made it home. His brother would have rejected him and turned him back to the ‘far country.’

I know this intuitively and also empirically. I have been the Prodigal myself and oh how my big brothers have refused to join in my welcome party that the Lord has set for me. Some big brothers have rejected my testimony arguing with my dad and directly with me that I am not welcome and quote all verses to prove am a sinner and going to hell. This conduct is no less egregious. I also made the long, arduous journey home to God. And since then, I have met many others with similar stories.

Though we all rejoice at the remarkable grace that God and many of His children extended to us, eventually, we each confess encounters with the spirit of the elder brother. And we each confess that the journey back to God was made so much harder because of the hurtful behavior of Christian brothers (and sisters).

I can understand because I sometimes also think humanly speaking that the older brother was rational. In an ‘eye-for-eye’ world, in a ‘if-you-hurt-me-I-will-hurt-you’ world, the angry rejection by the older brother made sense. After all, the Prodigal did so much wrong. This is Rational.

It was also rational for the older brother to believe that he had earned his own place in the family by good behavior and that the Prodigal should no longer be in the family because of his poor behavior. The concept of earning your way IN has merit and makes sense.

It must have seemed irrational to the older brother for the Father to call the Prodigal, “son” and throw a feast for him. It must have seemed irrational to discover that good behavior, after all, is NOT what “earns” a place in the family.

It must have been confusing for the older brother to learn that belonging to the family is a gift of grace, is the prerogative of the Father and that His love doesn’t diminish when hurt and doesn’t increase when pleased. He loves at all times.

The older brother obviously didn’t have a clue what his Father’s heart was like; how gracious, forgiving and loving.

I would suggest that though the Prodigal traveled far from the Father’s house, the older brother traveled far from the Father’s heart.

It’s insightful to see the lavish love poured over the returning Prodigal. But don’t miss the Father’s love for the older brother. Realizing that His oldest son was not at the ‘Welcome Home’ celebration, the Father went to retrieve his first-born. He wanted him included in the feast and festivities, too.

God has been lavish in His love toward me – a former Prodigal. And there are some who refuse to join me in the joy of my home-coming. Some in the Christian family, avoid me in public, shun me from their activities, and don’t celebrate my return. With such “siblings,” I must keep my heart pure. I must show the mercy I wish I had been shown. I must sincerely want them to experience God’s festivities, too, in the way I had hoped they’d want to include me.

We are quick to conclude that Jesus’ story in Luke 15 is about the behavior of the Prodigal. That misses the point. It’s really a story about the behavior and heart of the older brother.

Seeing Ourselves in the Parable
There’s a good reason this short story pulls at the heartstrings of so many hearers. We recognize ourselves in it. The parable reminds us of the most painful aspects of the human condition, and those who take an honest look will recognize themselves.

For believers, the Prodigal Son is a humbling reminder of who we are and how much we owe to divine grace. For those who are conscious of their own guilt but are still unrepentant, the Prodigal’s life is a searing reminder of the wages of sin, the duty of the sinner to repent, and the goodness of God that accompanies authentic repentance.

For sinners coming to repentance, the father’s eager welcome and costly generosity are reminders that God’s grace and goodness are inexhaustible.

For heedless unbelievers (especially those like the scribes and Pharisees, who use external righteousness as a mask for unrighteous hearts), the elder brother is a reminder that neither a show of religion nor the pretense of respectability is a valid substitute for redemption.

For all of us, the elder brother’s attitude is a powerful warning, showing how easily and how subtly unbelief can masquerade as faithfulness.

Regardless of which of those categories you fall into, my prayer for you as you listen to God and search your heart. If you are a believer, may you bask in the Father’s joy over the salvation of the lost. May you gain a new appreciation for the beauty and the glory of God’s plan of redemption. And may you also be encouraged and better equipped to participate in the work of spreading the gospel.

Out of my bondage sorrow and night, Jesus I come to Thee.

 

My Toungue will be a pen of a ready Writer


By Ronnie Wilson

I hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees,
The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth.
The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees
And dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth.
Oh this is now a time for declaration,
The word will go to all men everywhere;
The Church is here for healing of the nations,
Behold the day of Jesus drawing near.

My tongue will be the pen of a ready writer,
And what the Father gives to me I’ll sing;
I only want to be His breath,
I only want to glorify the King.

