Our Resources are the Foundation of Our Hope
As Christian believers we face all the challenges of this life in Christ, that is, as joined to him and his illimitable resources. It is as those plugged into the Son of God that we face every obligation God lays upon us. We must endure the sufferings of this present time. We must resist the wiles of the devil. We must love our wives as Christ loved the church. We must obey our parents in all things. We must honour our elders. We must be steadfast, unmovable and always abound in the work of the Lord. We must present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. We have to face up to the demands of the Christian life, but we confront them with absolutely extraordinary strength that comes from being in Christ. It is no use our saying, Well, we came through that like any ordinary person, because that will not do, simply because the Christian man is not an ordinary chap. The Christian young person is not your typical teenager. God has made over to every Christian extraordinary resources, and he expects us to show consistent obedience, to be victorious in temptation, and patient in suffering, and submissive in bereavement. In other words, God requires graces that are commensurate with our resources and the glory of our position.
I remember the opening of the first motorway in the British Isles at the end of my first year in college on July 4 1959. It was the M1 from London to the Midlands, 100 miles or so in length. The first day it was opened a number of the daily newspapers hired leading motor racing drivers, putting them in Jaguars and Aston Martins and Ferraris, to see who would be the fastest in getting from London to Birmingham. There were no speed limits outside the towns in those days because small cars and narrow roads themselves were sufficient restraint on a cars speed. So drivers like Stirling Moss took off in their sports cars and reached speeds of 150 miles an hour and got to Birmingham in under sixty minutes. The various papers published this excitement the next day and there was a buzz in the country. A new day had dawned for family motoring. Here was a road with two or three lanes without any traffic lights and no speed limits stretching straight ahead for 100 miles. The following Sunday thousands of men took their little Austins, and Fords, and Morris cars for a family outing on the M1. They put their foot down as far as it could go and they bombed their way north up to Birmingham. Of course it proved a disaster, because those cars didnt have the power or resources for such an outing. Before July 1959 theyd barely travelled faster than 45 miles per hour. There were two consequences to this recklessness: the hard shoulder of the M1 was littered with broken down cars, the big ends gone – the AA and the RAC never had so many calls for assistance – and the government introduced the 70 mph speed limit.
The Christian is pressing on heavenward. He is on a marathon whose finishing line is the throne of God and the Lamb, and for this race God has made him extraordinarily strong. He has given us superhuman resources. Paul is saying here that God has made over to us more power than the power that death has. I wonder what is your conception of spiritual power? We speak of powerful sermons, and powerful testimonies, and powerful preaching and even powerful worship and singing. We say that the power of God was in such a gathering, or in such a life. Yet what is the criterion of power? How do we know the person who is spiritually strong? The answer is in the prayer of Paul in the first chapter of Colossians, so like this prayer, and this is what he is asking God for them, that they be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father (Cols 1:11&12). It is not that these men are wonderfully gifted, or have superhuman insights, or that the gullible swallow whatever they say, or that they are angelic in their manner. It is not that they have power to make people weep; it is not the power to speak with the tongues of angels; it is not that they can command a mountain to move into the sea or all kinds of unusual phenomena. A man who is spiritually strong may not ever know a lot of theology, but because the power that raised Christ from the dead is in him then there is great endurance, and patience and thanksgiving.
Those who dream of this power today, I wonder do you see it in those terms? Those of you who have lamented so often the absence of power in the Christian church and say it is power that we need, do we see power like that? The strength and the power I want is the power to be patient; it is the power of longsuffering and gentleness; the power to have a grateful spirit. In other words, there are all these provocations and afflictions, as Jesus said, Men revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. There is the discipline of the providence of God. There are the hardships, difficulties and disappointments of the groaning creation. Then we have need of some great endurance, the grace to bear Gods will without complaint and bitterness, not allowing it to affect our lives. Have I the strength to take the crashing of my hopes and my experience of the divine chastening and bear it all with composure?
Let me tell you of some Christian women who did just this: there was the late Elizabeth Tallach, the wife of the minister of the Free Presbyterian pastor in Stornoway on the island of Lewis. He died in 1960 leaving her at the age of 49 with five boys to rear, having to vacate their manse, and possessing no salary. She was to live without him for the next forty years. One morning in the early days of her widowhood God helped her while she was in the midst of cleaning the door of the manse. These words, Goodness and mercy shall follow me came to her with divine power. It was quite unforgettable, and she occasionally referred to the incident as she spoke with her family. Shed say, Think of the security in that. The goodness of God coming behind you and a provision before you that no one could take from you. Sometimes we dont lean on Gods promises as we should, and we are the losers for that. I was enabled just to take that promise and to lean on it. How faithful God was to her and her sons throughout their rich lives. She was given the strength to bear the disappointments of her life with endurance and she could show gratitude to God.
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