“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.”
Do you remember the Daily Affirmations by Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live? Poor Stuart suffered from “stinkin thinkin”, negative thoughts that just brought him down. He’d try to encourage himself, and those who came on his show, helping them to think positive. And always, his mantra was, say it with me…
“I am good enough. I am smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”
Now, not to be one who contradicts such sound philosophy, but there are times in our lives when, unfortunately we are not good enough, we are not smart enough, and doggone it, nobody likes us. There are times when it seems the rug has been pulled out from underneath us, when conventional wisdom fails us, and our strength isn’t strong enough. We face trials and persecution from the things we thought would bring us security; our jobs, our friends, our family; our world seems upside down. The things we counted on for strength fail us, the people we trust let us down. We find we are weak, we are tired, and we want to give up. No amount of daily affirmation, no power of positive thinking, can get us out of this mess.
This is why we walk in faith. We see from the very beginning of the story of Scripture that man was created to be dependent upon God. We were designed to be in relationship with God, depending on Him, trusting in Him, walking with Him. The Lord’s Prayer is so basic, yet so revolutionary, because it reminds us, restores us to this absolute dependency upon God. We are taught to come to God for our daily bread, to turn to God for deliverance from evil, to seek God for forgiveness as we forgive others, and ultimately, to seek God’s glory and His kingdom and His will rather than our own.
Too often, though, we forget our dependency. We buy the delusion of our success, get drunk in our own power, and we rest in our own accomplishments. This was what God warned the Israelites about in Deuteronomy, knowing that when the people had success, they would take all the credit, saying, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17). No, the Lord reminded them, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:7–8).
Friends, the truth of the matter is, so often we begin to rely on our own strength, to believe our own press (which we’ve probably printed), and have forgotten that our strength is in the Lord alone that truly the cross we carry becomes too heavy and begins to crush us. It seems defeating, overwhelming, and humiliating; but even then the cross has purpose.
John Calvin wrote of the purpose of our cross saying,
When we are humbled, we are taught to rely on God alone, and we shall not stumble or sink down in despair. For it is not small profit to be robbed of our blind self-love so that we become fully award of our weakness; to have such an understanding of our weakness that we distrust ourselves; to distrust ourselves to such an extent that we put all our trust in God; to depend with such boundless confidence on God that we rely entirely on his help, so that we may victoriously persevere to then end; to continue in his grace that we may know he is true and faithful in his promises; and to experience the certainty of his promises so that our hope may become firmer.
When your cross is too much to carry, find your strength in the one who carried the cross for you. Learn to trust less in yourself, and to trust more in His grace and mercy. Let his strength be made perfect in your weakness. And remember it is “not by might, nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”