And all around the world the body waits expectantly,
The promise of the Father is now ready to fall.
The watchmen on the tower all exhort us to prepare
And the church responds – a people who will answer the call.
And this is not a phase which is passing,
It’s the start of an age that is to come.
And where is the wise man and the scoffer?
Before the face of Jesus they are dumb.

A body now prepared by God and ready for war,
The prompting of the Spirit is our word of command.
We rise, a mighty army, at the bidding of the Lord,
The devils see and fear, for their time is at hand.
And children of the Lord hear our commission
That we should love and serve our God as one,
The Spirit won’t be hindered by division
In the perfect work that Jesus has begun.

 

In 1986, I attended a Scripture Union camp in a small town of Zambia called Kafue. It was a memorable camp for me that I still reminisce over. One of the songs that I learned at that camp was My tongue will be the pen of a ready writer”. The chorus of this song was pulled from Psalm 45.  I remember us enjoying the song.

God is still working on me – 45 Years on


Working on meA recent comment about being a man of many talents, reminded me of a conversation I had with an aunty 23 years ago. I was then 22 and she had asked me what I wanted to do with my life. My reply was that I wanted to be a jack of all trades. To which she replied, “And a master of none!”

This quote is poignant at this time in my life. On Friday, 18th July, I turn 45. I find that the older I am, the quicker each year seems to go. And every year around my birthday, I spend a bit of time reflecting on my life. What have I done? What am I doing? What has God called me to do and perhaps more importantly, what has God called me to be. It’s a time of honest appraisal. A time of reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly. A time of reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses. My passions, friendships, relationships, and family.

As I turn 45, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.  For some reason this seems like a more significant birthday to me than 30 or 40 was. Enid put up a nice surprise for me on my 40th but I have not given much thought about it than now.  I know some of my thoughts are a result of a few colleagues dying in their 40s and 50s. A few months ago I lost my buddy in a road accident. He was so dear to me and lived to be a true friend. Apart from the fact that  I was born on 18th July and he,  (although a year older than me), was born on the 20th of July and remembered my birthday every single year and called to say hi even after many months of silence. Ray Munsaka went to be with the Lord this year and for the first time since 1984, I am celebrating my birthday without him. The LORD Knows better! He surely was going to try and be the first to say happy birthday struggling to beat Enid  who is constantly by my side to  say so. The other legend Nelson Mandela whom I always celebrated my birthday with has lived a full 95 years and is gone back to our maker. With all this, I am left pondering – the Lord is still working on me.

At my core, I’m profoundly happy with my existence on this planet.   I’m married to an amazing person who I’ve shared my best and my worst. My direct family is healthy and very functional.   I’ve structured my life so that I get to spend most of my time on really interesting things – my family and serving God.  I get to work with fascinating entrepreneurs on long term projects that I care about almost as much as they do.  Finally, I live in what I think is one of the best towns in Africa and spend plenty of time in several great cities in the world, Lusaka, Bulawayo and Nairobi.

As my birthday nears, I am reminded that, another special season of grace and favor has come to our family. In March this year another season of mercy and love was with us when we celebrated the turning of Enid to 40. It was a special celebration of the birthday of a great woman in my life.

For 45 years now, God has continued working on me to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, He’s still working on me. It has been an extraordinary 45 years of being in the potter’s hand. Through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus, I have learned to trust in God. It is not because the truth is too difficulty to see that in our lives we make mistakes, but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable thing by our nature is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. I am a sign and evidence of total depravity. Thank God for grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Where could I be if Jesus didn’t love me.

I have posted previously that I have had many different jobs over the years. Many more than the average person in my age bracket would have experienced. And in this regard, I did indeed become a jack of all trades. There are some jobs that I tried to do, that I absolutely failed. There are others that I was okey at. And there were others, that I nailed it. I can confidently say that those jobs that I nailed, I was good at it. But, I can’t say that I mastered any of them. For to say that would mean that I had no room to improve and nothing more to learn about that job. It would also mean that I had arrived at the top. It would mean that I had become the master!

As I look forward to what the Lord has in store for me in the coming years, I want to remind myself that I am the master of none. For we only have one master! And that is our majestic God. Our king and our friend. We only have one master and therefore we are to never be a master over any. We only have one Lord, and therefore I cannot Lord it over any. Christianity is a great leveling field. For in Christ we have no nationalities, no gender, and no social class distinctions. All are one in him. Our Lord calls us to serve him, by serving others.

