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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 40:31’

 

The eagle that soars in the upper air

does not worry itself how it is to cross rivers.

—Gladys Aylward

 

That’s a worthy quote to keep on file, don’t you think? I love the imagery of flying high through life close to God, the One who empowers us to traverse challenge.

But I wonder, who is this Gladys Aylward? Author? Teacher? Did she soar in the upper air? What rivers of challenge did she have to navigate?

A bit of research revealed that Gladys’ life began in the challenging river of the working class in London, 1902. By age fourteen she had to leave school and become a maid, to help support the family.

Two events changed her course, however. One, Gladys met Jesus at a revival meeting, and two, she became impassioned about China, after hearing a pastor speak of several missionaries who worked there.

 

(Millworker in Henan, China, 1930)

 

Gladys’ thoughts turned toward China frequently and to the millions of people who had never heard about Jesus. She longed to be one of those to tell them, so she applied to the China Inland Mission.

Gladys was turned down. They said she didn’t have the aptitude or education necessary to learn such a difficult language as Chinese.

The rejection was a deep disappointment, but it did not stop her. She spent four years working extra hours, scrimping and saving every possible pence from her meager wages, in order to pay her own passage.

During that fourth year, word reached Gladys that an elderly widow missionary, Jennie Lawson in Yancheng, China, was in need of a helper.

Several months later, in October of 1932, she set out on the dangerous, weeks-long journey through Europe and Russia, mostly by train. (Passage aboard a ship would have provided a shorter, safer trip, but train travel was cheaper.)

 

 

When Gladys finally arrived, she found Jennie—not directing an established mission, but living alone in a ramshackle inn. Within a year, however, Jennie, Gladys, and their Chinese cook and friend, Yang, had completed the needed repairs.

The two missionaries were finally able to host the mule drivers who caravanned through Yancheng, transporting their various wares.  In the evenings, Jennie told Bible stories to the guests.

It wasn’t long before Gladys was also telling the stories. She learned Chinese quite readily while conversing with Yang and the muleteers—a feat she later called one of God’s miracles.

 

(Gladys Aylward)

 

No sooner did their situation become secure than Jennie fell, and died several days later. Gladys couldn’t sustain the inn on her own. But God made provision for her to stay. The Mandarin of the area offered Gladys a job, inspecting women’s feet!

 

(foot-binding shoes)

 

A law had been passed in China forbidding the ancient custom of binding girls’ feet in order to keep them dainty and small. The practice also caused lameness and pain. Gladys accepted the position, eager for the opportunities it would offer to tell people about Jesus.

But life still did not settle down into a comfortable, peaceful routine, as Gladys faced a number of seemingly impossible situations. And she soared over them all with God.

When a prison riot occurred, the Mandarin sent for Gladys—all 4’ 10” of her—to settle the inmates. God gave her the wherewithal (in spite of her fear) to command attention, ask a representative of the prisoners to explain the reasons for the riot, and then act as liaison with the prison guards to improve conditions.

 

 

In 1937, the war between Japan and China grew into a full-scale conflict. Gladys became a spy for her Chinese countrymen. Her foreign status gave Gladys the ability to cross into Japanese-controlled areas. When they became aware of Gladys’ espionage activities, a bounty was posted for her capture—dead or alive.

One time, Gladys narrowly escaped the bullets of her Japanese pursuers. As she hid in some bushes, Gladys used her padded coat as protection, wadding it up like a shield.

But the day came, she had to seek sanctuary elsewhere.  It was not just her life that was in danger; Gladys was concerned for the orphans who now lived with her at the inn.

She chose to flee to a government orphanage at Sian. When word spread through the community of her plan, other orphans were brought to her, so they too could escape the war zone. Soon 100 children had gathered for the trek—mostly four to eight years of age.

 

 

They walked through the mountains for twelve days—on rough, little-used trails where they could remain hidden. Some nights they spent with welcoming hosts; other nights they slept on the mountainsides. Most of their cloth shoes wore out before they reached Sian.

Miraculously, all of them arrived safe and sound, except Gladys, who was suffering from typhus and pneumonia and collapsed into a coma. She almost died, but did finally recover.

And as soon as she could, Gladys returned to what she loved: helping others in need and telling everyone about Jesus.

Gladys Aylward certainly proved she knew how to soar in the upper air, with God as her strength. And he did indeed carry her across many rivers.

Postscript:  Among the many that accepted Jesus into their lives as the result of Gladys’ efforts, was the Mandarin of Yancheng.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

May I also soar, O God, resting in the confidence that you will never leave me or forsake me. You have promised to be my Helper. May I focus on you, my loving and powerful God, and not my circumstances, because you are the Lord of every situation. 

(Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 13:5-6; Ephesians 1:11)

 

(Some of you may recognize Gladys’ story. It became the basis for a movie in 1958, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.)

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/gladys-aylwards-impossible-mission-to-china-11630754.html
  2. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/73.html
  3. http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/gladys-aylward
  4. https://urbana.org/blog/gladys-aylward

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.org;  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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How would you fill in the following blank?

 

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by _______________.

 

Pop psychologists might tell us that inner strength comes from:

  • Positive thinking,
  • Surrounding ourselves with uplifting, encouraging people, and
  • Appreciating our individual personality traits and abilities.

Their ideas aren’t wrong (The Bible even supports these steps in Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and Psalm 139:14); it’s just they’re leaving out the most important steps.

Turn to Nehemiah 8:10 and we learn:

 

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Our hearts are strengthened by JOY.

 

 I like the phrasing of GOD’S WORD Translation:  “The joy you have in the LORD is your strength.”  (Emphasis added.)

We have access to God’s effervescent joy because Jesus offers it (John 15:11). The question is, do we avail ourselves? Will we allow our thoughts to spiral around our problems, or will we train our thoughts to focus on God—his glorious attributes and wonderful deeds? It’s the latter, of course, that produces joy.

 

Our hearts are strengthened by HOPE (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Hope becomes confidence, confidence becomes strength. Part of the process is to affirm God’s many promises—promises for:

  • His unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39),
  • A prosperous* future (Jeremiah 29:11),
  • Reliable guidance (Psalm 32:8),
  • Help—sometimes out of trouble, sometimes in the distress (Psalm 34:19), and
  • Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

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Think of it: Our hope is in a God of overwhelming love who has planned the future down to the minutest detail. He is our all-wise God, ready to guide us into that future, and he is all-powerful, fully capable of providing the help we need. In the end, our final destiny is secure; the victory over death has already been won.

Do you feel your hope strengthened? That’s just a smidgen of what he’s guaranteed!

To embrace the promises in faith is not to ignore reality and live in a shell of denial. It means to view reality through a faith-lens, faith in the all-inclusive capability of our God.

 

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(“The permanence of God’s character

guarantees the fulfillment of his promise.”

–A. W. Pink (1886-1952, British Bible teacher)

 

But we still have not filled in the blank from the beginning of this post:

 

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by…

 

 GRACE.” (Hebrews 13:9).

 

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Why? Because God’s grace encompasses the full spectrum of his qualities, including joy and hope– each one contributing to our strength of spirit.

Just as brilliant white is the presence of all colors, God’s grace is the brilliant totality of all he is and does.

 

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To grow strong of heart, we need to:

  • Revel in the abundant life he provides.
  • Breathe deep the promises of God.
  • Immerse ourselves in his encouraging Word.
  • Bask in the many facets of his grace.

__________________________________________________

 

I praise you, Father, for your never-failing, all-pervasive grace that strengthens my heart as I turn my attention to you. How thrilling to realize your grace will only grow more delightful as the years pass, renewing me day by day, until I dwell in your house forever!

 

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(Psalm 73:26; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Psalm 23:6)

 

* A prosperous future with God has nothing to do with monetary blessing and everything to do with a contentedness of heart, soundness of spirit, and perfect peace.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (3); http://www.twitter.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.)

 

 

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(A conversation between God and me)

 

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GOD: In quietness and trust is your strength.* 

Me: Wait a minute, Lord. I don’t understand. Quietness and trust result in strength?  How can such static activities result in power?

GOD: Let’s analyze the key words of that statement I first spoke to Isaiah.

Quietness is the atmosphere within a tranquil, peaceful spirit where agitation and turmoil are not allowed access.

Me: How do I keep out agitation and turmoil, God?

GOD: Keep your spirit filled to the brim with other thoughts: 1) praise and gratitude, 2) scripture truth and promises, 3) memories of how I’ve guided you and provided for you in the past, and, of course, 4) prayer (Philippians 4:4-8, Psalm 119:15-16; Psalm 105:5a).

You can even thank me for the circumstances that are threatening your peace right now, because they are turning you towards me and accomplishing my purpose (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When your spirit is filled with these things, there will be no room for agitation or turmoil.

Me: I know you’re right, Father. But sometimes it’s so hard to stay focused on the positive while negative thoughts shout at me.

