His Strength Is Perfect
Isa 25:1 O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. 2 For You have made a city a ruin, A fortified city a ruin, A palace of foreigners to be a city no more; It will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore the strong people will glorify You; The city of the terrible nations will fear You. 4 For You have been a strength to the poor, A strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, A shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. 5 You will reduce the noise of aliens, As heat in a dry place; As heat in the shadow of a cloud, The song of the terrible ones will be diminished. 6 And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. 7 And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day: "Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
2Co 12:1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-- 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.
6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Lu 8:4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: 5 "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 "Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 "But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold." When He had said these things He cried, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" 9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, "What does this parable mean?"
10 And He said, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that 'Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.' 11 "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
13 "But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 "Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 "But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
Our God is mighty and strong. Never forget that. It is one of the constant themes of Scripture, and we need to be reminded of it at all times because the enemy of our soul (the devil) will use everything at his disposal to convince us otherwise. Some of you here today, need to reminded that God is strong and mighty and powerful. You can trust Him.
Have you ever been reading Scripture and come upon those passages that speak about how God delivered the Israelites from the “mighty” army of Pharaoh? I mean, not just in the Book of Exodus, but all the other places in Scripture where it shows up? Honestly, sometimes I just want to skim over them because I’ve heard it so many times before...........hmmmmmmm! Maybe that’s the point.
I NEED to be reminded time after time after time about His power and strength and might, because I am so quick to forget. I’m so quick to look to other things for my deliverance, or so quick to rely on my own strength.
And so the pages of His Book are filled with the recounting of this great deliverance. The entire 105th Psalm gives us the whole story again. Ps 106 also picks up the theme and in verse 8 we read:
Ps 106:8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake, That He might make His mighty power known.
Isn’t that a simple paraphrase of what God said to Paul in our epistle lesson? “That He might make His mighty power known?” “My strength is made perfect in weakness?”
God’s might! God’s power! God’s strength! It’s constantly mentioned throughout all of Scripture. We sing about in our songs, and we end the Lord’s prayer “For Thine is the kingdom and THE POWER. Just reading this week during my regular devotions I came across the theme daily!
Jer 16:21 "I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD.
Jer 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One.
Ps 24:8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty,
PS 20:6 He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.
Ps 86:16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me! Give Your strength to Your servant,
Well, you get the point. God is mighty, strong, powerful, and we need to be reminded of it. We can observe His power in nature and it’s good to do that, but you know what....that’s peanuts. His real power is evidenced in saving us individually and keeping us saved! His real strength is observed when His grace overpowers our own self-will.
Think about nature. It cannot resist the commands of God. Jesus gave evidence of this fact when He walked this earth. He calmed the seas and stilled the wind. He turned water into wine. He walked on water! Even the demons can’t resist His commands. When he says jump, they must answer, “how high?”
But not so for you and I.
Oh, He is strong enough to command complete obedience from us, but He has given us this thing we call “free will.” And if we would stop and think about it, there is no stronger force in all of creation than our “free will.” It is the only force that is capable of resisting God’s grace.
Sometimes I think God has given us strong willed children in order to show us what we are really like as He seeks to deal with us.
And every single time that you and I relent and give into the grace of God, yield our will to His, it is a testimony to the power and strength of His grace.
How many of you know that your heart is wicked?
Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Our heart is so wicked that we cannot even come to Jesus on our own for our salvation, it is the last thing our wicked heart and will wants to do. Our wicked heart wants to call the shots, we don’t want to relinquish our wills to anyone!
It’s just as Luther says in his explanation of the third article of the Creed. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe (trust) in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”
Our only hope for salvation is to experience the power and the might of God’s grace as found in the Gospel.
Ro 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,
In the Gospel we have the offer of free forgiveness and eternal life because of what God did for us through Jesus.
Joh 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
It is only when the Holy Spirit convinces us of the love and trustworthiness of Christ through His Word that our free will is overpowered and we are able to come to Christ. Now that’s power!
Then, even as we seek to live as followers of Jesus, we continually need His strength and power.
To conform to His will. Again, listen to the words of Jeremiah:
Jer 20:7 O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
Jeremiah spoke those words because he was having trouble coming up with the courage to speak God’s truth. His free will was screaming, “I don’t want to do this anymore! People are mocking me! They are physically hurting me! They are looking for every opportunity to bring punishment upon me!”
But God, with a tremendous show of strength in His grace overpowered Jeremiah’s free will.
Jer 20:9 Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name." But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.