No matter what I am called to do. Whether it be to preach. To write. To teach. To encourage another. To pray for someone. To counsel or sit with another and hear their story. To share the Good news that we have in Christ Jesus. I am to do it within the framework of serving the other. For its only through doing this, that indeed we will truly become the master of none!

Till I reach My Home


Zambia1By Fernando Ortega

 

I have wandered; I have questioned the pain I have known in my life
When anger has blinded my eyes from seeing what is right
He has held me and carried me through the night

 

 

Through the years of my life
Through the changes, He’s never left me alone
So all the days of my life, I will follow Him
Till I reach my home; Till I reach my home

 

There is coming a morning when sorrow and shame will cease
God’s children who’ve suffered forever will live in peace
But until then, I will wait for Him on my knees

 

A lovely song by Fernando Ortega. I first heard this song just after it had been released in 2004 and it has been an anthem for my heart. Today as I meditate on the goodness of the Lord, I found myself singing it over and over again. Over the past few years, Fernando Ortega has risen to critical and popular prominence as a singer-songwriter of great depth and creativity. He is a storyteller, worship leader, artist and vocalist of unparalleled talent. He has been described by critics as gifted, engaging and refreshingly original.

Gen 28:15 – I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

 

Psalm 31:19 – How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. Yes like Abraham Lincoln I can say – this is the hope that shall sustain me till life’s pilgrimage be past; Fears may vex, and troubles pain me,
I shall reach my home at last.

Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, “I don’t know how I could ever get through this.” Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 ). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

In His time, He makes all things beautiful


By Diane Ball

In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord, please show me every day,
As You’re teaching me Your way,
That You do just what You say, in Your time.

In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring.
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will grant you the desires of your heart” ~Psalms 37:4

This morning I woke up in such overwhelming thankfulness and in awe of God’s provision and hand in our lives. Reflecting on our lives with Enid, and the past few weeks, we are constantly reminded of God’s providence. Indeed our hearts testify that He has brought us this far by His grace; He has led us by fire and by cloud, Our God will surely bring us to Zion to look on His face.

In these past months, God has sheltered us under His wings and we can testify that He planned every path that we’ve trod to bring us to Zion, His praises to sing, O blessed, O blessed be God. Yes,through many dangers, toils, and snares we have already come; ’ but it is grace hath brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.

In his time, He makes all things beautiful. And He has colored our world with beauty of blessings long-awaited. Along the journey, He has taught us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. He has taught us that we cannot take God’s promises and edit them to suit ourselves. Yes, he will grant us the desires of our hearts, but there is a condition – Only is own time and we must delight ourselves in him.

All things beautiful is our theme and we are learning to find beauty and hope in everyday life. God knew why He brought Enid my way. I thank my Lord for this lady in my life every day and may the Lord’s name continually be praised for His wisdom and providence that caused our paths to cross at the time they did. Hence forth our lives are intertwined forever. Like the Shunammite woman, Enid has not allowed the circumstances to change what we know is true. My heart has fainted a number of times, but my hope has been anchored on the Lord through her encouragement. There have been moments when praying is hard in the face of calamities. One thing through it all has been the words of the Shunammite – “All is well”. This is because we understand that God will make a way, where there seems to be no way. John 16:33 is an appropriate scripture for the moment. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Therefore, dear friends, when faced with challenges, may you find comfort in trusting God and acknowledging the reality of the situation you are experiencing. One exaltation – do not surrender to the context, rather trust in God’s power to master the context. Do not allow this temporal experiential reality to change your testimony. Hold on to the truths of God’s words in your hands. That He who begun a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it in you.

Through it all, He has taught us that to delight ourselves in Him is to surrender our will for his perfect purpose and let our heart’s desires conform to his will. We are still learning, but we have come a good way and are happy to share our lessons along the way.

From Strenth to Strength – An extract from Pilgrims’ progress – Chapter 8


Passing throughPsalm 84: 7-  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

This is a chapter of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” through the valley of Baca, of which this beautiful psalm is a picture. It is the story of the life of trust, and its two keynotes are the fifth and twelfth verses of the psalm, “LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84:12) ” Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:5). To him the valley of Baca, the valley of weeping, at once becomes a well of living waters, and every low and dry place a pool for the heavenly rain to fill with floods of deeper blessing; and drinking from the living waters the pilgrims go “from strength to strength,” and all at last go home, for “every one of them in Zion appears before God.”

