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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Strength’

 

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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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Nearly every morning I make myself exercise. I hate it.  All that huffing and puffing, and muscles crying out, “Stop! You’re hurting me!” Add to that the boredom factor.

What I do like are the results. My body feels strong. I can still hop up the stairs, lift our toddler granddaughter with relative ease, and get up from a squat without leverage.

I like the increased energy, and the elevated metabolism, too.

But one benefit I never considered until recently: improved balance.

When our muscles are strong, our bodies have an easier time maintaining balance. That means we can reduce the possibility of sprains, injured joints and back, or broken bones.

Three factors contribute to good balance: Stability, strength, and flexibility.

However, it’s not just our bodies that require those three factors. Our spirits need those same characteristics:

  • Stability to handle disappointment and frustration,
  • Strength to endure loss and pain,
  • Flexibility to manage unpleasant surprises.

But how do we create balance in the abstract world of our spirits?

Just as there are many exercises to improve physical balance, there are numerous strategies that contribute to spiritual balance. For example:

  1. Stability can be enhanced by spending time with stable people. Get in the middle of a Christian support group, and allow them to hold you up with their prayer, concern, encouragement, and counsel. Look for members who demonstrate spiritual maturity and follow their example. 

Stability also grows as we spend time in God’s Word. Just as daily physical exercise is important to the body, so is daily reading and contemplation of the Bible. God’s truths and promises, His encouragement and direction, all contribute to our steadfastness of faith.

  1. Strength can be developed through praise and gratitude. Look for the positive things in your life, and you’ll find yourself experiencing joy.  Joy fosters strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Another strategy for building spiritual strength is to affirm God’s character.   He is sovereign, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Our Heavenly Father is trustworthy, good and loving. We can stand firm with such a God at our side and in the strength of his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

  1. Flexibility is needed when circumstances don’t meet our expectations. We have a choice when life takes a sudden turn down an unexpected pathway: 1) Fuss, fume, and balk or 2) Go with the flow and see where the pathway leads.

Kaye Arthur suggests: “Change the D of Disappointment to an H, and you have His Appointment.”* Such an attitude can relax the tension in our spirits, and prepare us to be flexible, to embrace the unknown.

Several years ago, I heard about an elderly resident of a senior citizen facility.  She was being transferred from the assisted-living apartments to the full-care center.

As the nurse wheeled her through the corridors, the senior saint said, “I just know I’m going to love it.”

The nurse exclaimed, “But Mrs. __________, how do you know? You’ve never seen the full-care section.”

The woman’s profound answer: “I’ve already decided I’m going to love it.”

Such an example of:

Stability—maintaining her emotional equilibrium in spite of circumstances.

Strength—determining ahead of time to look for the positive.

Flexibility—going with the flow to see where the pathway might lead.

Surely, such an attitude reflects trust in a gracious and powerful God, knowledge and application of God’s Word, and a positive attitude of contentment (Philippians 4:11).

If the spiritual stability, strength, and flexibility demonstrated by that elderly woman were transferred into physical traits, she’d be able to balance on one toe.  With her eyes closed.

I want to be like that woman in my spirit.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What strategies help you maintain spiritual balance?  Please add your experience and insight to the conversation below!

 

*His Imprint, My Expression, by Kay Arthur, p. 96.

Photo credit:  www.sparkpeople.com.

 

 

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Last Thursday we pondered these promises from Isaiah 58:11:

 “The Lord will guide you always,” and

“He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.”

 Today, more discoveries and encouragement await as we meditate upon the last two promises:

  • “[He] will strengthen your frame.”
  • “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Do you long for strength within your frame, that is, inner strength? Perhaps you’re moving as fast as you can, but never quite reaching the end of the to-do list. And you’re bone-weary from the effort.

Perhaps the stresses of life—difficult relationships, a high-pressure job, financial obligations—are squeezing in hard.

Perhaps boredom or depression surround you in a gray shroud, and you haven’t the energy to fight against them.

“He will strengthen your frame.”

But God doesn’t wave a magic wand over us and suddenly turn weakness into strength. Usually he invites us to be part of the process.   And his solutions are radical.

For example, celebrate anything and everything (Philippians 4:4).

 

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Take joy in:

  • Your cozy robe to ward off the morning chill.
  • That cute tuft of hair sticking up on your toddler’s head.
  • A parking place opening up when and where you need it.
  • Licking the stamp just as the mail carrier pulls up in her truck.
  • An earring lost last week turns up between the counter and stove this week.

You see, joy and strength are closely related. Ezra told the people of Israel, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Those five examples above, and thousands like them, are gifts from your Heavenly Father. “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

In the same way we can build up physical strength with exercise, we can build up spiritual strength with praise—by expressing gratitude and joy for every good and perfect gift.

And now, the last promise of this verse describes in metaphor the result of living according to God’s design.

“You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Visualize a flourishing garden, with rich, green plants overflowing with healthy, ripe produce.

Those can be descriptors of you and me.  We are:

  • Rich in God’s grace, which he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Ephesians 1:8).
  • Green and flourishing, because we spend time with the Master Gardener and allow him to cultivate our spirits (Psalm 1:2-3).
  • Healthy and prosperous of soul (v. 3). As we soak up God’s Word, we’ll produce actions and attitudes that honor God and bring us inner satisfaction.
  • Ripe and mature, lacking in nothing (James 1:3).

God offers us “a continual source of thirst-quenching, drought-ending, fruit-producing, spiritual hydration” (James MacDonald).

Doesn’t that sound refreshing?  Who could turn down such provision?

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for the precious assurances of these promises: 

  • You are leading me along the path you preordained before time began.
  • Every day of this earthly journey I can count on you to supply my needs.
  • Every day you provide fresh strength. One way is through the exercise of praise.  
  • As I spend time in your presence, I will be transformed–like a garden replenished by hydration. In fact, I can grow into your likeness with ever-increasing glory!

 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too lofty for me to attain.” Yet I know it to be true because these are truths from your reliable Word.  My heart overflows with wonder and gratitude.

(Psalm 139:16; Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 139:6)

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.anativegarden.blogspot.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.naturalearning.org.)

 

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