“Give me strength, Lord” … Really??
How often do Christians declare (many times in exasperation!) the above?
I will cast the first stone at myself… I have many times prayed like this.
If we cared enough to stop and think about it, we would come to the conclusion that the way that we have made this sound is as if God is at fault for whatever it is that we are talking about with Him. You must admit… faulting God is a handy cop-out, isn’t it? It isn’t a bit messy: just blame God, and you are off the hook. How convenient for us!
Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, the true reason that we ask God to give us strength is because we know we do not have any strength in and of ourselves. However, even though we know we do not have any strength in and of ourselves, we compound that problem with being totally unwilling to confess that before God, so as to be in a right state before Him so that we can ask Him for what we truly have need of.
This ‘right state’ is critically important because… what we truly have need of is almost surely not strength so much as it is almost surely repentance.
Let us level-set on the issue of strength. Two seminal concepts evident throughout Holy Scripture are: 1) God possesses all strength, and 2) any strength we have in any measure is given by God Himself.
God’s strength (italic emphases mine):
“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. (Exodus 15:13)
Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, (Deuteronomy 4:37)
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11)
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, (1 Chronicles 16:28)
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. (1 Chronicles 29:12)
“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. (Nehemiah 1:10)
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
I love you, O Lord, my strength. (Psalm 18:1)
Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might. (Psalm 21:13)
Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. (Psalm 29:1)
God’s strength in us (italic emphases mine):
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Psalm 15:2)
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14)
those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (1 Samuel 2:10)
And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1 Samuel 23:16)
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. (2 Samuel 22:33)
You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet. (2 Samuel 22:40)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:7)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
The above passages from the Old Testament are not exhaustive, but be assured that strength is mentioned in the New Testament as well; Holy Scripture is a continuum across all of human history, and never contradicts itself across any of its books regarding terms it introduces (italic emphases mine):
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21)
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. (1 Timothy 1:12)
But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:17)
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 the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
We see the evidence that strength is possessed by God, and that strength is given by God. Why, then, do we plead with God for it, and fault Him when we do not receive it?
Something that we must be open to as Christian believers is the possibility that we might be ‘asking amiss’. By this I mean that we are praying to God (which is a very good thing), but we are praying to Him with ulterior motives/wrong intent (which is a very bad thing).
Now I have used the term ‘strength’ as something that we ask for, but it is rarely used in that strict sense alone, meaning that we rarely if ever say things along the lines of ‘God, please give me physical strength in my muscles’. We say things more along the line of ‘God, please give me the strength to get out of this situation’ or ‘God, please give me strength to like this person’.
Using the two examples just mentioned, let’s take a closer look. If we are asking God to give us strength to get out of a situation, are we asking because we have committed a sinful act that has gotten us into the situation in the first place, and have chosen not to confess that sinful act to God, but rather to possibly get Him to pull some strings to get us out of the situation that has come to pass because of that sinful act? If we are asking God to give us strength to like a person, are we asking because we willfully and stubbornly refuse to give that person a fair chance to be considered on their character and merits that we have not yet considered carefully, whom we just want to use because we can get something from them?
If so… we are ‘asking amiss’… with ulterior motives, wrong intent, or both.
Holy Scripture condemns us:
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)
Is it all even reasonable that God should consider, never mind grant, our requests? We are pretty good at fooling ourselves, and we even have the audacity to believe that we can fool God, but Holy Scripture indicates otherwise:
All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2)
God knows exactly our condition as sinners under the penalty of death:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Holy Scripture is validated in both its capabilities and function:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Note that Holy Scripture is personified as living and active as the Word of God, which in turn is God Himself. Therefore, the Word of God (God Himself) is a Righteous Judge that fairly judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, fairly because nothing is hidden from His sight.
So what needs to be done here? If we do need strength (and God knows whatever we need before we ask Him for it), what is it necessary to do?
–Surrender your will to God.
Be willing to surrender the control of your life to God as your LORD and KING.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
–Confess God’s Only Son Jesus Christ as LORD.
Jesus Christ died a sacrificial death on the cross, shedding every drop of His sacred blood, so that you might be forgiven of your sins before God the Father.
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
When we confess the Name of Jesus Christ, and invite Him into our lives to be the Lord of our lives… when we stand before God in judgment, God does not see the wretched sinners that we are: He sees the righteousness of His Son in whom we have believed, and He holds us blameless.
–Confess your sins to God, repenting of them.
To repent of your sins is to turn away from them in Godly sorrow, and to go in the opposite direction, distaining all occasions of, and all temptations to, sin, which is rebellion against God.
We will not be 100% sinless. What we will do, however, by the power of the Holy Ghost living in us, is to hate sin more, and commit sin less.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
If you do these things, you will be given all that you have true need of, because you will be in a right relationship with God, praying for the things that God desires: you will be a true child of the Living God, and a co-heir with Jesus Christ of the Kingdom of God.