Strength for the Journey

I like to look for parables of God’s kingdom in the world around me; elements of eternal truths being lived out in temporal ways. If you watch carefully, you can see this happening all the time. This plays a big part of how I write a message for a funeral service; taking those visible signs of God’s grace in the lives of the saints and using them to demonstrate God’s providential care. God’s truth, His word, is the very fabric of creation, and by His Word all of creation is held together. It should come as no surprise, then, that His word is woven into the lives of His people.

I’m writing this in Colorado, as we are making our way to the funeral service for my wife’s grandmother, Lois Crow. I have a lot of great memories of Grandma Crow, but there is one in which I see vividly a parable of God’s gracious provision for His people.

When Christi and I were first married, I worked for Sterling College in the admissions office, recruiting students from Western Kansas and Colorado. In the fall I would travel up and down the eastern range of the mountains, visiting high schools, making house calls, and doing all I could to promote my alma mater.

There was one tour in Colorado where I found myself near Grandma Crow’s house for an evening before a series of College Fairs along the I-25 corridor. Graciously, Grandma Crow welcomed me into her home for the evening, visited late into the night, then promised a warm breakfast for the next day.

Normally when I was on the road for College Fairs, my breakfasts consisted of coffee and whatever I could grab on the way out of the hotel lobby. Not this morning. I was woken to the aroma of bacon wafting into my room, and when I came to the table for breakfast, my first thought was, “Who else will be joining us today?”

Grandma had made bacon, eggs, pancakes, toast, and coffee. As I’d clean my plate, she’d pour more food on. I don’t think she ever sat to eat with me, but just kept serving and serving. I ate so much I felt like I’d never have to eat again. And I didn’t eat for the rest of the day. I drove up and down the front range meeting with students, and never once did I even want to stop for a bite to eat. I was still full when I went to bed that night, and the next morning when I left my hotel, I had to convince myself to take something for breakfast on the road.

As I thought back on this story, I was reminded of the time when Elijah was fed by the angel of God. 1 Kings 19 tells of Elijah’s flight into the wilderness. He had just defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, but fearing for his life, he ran from the armies of Queen Jezebel. Thinking his life was over, the forces against him being too strong, he went into the wilderness to die.

In the midst of Elijah’s brokenness, an angel of the Lord came to him, and fed him three times, telling Elijah, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Elijah ate and was strengthened, and continued his journey to Horeb (40 days and nights of wandering), where he spoke with God on the mountain.

Isn’t that how God continues to provide for us? When we are at our weakest, God graciously comes to us, strengthening us with His presence, and encouraging us for our journey. Psalm 23 says He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies, and our cup overflows. Through the prophet Isaiah, God invites all who are thirsty to come to Him (Isa 55:1). Jesus even said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). When we place our faith in Christ, resting in and receiving Him as our Lord and Savior, our hearts are filled and never wanting. He cares for and provide for our every need, so that we need not look elsewhere for satisfaction. When we “feed” on Christ by faith, we will never be hungry again.

I like to think that Grandma’s breakfast that morning so many years ago was a parable, visible evidence of God’s invisible grace. As she fed and provided for my needs that day, Christ had also come to feed and provide for my every need. The journey before me that day was tough, but I was sufficiently fed and strengthened to face the task. The spiritual journey before me today is impossible in my own strength, but Christ has, by His grace, more than sufficiently fed and strengthened me for the task.

May you be strengthened in Christ for your journey today; and may your eyes be opened that you may see God’s truth being lived out before you!

Grace and Peace

Pastor Ethan

Strengthening Your Hand

“And Jonathon, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh,
and strengthened his hand in God.”
(1 Samuel 23:16)

My Bible reading plan has me reading from 1 and 2 Samuel these last few weeks, and, while I know I’ve read these books numerous times, it is amazing that I continue to find something new each time I read it.  This is one of the blessings of having the habit of regular Bible reading, picking up on something you might have missed before, or seeing it from a completely different perspective.

The passage above from 1 Sam 23 tells us that when David was hiding from Saul, Jonathon, Saul’s son, came to David and strengthened his hand.  That phrase, “he strengthened his hand,” has been stuck in my head for two weeks now.

On the surface, it’s clear what is meant here.  When you get the winning bid in  Pinocle and your partner passes you exactly what you need, that’s “strengthening your hand.”

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When you gain a tactical advantage, or get an increase in strength, you gain the upper hand, or get a stronger hand.  That I understand.

But what isn’t so clear is exactly how Jonathon when about strengthening David’s hand.

All we know is what Jonathon said to David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.” That’s all we’re told.

Since I read that passage, I prayed over and wrestled with that phrase, “strengthen his hand.” I wanted to try to get my head around it, to let it sink in.  I asked God, “show me what that means!”

And then God did.

I had a friend show up in the midst of a very busy week.  With he start of a new year of programing at the church, and more and more involvement with Presbytery responsibilities, I was feeling swamped.  I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, up early to run and pray, up late to read and pray.  The joy of ministry was dwindling, and it was beginning to show.

So my friend shows up, one who is closer than a brother, and he begins to invest in me, to strengthen me, and to encourage me.  He listened.  He gave wise counsel.  He asked me the tough questions about my prayer life and purity that need to be asked to keep me accountable.  But most of all, he reminded me of the grace that I have been called to proclaim.  He reminded me that I’m not just a herald of that grace, but a recipient of it as well.

Isn’t this what Jonathon did for David?  He showed up when David was downs, and reminded him of God’s promises.  He directed him to God, not to his own strength, not to his own resources.  Jonathon didn’t come to the cave at Horesh and say, “It’s not so bad!” There were no “Daily Affirmations” with Stuart Smalley there in the wilderness…

smalley

No, Jonathon simply directed David’s eyes, and heart, back to the word of God.  God had made a promise to David, had anointed him and poured out his Spirit upon him. All Jonathon had to do was return David to his foundation in God, the source of real courage and strength.

This is how Jonathon ministered to David.  This is how my friend ministered to me.  As we were praying, I thanked God that he showed me personally what it meant that Jonathon strengthened David’s hand in the Lord.  It means having a brother who will encourage, bless, and challenge you.  It means having someone who will speak into your life a word of grace and hope.  It means being reminded of God’s promises in your own life so that you can find the strength to move forward.

I cannot stress what a blessing it is to have someone in your life like Jonathon was for David – a source of strength and encouragement in the Lord.  I encourage you to be that person for someone today – call them up, listen and encreuage them, be the one to strengthen their hand in the Lord.  And also seek out someone in your life who can do that for you.  Invite someone to hold you accountable, to ask you the tough questions, and to remind you of God’s goodness and grace toward you in Jesus.  May you have that God-given friend who will always be directing you to God.

SDG