“From strength to strength!” But there is a previous chapter, from weakness to strength. For man is naturally the weakest creature in the universe. He comes into life with the wail of a helpless infant, weaker than the tiger’s cub or the birdling in its nest. But his physical frailty is but a figure of his spiritual helplessness. When we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” But the grace of God in the conversion of the soul brings its first spiritual strength, enabling it to choose and trust the Lord, to turn from sin and walk in holy obedience. Then it sings the new song, “In that day you will say: “I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:1-2).

Very strong is the new-born trust and love of the converted soul; very strong its purpose, its joy and its holy enthusiasm. It truly seems as if it never could be tempted to doubt or disobey, and, like Peter, it is ready to cry, “Though all men should deny you, yet will I never deny you.” And God meets us on this plane and helps our strength, although He has something far better for us further on. Speaking to such a heart in the forty-first of Isaiah and the ninth verse, He says, “You are my servant; I have chosen you, and not cast you away.” It is the experience of the soul that has just come to God. And then He adds, “Do not fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”

These last three clauses describe three very distinct experiences of our early Christian life. The first comes when we begin to feel our strength insufficient and cry to God for increased strength, and He strengthens us. It is the old kind of strength, but He gives us more of it. But soon even this is not sufficient, and, as we still sink, He comes and adds His help to our strength. “I will help you,” He says. It is now the strengthened heart with the strong Lord helping. But still you will notice that we are in front and not the Lord. It is our battle, and He is simply reinforcing us with His auxiliaries. But now a greater crisis comes. Even this is not sufficient, and we sink in the conflict and are ready to fall in utter exhaustion and discouragement, when lo! our Mighty Helper comes upon the field Himself, takes the battle in His own almighty hands, lifts up our sinking form as a mother would a babe, bids us no longer to stand even in His help, but takes us bodily in His arms and carries us with His own almighty strength as He cries, “Yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.” Oh, that is from strength to strength! From our own strength to His increased strength, and now from even this to the absolute all-sufficiency of God Himself.

Now we notice in the vivid imagery of the prophet a sudden and complete change upon the battlefield, and looking round, we find that all our foes have already fled before His face. Our almighty Captain has taken the field, and “lo! all they that were incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded, and they that strive with you shall perish. Thou shalt seek them and not find them, even them that contended with you; they that war against you shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.”

In the third chapter of Revelation we see the little church of Philadelphia going through something like this experience. “Thou hast a little strength,” the Master says, “and hast kept my word and not denied my name.” But in the tenth verse we find a mightier strength coming to the faithful in Philadelphia. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience I also will keep you.” It is God’s keeping now, not our own; and in the twelfth verse it reached its climax. The one who had “a little strength” has now become “a pillar,” with strength enough not only to uphold its own weight, but to support the edifice under which it stands. But when Philadelphia becomes a pillar its own individuality passes away, and it becomes identified with God Himself, for He says, “I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of Heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my new name.” This is not now mere human strength, but the strength of Jehovah.

We have now got to the great theme which we desire to impress as the Lord enables us.

  1. It is divine, not human strength, and it is strength which is wholly divine and in no sense or measure human. It is an exchange of strength in which we have surrendered all our fancied power and received instead the divine power and enabling. This glorious exchange of strength is vividly set forth in the animated language of the sublime Isaiah, chapter xl: “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord shall exchange their strength.” That is to say, the strongest human strength, the manhood of young men, the vigor and vitality of youth, shall be wholly inadequate for the exigencies of Christian life and conflict, and it is not until these have failed that God has room to display the resources of His omnipotence. When we become “faint,” then He giveth His power, and when we have “no might,” then He “increaseth strength,” that is; gives yet more because of our utter helplessness. Waiting on the Lord, we let our strength go and take His instead, and so renew or exchange our strength.

    A simple figure may help to illustrate the thought. Look at that man trying to ford a river, and with all his might struggling with the deep flood, and, by dint of tremendous physical exertions, stemming its mighty waters, and panting and exhausted reaching the other shore. That is strength matched with the strength of the elements. But look at another. Wading out a little distance into the deep flood by the exercise of his own strength, he now lets go, and falls and sinks upon the bosom of the river. Lo! it bears him without a struggle and carries him down in its swift current. He has let go his strength, and he is now carried by the strength of the stream.

