For By Strength No Man Shall Prevail
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1Sa 2:1 And Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
 2 "No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.
 3 "Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.
 4 "The bows of the mighty men are broken, And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble.
 6 "The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.
 7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.
 8 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. "For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He has set the world upon them.
 9 He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness. "For by strength no man shall prevail.
 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed."
 Ga 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
 7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.
 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
 11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.
 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
 13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
 Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
 4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
 5 "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
 6 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
 7 "Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
Every year I receive a yearbook from the AFLC. This yearbook contains pre-determined readings for every Sunday of the year. It’s not a requirement that every church preach from these texts, after all we are Free Lutherans and we are free to preach from the Word of God as the Spirit leads.

But it’s nice to know that many Free Lutheran churches are preaching and teaching from these same texts today, and these texts are usually selected because they offer a broad range of subjects to preach on, and they keep a pastor from just locking in on one or two of his pet subjects.

They are designed to cover all the main doctrines or teachings of Scripture over the course of one year. And all three readings typically have a common thread running through them  The challenge for me, has been to find that common thread. I use to dread that challenge, but I now look forward to it.

The thread that jumps out at me this week is found in Hanna’s prayer when she says, “For by strength no man shall prevail.”  I believe this is what the Spirit would have us learn today. By strength, by the power of flesh no one will be left standing.

 Zec 4:6b 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts.

Let’s look at a couple of things from Hannah’s prayer. First of all note that this is not Hannah praying in her flesh. The Holy Spirit has taken over and brought forth these powerful words from her lips.

Then, note the similarity of the opening and closing words of the prayer. She says “My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn (horn is symbolic of strength) is exalted (is at its peak) in the Lord. Her strength is in the Lord.

And the closing line reminds us that the full strength of God will be given to His King (Jesus) And He will exalt (bring it to it’s peak) the horn (the strength) of His anointed (the Messiah....Jesus Christ.) God’s strength is found in Jesus.

And her whole prayer is centered on this truth. Strength belongs to our God. He is a rock! He brings down, He lifts up. He kills and makes alive. He makes poor and He makes rich. The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and He has set the world upon them. Now this doesn’t mean that the world is set on some literal pillars, but it does mean that,  as the song goes, “He’s got the whole world in His hands!”

I don’t know how many of you have been following the situation with the slaying of the Amish school girls this past week. But the secular press has been amazed by the Amish response to this tragedy.

The Amish really believe this stuff about the Sovereignty of God, and they accept this tragedy as the will of God. They understand that for some reason....God has allowed this to happen. For their part they have reached out in forgiveness and compassion to the family of the man who did the killing. We could really learn from the Amish in that regard!

Accept what God allows, and concern ourselves with loving others.
Why would God allow such a thing to happen? I’m sure some people are asking that question. And I wonder if anyone has considered the notion that He might be trying to get our attention? There has been a marked increase in these attacks in schools in the past year. Schools are suppose to be a sanctuary, a safe place,  for nurturing our children. And we are stunned and horrified when these sanctuaries are violated.

But has anyone considered the fact that everyday in America, since 1973, 3000-4000 children are massacred in the sanctuary of their mother’s womb through legalized abortion, and very few people are stunned and horrified by that news.

Violence begets violence. We reap what we sow. And although schools are wisely tightening their security procedures, the most prudent thing this country could do to stem the tide of violence and bullying is to assign value to every single life from conception on.

Overturn Roe v Wade. Make the womb a safe place for all children! And most importantly, get on our knees in godly sorrow over our national sin of abortion, pleading for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus said in Mt 18:10, “Take heed that you do not despise ( take heed that  you value or hold in highest esteem) one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

Well, let’s get back to the text and turn to our gospel lesson, where Jesus uses a little child to make a point about operating in our own strength. The disciples still had this misguided idea that Jesus was about to set up a kingdom similar to the earthly rule of kings and so they want to know who would hold the positions of power or strength.

Then Jesus does an amazing thing. He calls a child to Himself, the gospel of Mark says that HE then picked the child up in His arms,  

And He says, “Assuredly” a word that carries much weight as it concerns truth. “Unless you are converted, unless you change your line of thinking about strength and power and become as a little child, you won’t even be in My kingdom!

This is serious stuff folks! Stop thinking about what you do to earn a place in the kingdom. It is not about what you do! It is not about your strength. “For by strength no man shall prevail!” It is about what Christ has done and continues to do for you!

It is about simple child-like trust. The Lutheran commentator Lenski says this childlikeness is “To permit oneself to be called, led, loved without pride and without doubt, in simple childlike trust. This childlikeness makes no claims, insists on no rights, comes with no demands, but bows lowly and humbly under the Lord’s will and Word, yields completely to Him, and is happy and content in doing that.” This is the essence of conversion.

This is how you must be to enter the kingdom and this is what you must continue to be to remain in the kingdom. We must be found, like that little child,  in our Savior’s arms, but too often it is our desire to wriggle free and try to make it in on our own strength, our own good moral behavior.

Greatness or strength in the kingdom is dependent on the only One who is truly strong. The anointed One. “He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.”
When we rest in the arms of Jesus we can say with Hannah, “My strength is exalted in the Lord! I rejoice in His salvation”

I want you to stop and consider something this morning. Can you picture yourself....all _______ pounds of you, being held in the arms of Jesus like a little child? We can’t see this because we have too small a picture of Jesus. This is what you must see, this is where we must be or we can have no part in the kingdom of God. Just one little attempt at relying on our own strength will disqualify us!

