The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:14)
We had an advert on local TV a good few years back featuring two elephants, the larger one guiding and supporting the smaller as they trekked across desert dunes together. I don’t recall the actual product, but I do recall the elephants and the theme song – He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. Whenever I stop to consider how divine strength is released in practical ways, this is what comes to mind. The mutual dependence and nurturing affection between those two elephant is a remarkable illustration of what unity with strong believers can work in our lives.
We so easily overlook the fact that God, though spirit, is immensely practical and that divine strength is released in practical ways.
It’s all too easy to relegate God and His ways to some kind of ‘esoteric’ spiritual experience. Statements such as His ways are far higher than ours and reminders of the mysteries of God often deceive us into the perception that His help must always be something powerful and intangible. It’s a perception fuelled by the current hype and emotional excess that so often characterises our churches. We long for the manifest power of God, a kind of burning bush experience in which God visibly works and moves with a kind of awesome event that bears His unmistakable stamp – God was here. While these may occur, and it’s wonderful when they do, looking only for this can cause us to overlook the very real and encouraging truth that divine strength is released in practical ways.
Trials and hardship have a tendency to wear us down and narrow our focus. Desperation and a realisation that only the power of God can make the difference in a situation has us looking beyond the ordinary. Many of us tend to withdraw from those around us when we’re struggling, as if we’re afraid that our battle will somehow create the impression that we lack faith or are weak and imperfect. Of course, this is generally true, but pride won’t let us reveal that side of us. The result of this is that we shut ourselves off from the saving grace and power of God because He works so often through other people. Divine strength is released in practical ways in the daily, very ordinary reaching out and interaction of ordinary people.
Somehow, we regard this as being ‘not of God’ because there are no bells and whistles and miraculous events. We seem to slide into the place where the simple and ordinary exists only in the things of man, as if God somehow removes His presence or at least stands by and watches while others act. The real truth is that those gestures, great or small, from Spirit filled believers, are the work of God in releasing His divine strength into our lives when we need it. A life surrendered and led by the Spirit acts in obedience and becomes the means through which God works to effect His purposes.
Strength is an odd concept, because it’s multi-faceted. We have physical strength which is so often depleted by having to endure the difficulties we find ourselves in. Often, God will work through the Spirit to bring us awareness of the need to eat healthy and rest, but He may also prompt someone to bring a meal or to stop by and pray with us or give us a word of encouragement. Mental and emotional stress will affect our physical condition, and all of them work to affect each other. Our difficulties are ‘holistic.’ They are interconnected, and receiving divine strength in one particular area often spills over and empowers us in the others.
I have been blessed to receive, at extremely difficult moments, and ‘infusion’ of something that I can only call divine strength. It has been sovereign grace, a release of supernatural power to endure or to overcome extreme difficulties when, in my own strength, I simply did not have what it took. I treasure the memories of those moments and the quiet assurance that they bring to my faith. But I also recognise and treasure those times when someone has reached out and provided, where they have acted in obedience to the prompting of the Spirit, and God has used them to release His divine strength into my life in unexpected ways.
The amazing truth – one which God has never changed and will never change – is that believers are the body of Christ. The principles that apply to our physical, mental, and emotional selves apply to the body of Jesus as well. Just as a good night’s sleep, for example, can provide strength and the ability to cope with hardship – physically, mentally, and emotionally – so a release through one member of the body can infuse and empower another. Divine strength may come from unexpected places and through unexpected people, but it most often comes through this supernatural body.
The principle is so beautifully simple. In becoming a ‘new person,’ we have both an individual and corporate identity in Christ. Christ in us is a concept that empowers us both as single, independent people and as parts of His body. When any member of His body acts in obedience to the leading of the Spirit and offers support, encouragement, prayer, or just a simple act of kindness to another, it is, in effect, Jesus doing the giving. We are so completely in Him that we are inseparable from Him. It’s no long I that live, but Christ that lives in me. I no longer do things in and of myself, but do as He instructs and through His empowering. This is one of the most common sources of divine strength – Jesus Himself does the work through His body, the members surrendered to His work.
This truth in no way negates today’s verse. God does uphold all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down. This is the essence of divine strength. It operates when we’re all out of ‘me’ and utterly dependent on a sovereign move of God. His help and grace are no less powerful when they come through another person than when He moves in ‘miraculous ways.’ The key to receiving divine strength is, of course, reaching out in faith. When we do so, real faith doesn’t prescribe how the help will come. At its core, divine strength is entirely sovereign. God decides how and when, and He also decides which part of His body He will use to release His intervention. That hand that reaches out in our time of need, which upholds up and raises us up, is as much the hand of Christ as if He stood before us in the flesh. Him in us and us in Him is a powerful spiritual reality that impacts our lives daily.
I give thanks constantly that God is patient. I can see many times when I ignored the hand of Jesus, thinking that I didn’t want to ‘burden others’ with my problems. But He is merciful. In His grace, He has provided what I needed in other ways, through other people, taking me by surprise and circumventing my natural inclination to the ‘island mentality.’ I thank God that He has never once allowed me to exist in isolation but has graciously surprised me constantly with divine strength, supporting and raising me up when I reached the end of ‘me.’ He has patiently taught me that real need has no room for pride or preconceived expectations. I have learned – the hard way – to listen to His voice and recognise His works in and through others.
It’s also possible that He uses us to release the divine strength we need. And why not? We are members of His body as much as any other believer. We can actually be the vessel through which He works. A good example of this is the simple concept of ‘time out’ – one which is well-worn and even a little dog-eared, but one which we often don’t really fully understand. In spiritual terms, ‘time out’ essentially means ‘time out of me and in Him.’ So often, the Spirit calls us out to spend time with Him. It may require hours or it may require a brief five minutes.
I have a tendency, when under extreme pressure, to shut out everything else and focus entirely on the problem at hand. While this kind of single-minded concentration can be useful, it can also shut God out and with it, the divine strength we so desperately need. We can learn from Elijah who, when all out of self, followed the leading of God into the wilderness and into the divine strength of God. It didn’t come in the wind or the earthquake. It came in the still small voice, the one he would only hear if he stood silently before God in humble obedience.
Time out of me and in God is a vital source of divine strength. The pressures and stresses of our situation clamour loudly for attention, their demands wearing us down and distracting us. We can recognise that we need upholding. We know that we need something beyond us and greater than us to raise us up and keep us pressing on. But receiving is an altogether different thing, and we so often delay the help we need by thinking that we cannot spare the time to get into God. I think of it as the cell phone charger principle. To receive the power, we have to plug in. The five minutes we feel we cannot spare can provide the divine strength to get us through the rest of the day, but we have to connect to Him to receive it.
Time in God and with God is, in itself, a miraculous thing. That we can come to God, draw near to God, trust in His promises, and be completely surrounded by, immersed in, and connected to Him is a miracle of grace, made possible only through the blood of Jesus. When we sit in fellowship, whether we are alone or in the body come together, we are in Him. When we are in Him, the divine strength He has promised is freely available. We need only receive and rejoice.
Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and patience. Thank You for the assurance that Your divine strength is there to uphold us and raise us up, no matter how desperate and difficult our circumstances. Help us to see Your hand at work, both in us and in those around us. And help us too to reach out to others in obedience to Your Spirit, being Your hands in the work of sustaining others and releasing Your divine strength when needed in accordance with Your purposes.