This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Jesus Freaks: Volume 2, compiled by DC Talk and the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, a brief encounter with worldly opposition was met with faith, providing us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12-13)
John Hus was eventually taken in front of the Council of Constance, and asked to recant his views. He replied, "I would not for a chapel of gold retreat from the truth!". When he refused, he was put back in prison. On 6 July 1415, he was burned at the stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church. He could be heard singing Psalms as he was burning. As he lay in chains in prison, awaiting his execution and before being burned at the stake in Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), John Hus penned the following:
O loving Christ, draw me, a weakling, after Yourself; for if You do not draw me, I cannot follow You. Give me a brave spirit that I may be ready and alert. If the flesh is weak, may Your grace go before me, come alongside me, and follow me; for without You, I cannot do anything, and especially, for Your sake I cannot go to a cruel death. Grant me a ready spirit, a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love, that for Your sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy.
A moment of consideration: Today is a day to confess our weakness, to be realistic about our inaptitude and God's greatness. The song, "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" comes to mind:
I am weak but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Our feeble life--that with which we tread the earth, requires a close walk with the Lord. In these days, it is getting crucial that we tighten up our walk with Christ in order to stand firm against the whelming tides of opposition to Christian faith. John Hus described our Christian life well--asking Jesus "O loving Christ, draw me, a weakling, after Yourself, for if You do not draw me, I cannot follow You." We are weak and He is strong. Often, in praying for the persecuted church wherever it may be, we ask God for strength and courage in tumultuous times, so that faith may be firm in embattled lives. What does the writer of Hebrews mean, in saying that we should strengthen our weak "knees"? One way is to willingly don the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20):
…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Can we say that we are certain that the Lord is the strength of my life (Psalm 28:7)? For only then can we truly ask, and mean, "Of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1) He is the strength in our lives. His strength is imparted to us as strength and courage. So, another way to strengthen our infirm undergirding is to spend time reading, studying, applying and following the leading of the Lord found therein. It’s designed for just this purpose--to strengthen that which is frail or, perhaps, to strengthen what remains and is about to die (Revelation 3:2). Reading, knowing and applying God's Word strengthens faith; faith doesn't provide a net to fall into when your fingers are about to give way as you hang suspended over the cliff, faith gives your fingers the strength to hang on just a little longer. On the precipice, the battle’s cusp, the looming advance of the foe, the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and to us, encouraging us with his words, "If I learned anything from my mistakes, I learned that 'I can do all things through him who gives me strength'" (Philippians 4:13). Being weak is not of itself a mistake, but can lead us into making mistakes, such as no longer believing or following Christ (John 6:66; Matthew 19:16-24; John 12:4-8). As John Hus prayed, "If the flesh is weak, may Your grace go before me, come alongside me, and follow me; for without You, I cannot do anything…" (John 15:5) John knew His Scriptures, and it gave him needed strength to go forward, to risk, and to accept God’s perfect will. God’s amazing grace is truly breathtaking:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction, He addeth His mercies,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again. (Annie Jonson Flint)
To go forward and to endure labors, afflictions, burdens and trials--these are the challenges that lay before us as believers. Richard Wurmbrand (founder of the Voice Of the Martyrs ministry) was quoted as saying, "We are Jesus’ sheep. Sheep do not run from the wolf. They cannot defend themselves, but they witness for their Creator by enduring their deaths patiently, without turning their backs to the enemy." John Hus knew his need of the Lord's grace as he prepared for life’s end, as he prayed: "for Your sake I cannot go to a cruel death" and asked the Lord, "Grant me a ready spirit, a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love, that for Your sake I may lay down my life with patience and joy." Even the believers mentioned in Revelation 12 were described thusly: "They overcame him [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Revelation 12:3 - my clarification)
Chinese pastor Wong Ming Dao said from prison: "We are soldiers under the banner of Jesus Christ in a spiritual battle." We can only advance and never retreat. Strength in the Lord is imperative in the coming days. Corrie ten Boom acknowledged how her faith and God's strength enabled her in her trials/tribulations: "God used me to share my faith with my persecutors--even when I wasn't humanly able to do it. Yes, God's strength is made perfect in my weakness." God can use us in our weakness; but, to strengthen ourselves for service in the coming days, we need exercise; to accomplish this, we need to know and hold fast to what we have been taught in God's Word and we believe, (Hebrews 10:23), to walk closely with the Lord in this life (John 15:4-10), to come to love Him more than we love this world and our life in it; then might we say with the Psalmist, that - "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1) May we, too, seek a brave spirit--ready and alert (Mark 13:33; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8); may our prayer be that the Lord will grant us a ready spirit, a fearless heart, a right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect love. And may He grant our hands strength to do physical tasks; our legs and feet in running to the Lord; our mind and heart being courageous to do right; and wisdom to see Him in all of life. In our life, may we humbly come before our Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24); otherwise, may our boasting be like the apostle Paul's: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14). "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10)