This is so serious that Jesus says, anyone who leads one of these trusting believers who have become like little children, away from trust in Christ alone for their salvation is in big trouble. It would be better for them to have a millstone thrown around their neck and tossed in the sea than the fate that awaits them.

In other words, if I tell you that you must do something in order to be saved, something other than trusting in Christ alone, something involving your own strength, then I am in big eternal trouble.
I can and must tell you this: He who believes (trusts in Christ) and is baptized shall be saved. Remembering that baptism is from heaven, it’s a means of grace that God has given to His church to take care of our original sin problem and impart the gift of the Holy Spirit! This removal of sin, gives us the answer of a good conscience toward God. (1 Peter 3:21)

In baptism God places us in the arms of Jesus and that’s where He wants us to stray!

The phrase “causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin”  in verse 6 is better interpreted as someone causing a child-like trusting believer to fall into a deadly trap. That deadly trap is the trap of adding  good works or observance of the Mosaic Law to the salvation equation. “For by strength no man shall prevail.”

Although we will only look at part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians this morning, the whole letter deals with this problem. Judaizers had infiltrated the churches in Galatia trying to convince the Gentile believers that they must believe AND be  circumcised according to the Law in order to be saved.

It would indeed be better for a millstone to be hanged around their neck then the fate that awaits these false teachers as Paul states in Gal 1:8 and then for emphasis repeats it in v9!

 Ga 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Make no mistake about the word accursed means assigned to hell!

In our text from Galatians 5:1 Paul exhorts the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free. He says, “Stay in the arms of Jesus!” Don’t get caught up with the yoke of bondage of trying to obey the Law for your salvation!

Look at the plight of those who would seek to add circumcision or anything else to the salvation equation

Verse 4, “You have become estranged from Christ, (you have left His arms!) You who attempt to be justified by the Law; you have fallen from grace”

Just one little bit of reliance on your own strength disqualifies you from heaven. Because you  put yourself under all the Law again and the Law cannot save can only condemn you and drive you to the Savior. “For by strength no man shall prevail”

Don’t you see? As clumsy as it may seem to you as an adult or even a teenager, you must come to the Savior and allow Him to pick you up in His arms, and this is where you must live. DO you see what this does?

When we are in His arms, we don’t need to worry about any Law! He will not break it! He is busy reaching out to others in love and we are just along for the ride.

Okay. So you are in the Saviors arms, you have this great liberty, this great freedom from the Law. Obedience to it is no longer an issue for your salvation. But beware, lest you use this freedom from the law as license to sin.

V13, “only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh.” Don’t use your liberty to make a mess in Jesus arms.  Rather use this liberty to serve one another in love.

And once again, we find ourselves back at our mission statement at Living Word.......To declare the truth as found in God’s Word...the Bible, and to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves. And this is an inevitable  fruit of remaining in His arms.

Beloved, I want you all to regress this morning. Forget about where you are in your “spiritual walk.” Because you are no where if you aren’t in the arms of Jesus. I want you all to go back to your days of child like faith.

Through the years, you have heard the Law of God, you have been told over and over how to live as Christians. And that’s good. The Holy Spirit who dwells in you revels in that truth. But there is a danger in this instruction as well. Sometimes we start to think that we are doing a pretty good job of keeping this Law

Perhaps you have begun to think that you may even have a leg to stand on come judgement day. Put that thought entirely out of your mind. You have nothing to stand on except the righteousness of Christ. “For by strength no man shall prevail.”

Regress! Climb back completely into the arms of Jesus this morning. Totally forget about the Law of God, and instead of worrying about what you must do or not do, use this new found or rediscovered liberty to serve one another in love, in His name.

Make that your only focus. Gleefully remain in Jesus arms, confident of your salvation and simply seek ways to express His love to others. Allow Jesus to love others through you! He is the One who provides the strength for such love, you cannot do it on your own, and as you rely on Him to help you serve others in love, it is not you who fulfills the Law, it is He, the anointed one who gives us the strength to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And if a brother stumbles and uses this liberty as an opportunity to sin, then turn to Galatians 6:1

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual (you who are relying on Jesus) restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. (The idea here is of gently resetting a broken bone) Considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

Tempted to do what? Tempted to lead him or yourself astray with the idea that his disobedience disqualifies him from heaven. Because that would imply that we can get there on our own strength.  

Remember our disobedience does not disqualify us, otherwise we would all be disqualified. it is our disbelief that disqualifies, our distrust in the arms of Jesus that causes us to rely on ourselves.

This self-reliance always ends in disaster. Willful  disobedience is just a symptom that needs to be dealt with in order to get the stumbling brother back on track, back in the arms of Jesus. .

Gently talk to such an erring brother and lovingly point out the fact that he is simply misusing his liberty in Christ, and needs to get back to the rightful use of that liberty....namely serving others in love.

Beloved, remember, “For by strength no man shall prevail.” Throw yourself with child-like faith again in the arms of Jesus and live there. It is only in living there that the Law is fulfilled, and only there that we are empowered to live a life of service to others.