“I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from The Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121: 1-2 NIV)
This verse often comes to mind when I gaze upon this view from my deck overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I meditate on the psalmist’s words, I’m reminded that no matter what trial, circumstance, or temptation will come my way, I don’t have to face those challenges alone. I have a Helper who is perfect in his love, infinite in his wisdom, and sovereign in his control.
And yet, knowing that, I must admit that I often find myself trying to live the Christian life in my own strength – something none of us are equipped for or expected to do. The Lord reminded me of that earlier this year at the local Lowe’s Hardware, of all places! In my annual spring ritual, I had stopped there to pick up mulch for our flower beds.
After finding a cart large enough for the 24 bags of mulch I intended to purchase, I proceeded to the back of the garden section where the mulch is located – the furthest point from the checkout registers (of course!). Having carefully stacked the bags on the cart, I proceeded to push it to the front – or perhaps I should say, attempt to push. The fully loaded cart was much heavier than I anticipated.
Not to be defeated or to admit that age had taken that much of a toll on my strength and stamina, I finally got the cart moving toward the registers. Feeling as though my heart could take no more, I stopped to rest halfway there. Finally, I made it to the front and paid the cashier who then asked me if I needed assistance loading the mulch. I gladly accepted, pushed the cart to the curb, and pulled the truck around to the front of the store.
As we were loading the bags, the young man helping me remarked, “You know, you don’t have to do this. Next time, just tell the cashier how many bags you want, pay for them, and bring your sales slip around to the back and we’ll do the rest.” My immediate reaction was “Why has no one told me this before?” After all, this was not the first time I had purchased mulch from Lowe’s.
But then I sensed that unmistakable still, small voice of the Spirit saying, “How many times have I watched you struggle with tasks you are not equipped for, and waited for you to ask for my help, only to be ignored.” This incident served to remind me once again that the Christian life we are called to live was never meant to be a solo affair. We need each other’s help from time to time, and we need the help of the Holy Spirit all the time.
When I was teaching, I kept my Bible bookmarked at 1 Pet. 4:10-11. I turned to it so often that the page of my Bible where that verse is located is torn in the corner. Peter writes, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”
I firmly believe that the greatest hindrance to effective Christian ministry is ourselves – too much confidence in our own abilities, our own knowledge, our own wisdom, and our own strength. Such confidence is greatly misplaced and such resources are miniscule in comparison to the resources that God stands ready to provide.
The apostle Paul understood this very well, describing in that well-known passage about his “thorn in the flesh” how the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul went on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Paul had learned that sometimes God has to reveal to us how weak we are, before he can use us for his glory.
In Ephesians 1:19-20, Paul describes God’s power as “incomparably great” and proclaims that it is “like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” We all know the impact Paul had in his day. I can’t help but wonder what an impact we might still have today, if we would only fully grasp the implication of those words and apply them in our lives.
How often have you stopped to consider that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at your disposal? Why would we ever neglect such readily available and limitless divine help – not just for Christian ministry, but for the daily struggles of life?
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
*Note: All Scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV)