The Perspiration of God’s People
Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton | Series: Harvest
‘Be strong, and of good courage’ (Joshua 1, 9)
Our strength is what we are, and some are stronger than others, but all of us are sufficiently strong in whatever way to be able to make an active contribution to anything we might involve ourselves in. Being a Christian; practical Christian living; demonstrating our love for God in the love we have for our neighbour can be, indeed invariably is strength sapping, it will take it out of us. In fact, there will be times when it will seem as if we just don’t have the strength for the task at hand. The temptation will be to back off, to retreat, to say and do nothing, to let the moment pass; to regroup, to carry on as before, as if it never happened. But that is the very last thing any of us can afford to do. Far too many opportunities are missed by the church – including our own congregation – just because we imagined what was being required of us was just too much. Living the Christian life is absolutely ‘all or nothing’ – If we are not prepared to give our all then it is best we give nothing at all. The New Testament reserves its most bitter criticism for ‘lukewarm’ Christians; they were to be ‘spewed out of the mouth of God.’ The miracle of grace is that at the very time when we feel we want to but we cannot, God gives us of His strength such that we will be able to…
“God only requires two things from us. First, He asks that we stay unwavering in our knowledge that His faithful love endures forever. And second, He asks that we stay steadfast in our belief that His intentions are to bless and redeem. As we stand on these two truths, He strengthens our faith and increases our trust.” (Katherine J. Walden: ‘Dare to call Him Friend).
In short, for as long as we believe and trust we will be strengthened sufficiently for whatever is required of us in God’s service so there really is no reason, no excuse for not committing ourselves wholeheartedly to our calling in Christ. But when we talk of the strength of God’s people it is not just about being strong enough to do what needs doing, more often than not it is about being strong enough to cope with what each has to cope with. The circumstances of life are such that very often we need to be strong lest life itself, even in its ordinariness, just overwhelms us…
’With God, you are stronger than your struggles and more fierce than your fears. God provides comfort and strength to those who trust in Him. Be encouraged, keep standing, and know that everything’s going to be alright.” (Germany Kent).
Each one of us is an individual, and no two lives are the same, but every one of us, whatever our individual circumstances, when it comes to it, will find ourselves having to rely on God simply because there is no other to rely on. God would rather us turn to Him first, but God knows us well enough to realise that it is more likely that we will only turn to God when we have exhausted every other option; sooner, more likely later, but sooner or later we will find ourselves turning to God, and faith teaches us that God will not be found wanting. The dynamic that makes this possible is prayer – and this where perspiration comes into it. We are told that Jesus, in a moment of extreme weakness, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion prayed with such an intensity that His ‘sweat became like great drops of blood’. This is the intensity we needs must strive for if our faith in God and the strength we derive from God are together able to reinforce each other in such a way as to enable us to confront life and all its challenges whilst at the same time having sufficient wherewithal to respond to God’s claim upon our lives as far as our contribution to the ongoing ministry and mission of Christ’s Church is concerned. And when the mystery that is prayer becomes a reality for us, we suddenly discover that it is true; nothing is impossible with God, for all things are possible with God – however improbable they may appear – nothing is impossible: nothing is certain – we should not fall into that trap but neither is anything impossible. And having realised this to be so, we are ready and able to confront the world – be it the world that is our individual circumstance, be it the world that is our local church situation, be it the world that the state of the nation, be it the world that reaches to the four corners of the earth – now we are enabled to confront the world…
“Let us be today’s Christians. Let us not take fright at the boldness of today’s church. With Christ’s light let us illuminate even the most hideous caverns of the human person: torture, jail, plunder, want, chronic illness. The oppressed must be saved, not with a revolutionary salvation, in mere human fashion, but with the holy revolution of the Son of Man, who dies on the cross to cleanse God’s image, which is soiled in today’s humanity, a humanity so enslaved, so selfish, so sinful.” (Oscar A. Romero: ‘The Violence of Love).
If our faith is strong enough then we will be strong enough, but if our faith is weak, we will find our essential weakness exposed – Peter’s walking on the water is a powerful illustration of this – but we have it within us to be strong. The life of faith will inevitably be demanding; it will always be making demands of us; yet at the same time it’s very demanding nature will of itself make us realise that this is life; how it is, how it should be, how it can be, how it ought to be. The challenge for us at Harvest – to love the Lord our God with all our Strength – to pray believing, to act believing, to live believing – and to love accordingly. Our destiny under God is to derive ‘Strength to Love’.