GOD: I know, Child.  Be mindful that many people of faith before you have fought the same fight. Remember King Jehoshophat? He and the people of Israel faced war with strong neighboring tribes. And in his prayer for deliverance, Jehoshophat said: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Me: What did King Jehoshophat mean when he said, “Our eyes are upon you?”

GOD: That’s a word picture for trust. He and the people of Israel were not looking to their own tactics or their own power to overcome. They looked to me—the Omniscient One—for wisdom on how to proceed. They looked for me—the All-Powerful One—to intercede on their behalf.

Trust is total confidence in the integrity, ability and good character of another. I am your most trustworthy Ally, just as I was for King Jehoshophat. No matter what uncertainty you may face, I am with you, working for you and enabling you to cope.

Keep your attention focused on me, not your circumstances, by:

  • Affirming my attributes—attributes like sovereignty, omnipotence, grace, and perfect love,
  • Naming your blessings—including those occasions when I’ve interceded for you and bestowed gifts you didn’t even ask for, and
  • Remembering how I’ve guided you, especially when you weren’t aware until hindsight gave you a clearer view.

Did you notice? The same strategies that quiet your spirit also expand your trust.

Me: Yes, I see how serenity and trust are intertwined. As I quiet my spirit, trust has an opportunity to develop. As trust flourishes, my spirit grows all the more tranquil.   But how do these two qualities of quietness and trust result in strength?

GOD: Strength of spirit includes power to endure stress and resist attack. It is developed by: persevering with calm patience, looking forward with expectant hope, affirming what you know in order to withstand doubt and worry, and declaring trust in spite of circumstances.

My desire is for you to become like the eagle, allowing the winds of storm to lift you higher on the wind of my Spirit (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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Me: I praise you, Oh God, for your ability to take the storms of life and use them to develop my strength. Remind me to choose quiet rest in your loving care and confident trust in your powerful competence. “In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:12).  Hallelujah!

 

*Isaiah 30:15 NIV

 

Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.christianquotes.info.

 

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Back in the early 60s when I was a young teen, Dad took me to an Artur Rubenstein concert. For those of you too young to recognize that name, Mr. Rubenstein was a well-known pianist of the last century.

You’d think a thirteen-year old would be bored at a classical performance. Far from it. Mr. Rubenstein’s flying fingers held me spellbound. Sometimes he’d even come up off the bench, putting body and soul into the piece.

One selection in particular Dad and I will never forget. While performing “Ritual Fire Dance” by DeFalla, Mr. Rubenstein’s arms beat up and down like hummingbird wings, from head level to keyboard, in rapid succession. How could he possibly bring his fingers down to the right keys from such a height and at such speed? It was a marvel of power and precision—from a man who was seventy-five at the time.

(You can access a video of Mr. Rubinstein playing “Ritual Fire Dance” here:  https://youtu.be/3SDeN9ZrRRI.  To view just the DeFalla piece, skip ahead to minute #11; to see just the portion described above, skip to 11 minutes, 30 seconds.)

Yes, older folks can still fly—maybe not physically like Mr. Rubenstein’s fingers, but certainly attitudinally and spiritually.

 

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Our youth can be renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:5).

The eagle enjoys a long life compared to many other animals–up to thirty years in the wild and fifty years in captivity. Each year its feathers are renewed, providing new strength for flight.

We can renew our strength attitudinally by focusing on the benefits of growing older.

Yes, research has uncovered a number of advantages, including:

  • Improved self-esteem, self-control, and selflessness.
  • Decreased sadness, anger, fear, and other negative emotions. Stress and worry also decline.
  • Less concern for the trivial; more focus on what’s important.
  • Increased wisdom, due to a wide base of experience and a broader perspective on life.
  • Less attention on the negative, more focus on the positive.

As a Christian senior, I’d have to add:

  • Increased faith in God as I’ve seen more evidence of God’s faithfulness.
  • Greater appreciation for the simpler things of life—each one a precious gift from my loving Heavenly Father.
  • The glorious hope of heaven as it grows closer to becoming reality.  John Newton said:

 

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(“I am still in the land of the dying;

I shall be in the land of the living soon.”)

I like his perspective.

We can also renew our strength spiritually with the help of God.

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Just as the eagle rides on the wind high above the earth, we too can ride above our infirmities on the wind of the Spirit. He provides renewal of faith, strength, and passion in numerous ways—through scripture, song, other biblical reading, strong teaching, mature Christians, and more. Then we can:

  • flourish and be fruitful (Psalm 92:14).
  • stand firm and immovable (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • always give ourselves fully to God’s work (same verse).
  • run and not be weary (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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Here’s an idea:  Let’s start a list of advantages we observe in growing older, to help keep us uplifted on wings of praise.

What “blessings of aging” have you noticed? Please share in the comments section below. (If you’re still enjoying the first half of life, tell us what you’ve observed in others, or what you’re looking forward to.)

 

“The last chapter in life can be the best!” – Vance Havner

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.freeimages.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wildlifeworkshops.com; http://www.pinterest.com.

 

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Those of us who believe in Jesus are on a faith journey.

Sometimes we fly.

He carries us on eagles’ wings.

 

 

One example from scripture is God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  He said, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4).

The Israelites had done nothing to secure their release from Pharaoh.   God caused the plagues, God opened the Red Sea for the Israelites’ escape, and God destroyed the Egyptian army.

Moses and his sister, Miriam, sang a song to the Lord, to celebrate their deliverance.

 

 

“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?  Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).

Has your heart soared on the euphoria of an awesome and glorious miracle?

We have.  A number of times.  One day D. called to announce she wanted to buy us a car.  Arrangements were made with a dealership; all we had to do was go and pick one out.

“Oh–and get leather seats,” she insisted.  “They’re so much more comfortable.”

Can you imagine?  What an incredible blessing!  Our hearts soared for weeks on that miracle.   Even now, more than thirteen years later, that car is a constant reminder of God’s supernatural provision.  (Yes, it’s still running smoothly!) Through D., God proved unequivocally his love and power.

Sometimes we soar; sometimes we runon supernatural strength.

We feel the supernatural power of the Spirit coursing through our veins, providing strength and passion for the task at hand.  It is a spontaneous sprint, energized by omnipotent God.

New Christians are often empowered for a running start in their burgeoning faith. Eagerly they soak up Bible knowledge in small groups and personal Bible study.

In other cases, God places a special call on someone’s life to fulfill a need.  And with the call comes supernatural strength to meet the challenge.

That’s what happened to J.B.  God infused him with a passion to upgrade the sound system of our church.  Night after night, he worked at rewiring the sanctuary.  Much of that time was spent climbing about in the rafters.  This after working each day at his business.

When I asked J.B. about exhausting himself, he assured me  he was having fun!  He didn’t feel worn out at all.  God was giving him the strength to complete the project.

Yes, it’s exhilarating to fly on eagles’ wings of miracles and run on supernatural strength.  But…

…most of the time on our faith journey, we walk.

Step by step.  Choice by choice.  Slowly approaching the destination—the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).  Sometimes the path is uphill and rocky.  We strain with effort to make progress.  Some days the path is winding, and we cannot see ahead.

Yet in spite of struggle and uncertainty, the walk can still bring much pleasure to the heart.  “Blessed are those…who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord” (Psalm 89:15).  You see, we do not walk alone.  The Company we keep makes all the difference.

Walking in faith involves plenty of ordinary tasks and days without miracles. Children to care for.  Laundry to do.  Meals to cook.  Calls to make.   Students to teach.  Sales to close.

But!  Whatever needs to be accomplished, we can walk through it and not collapse under the repetition and frustration.  How?  By inviting God to walk with us.

 

 

Years ago, when our three children were young, my life was a routine of laundry, cleaning, cooking, errands, and child care.  I was not one of those mothers who derived great fulfillment from these tasks.  Instead of walking joyfully through each day,  I often plodded.

Then I came across Colossians 3:23-24.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

In the margin of my Bible, next to those verses, I wrote, “including housework!”  I wanted Who I served to be more important than what I was doing.  Plodding didn’t end once and for all, but I learned to walk at a believer’s pace more frequently, as I invited God to cook, clean, and launder with me!

Those verbs–soar, run, and walk–are found in Isaiah 40:31, in that order:

 

 

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Perhaps soaring is first because  the euphoric wonder of flying on eagle’s wings seizes our attention with intensity.

Running is second.  Adrenalin runs high during spurts of divinely inspired growth and service.

And walking is last.  Did God save the most important until the end?  Because it’s in the persevering that we become strong.  It’s in the trusting  that our faith grows deep.  And it’s in practicing his presence that we learn consistency of character.

So revel in occasional soaring.  Rejoice in periodic  running.  But take deep satisfaction in the day-by-day walk on the paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3).

 

“Come…let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5)!

(photo credits:  www.betterphoto.com; http://www.linksterdiversions.blogspot.com; http://www.BlackburnNews.com; http://www.foxnews.com; http://www.photobucket.som/user/jamiesolome/media.com; http://www.faithgateway.com; http://www.pinterest.com)

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