    So there are many of us who are trying to ford the stream by our own strong will and efforts. There is a sweeter way, by ceasing from our strength and falling into the mighty current of God’s infinite life and love and being borne by a power superior to ours without a struggle. Many people never reach their true development until their difficulties become so great that they break down in the struggle and fall into the arms of God. This is what the apostle meant when he exclaimed, “I take pleasure in infirmities; when I am weak then am I strong.” And this was but an echo of the Master’s own assurance, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

    Beloved, have you exchanged your strength for the Lord’s? Have you gone “from strength,” that is yours, “to strength,” that is the strength divine?

  2. It is strength for a higher spiritual plane. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” It is a strength which enables us to mount to a higher element of life and communion with God. It brings us into the divine life and raises us up to dwell in heavenly places with Christ. It resists and overcomes the natural direction of earth, to draw us downward, and, like the buoyant wing of the fowls of the firmament, it bears us and holds us on high, in a calm and heavenly atmosphere where the world lies beneath our feet, and we are lifted above the things which once encompassed and entangled us. We are not now fighting the wild waves, but flying far above them in another element. The mightiest human strength cannot lift us up to this. Only the strong pinions of the Heavenly Dove can bear us aloft to, and hold us supremely in, this heavenly region. This is God’s true deliverance from most of our troubles; not to change them, but to rise above them. Oh, how we need these seasons of spiritual elevation and heavenly inspiration to strengthen us for the practical sphere of common life, and enable us to “run and not be weary,” and to “walk and not faint.”

    Yes, we need these times of waiting,
    When their strength our souls renew:
    Drinking at the heavenly fountain,
    Bathing in the heavenly dew;
    Yes, we need these heights of rapture,
    When we mount on eagles’ wings,
    Then returning to earth’s duties,
    All our heart exultant springs.
    Oh, how every labor lightens!
    As with swift divine constraint,
    We can “run and not be weary,”
    We can walk and never faint.

  3. Strength for the practical duties of life. For they that thus “renew their strength” “shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” It is not all for heights of rapture or hours of vision, but these experiences reach their true fruition in the consecration of our common life and the triumph of faith and patience in the routine of daily duty. This is the pathway where we have often to run the strong race of peculiar difficulty, strenuous exertion and sudden and severe emergency, but God’s strength does not grow weary under the most extreme tests. Then there are the long protracted strains, the almost interminable delays, the endless minutiae of trial, irritation and care, that need the sustained strength which holds on its way and carries us through all the details of life’s experiences as victoriously as through its greater battlefields. These are the things that exhaust mere human strength, but the strength of God can “walk and not faint.” Beloved, have we thus exchanged our strength and are we victoriously pursuing our onward way with calm victorious spirit, unwearied and unfainting?
  4. It is strength to “withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand.” Dr. Mackay of Hull once said that Isaiah had left out one of the things which God’s strength enables us to do, for it is harder to run than to fly, and harder to walk than to run, but there is something harder than walking, and that is to stand. Now Paul has supplied this omission, if it be one, in his superb picture of the Christian conqueror in the sixth chapter of Ephesians. This chapter, by the way, is the very chapter of the life that has mounted up with wings as eagles and is dwelling on high. Its keynote is, “Dwelling in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” and, like the picture in Isaiah, the apostle ends with a very practical conclusion. The outcome of all this strength is to “put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand in the evil day and having done all to stand.” This is the only strength which will enable you to stand. The sooner we discover the better, that the strongest of us is no match for Satan, and that our highest and holiest resolutions will be surely broken and our souls trodden down in defeat and despair beneath our conqueror’s scornful feet, unless we meet our spiritual foes in the very presence and power of Jesus.

    For this is just what all this picture means. The shield of faith is the faith of God; the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, wielded by the Holy Ghost within us; the very prayer in which we are to overcome is to be prayed in the Spirit; the armor is the armor of God; the strength is to “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” In a word, it is to confront the devil with the living God within us and so possessing us that the battle is not ours but God’s, and the enemy, from the beginning, understands that he has challenged, not a poor unequal man, but his own Almighty Conqueror, the Son of God. This is to be “more than conqueror through Him that loved us;” this is to say, “Thanks be unto God who always leadeth us in triumph through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  5. It is strength to endure. Let us read attentively Col. i: 11. “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” Here is one of the advanced stations of the pilgrim’s progress “from strength to strength.” We may well pause and ask if we have reached this place of strength. Is this then the goal of Pentecost? Is this the great objective point contemplated by the mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost? Is this the meaning of the power from on high? “Strengthened with all might according to His glorious power!” One would surely look for a sublimer battlefield to follow such a splendid parade of the armies of God. But lo! we behold an entirely different spectacle. A solitary soldier on an obscure and weary pathway, battling with a thousand petty hardships, difficulties and trials, or standing through all the day of battle without a single opportunity of advancing, and seemingly called to nothing else but to stand under the fire of the enemy and to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” His whole business seems to be “patience and longsuffering;” the first, with reference to the trials which God is pleased to send upon him; the second, the annoyances and injuries of men. Ah! these are the very things human strength cannot endure. Many a brave man can stand under a cannon’s fire more calmly than he can endure the taunts of a fellow creature. The highest victory of the Son of God was, that, “when He was reviled He reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not:” and the mightiest triumphs of the strength of God in us are realized when we can receive the hiding of our Father’s face and even the weight of His mighty hand without a doubt or murmur, and accept the misconceptions, opprobriums, reproaches and wrongs of our fellow men, not only with longsuffering, but with joyfulness; not only unruffled and unretaliating, but sweetly realizing and fully believing that they are to us the pledges of some richer blessing from our heavenly Father, and the guarantees of something so glorious that we cannot but thank God for giving us the opportunity of thus winning another blessing.

    Beloved, have we any room for progress here “from strength to strength”?

  6. It is strength that carries us in victory through the whole range of our Christian experience with all its extremes, and enables us to say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” The apostle had tested it in the heights and depths of human circumstances and found it equal to all vicissitudes, variations and exigencies. The force of his glorious confession lies in the “all things.” Human strength can accomplish some things, but the strength of God is equally adequate for all. It is equal in its uniformity, immutability, unvariableness. Over every opening morning it inscribes the promise, “As your day so shall your strength be.” It has such an infinite reserve of all-sufficiency that we need not question whether our strength is adequate to the duty. All we need to know is, does God require it? for if He does He will abundantly enable us. The great ships of ocean, and especially the ships of today, are scarcely affected by the storms or the elements. They are so strong that they move on with equal facility through the glassy sea or the rolling waves. The strength of God in a human life will carry it thus steadily through all life’s changes.

    “Calm as the ray of sun or star,
    Which storms assail in vain,
    Moving unruffled through life’s war,
    The eternal calm to gain.”

  7. It is strength which enables us to receive Christ’s indwelling in all its fullness, and to enter into all the meaning of His mystical life. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

    The apostle is speaking here of the indwelling of God in the heart; “That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God,” is the crowning statement of this great truth and experience. This is possible in a measure “exceeding abundantly above” all that we are enabled to ask or think. It is to be realized through Christ dwelling in our hearts, and Christ’s indwelling will bring us into an experience of love in which we shall know and comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth of His love which passeth knowledge. But this indwelling of Christ is to come through simple faith. Now all this looks extremely easy on paper and in theory, but the apostle tells us that in order to enter into it we must be “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” This divine filling requires a vessel that can hold it, and a vessel supernaturally strengthened. You cannot put a charge of dynamite or a hundred-pound shot into a pocket pistol or a vessel of clay. You want the mightiest ordnance, the strongest barrel and breech, to bear the enormous strain of so much concentrated power. And God has to prepare us as the vessels of His power, and, in order to do so, He must take us out of our own strength into the strength of Christ. Our mere natural capacities cannot receive Jesus. The loftiest intellect, the strongest brain, is unequal to this experience; but the humblest capacity, when strengthened by the Holy Ghost, may know God as no angel ever knew Him, and exult in His immeasurable love, as only His loved ones can.

    And even after we have received Christ’s indwelling through the Holy Ghost enabling us, there are depths and heights in “all the fullness of God” in which we more perfectly enter, in proportion as we allow the Holy Ghost to fit us for the deeper and higher experience. This is often what our severest trials are meant for, to give to our spirit a vigor and capacity which will enable us to rise to a higher place in the fellowship.

  8. It is strength which is established and perfected by spiritual discipline. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Pet. v: 20). Every new experience of Christ’s grace must be confirmed by some new discipline in the school of trial, and even after we have come to know God as “the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory,” we must suffer a while, that even this knowledge and experience of His grace may be established, strengthened, settled.

And so we are ever passing on “from strength to strength,” and finding, like the giant oak, that the wildest tempests, instead of tearing us from our foundation, only plant us deeper and root us the more securely to the Rock of Ages.

 

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