I have to tell you, the strength and power of God is in evidence every single Sunday as I stand before you and proclaim His Word. First of all, that the Word of God is powerful cannot be denied.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful,
2Ti 2:9 but the word of God is not chained.
Thank the Lord that the Word of God is not capable of being chained. It’s because I heard that powerful Word of God, when I was humbled by my sin, when I was weak, that I was set free from my chains of sin. It’s because of that Word of God, that I remained free and speak to you Sunday after Sunday from this pulpit. I am a testimony to the strength and power of a mighty God..
God’s is so powerful that He even overcame my free will, and caused me to trust in Him. God is so strong that He caused me to overcome my free will and remain in Him. Time after time, Satan has tried to pry me away from the love of the Father, but time after time God has come to my rescue and in His strength caused me to hang on to my faith.
Just look at our gospel lesson today. The parable of the sower. Look what God and His Word are up against! Satan knows about our free will and he does everything he can to influence it, in order that we might resist the grace of God.
In this parable, first of all the seed is cast, the Word is preached and the birds in the parable represent the different ways it is removed from our minds and hearts. We reason that the word that speaks against our sin is an exaggeration, we aren’t really all that bad. (Peck, peck, the seed that could’ve brought us to repentance is plucked away.
God is love, surely HE wouldn’t condemn someone to hell. (Peck, peck) One way to God? Nonsense! There are many paths! (Peck, peck!) Why should I listen to that preacher, he’s just in it to make a living. (Peck! Peck!) And so on. Satan has no shortage of birds to pluck the truth away from our hearts and minds.
Then, still another threat, even if the Word is received with joy, as soon as trials and tribulations enter the picture, (and they always do) The faith that the Word created in us will clash with our free will again. Our free will reasons that, “hey I didn’t have these kind of struggles B.C. (Before Christ) Why not just say forget it and go back to my old way of living?”
If this describes where you are at today, let me encourage you to hang on! Don’t give up! Let go of your strength in the trial and just trust God! He will pull you through! In your weakness, He will show Himself strong.
And don’t think that the temptation to give up during a trial is strange to you. It befalls all Christians sooner or later, and good thing too. Because it is these trials and relying on the strength of God to get through them, that sinks our roots of trust deeper and deeper into the strength of God.
The lot of the Christian is to overcome or persevere this side of heaven. The Book of Revelation constantly speaks of overcoming, (persevering till the end) and the deeper the roots the more likely we are to overcome the tempests of this life.
Jeremiah was experiencing a period of intense depression, even despairing of his life for the trials he was experiencing. Commenting on this despair, the Lutheran commentator Kretzman says, “similar periods of depression are liable to strike all Christians, wherefore it is necessary that all without exception grow in trust and mercy!”
Trials will begat more trust, trials will deepen your roots, if you will just be still and wait on the Lord and His strength.
If lame excuses don’t pluck the word from us, and trial and tribulation don’t work, well there’s always materialism and the cares of this world and it’s pleasures to choke it out. Big time problem in the church in America!
We have been blessed with so many material things! We have been blessed with so many recreational diversions. There is so much out there to enjoy and so easy to justify grabbing it now, and we chase after it, and before we know it, the true riches. The riches of God’s Word are buried under the cares of this world.
The parable of the sower......When one considers what we are up against, it’s amazing that there are any Christians at all! That there are Christians is a testimony to the power and strength of God’s grace! God’s grace can overpower your lame excuses. God’s grace can get you through your trial, and God’s grace can even get a rich man to heaven!
Mt 19:24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Once again we see that God’s strength, His grace, is sufficient.
Jas 4:4 Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 7 Therefore submit to God. (in weakness) Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
The reason Jesus shared this parable with His disciples and that He begged us to listen to it (“He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”! He cried so that we can examine where we are with His Word now, before our fruitless life on earth is over and it is too late.
Only those who persevere to the end and bear fruit in the kingdom will be saved. Fruit is borne as we trust God and His Word. Where are you in this matter of trust today? He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Do you pick and choose what you want to believe about this Word, and let the birds peck the rest of the precious Word of God away!
Do you only go so far with your trust in order to avoid suffering?
Or have you forgotten all about trust because you’re too busy with the things of this world?
Don’t despair! God is able! The Bible says He is “mighty to save” (Is 63:1)
And Jesus closes His parable with these words: “Therefore” Whenever we see the word “therefore” we must go back and see what the therefore is there for. And so we can say:
Because of the strength of the devil, the world, and the free will of your own flesh. Because all three will work against you to trash your faith....therefore, take heed how you hear the Word of God.
So what is the proper way to “hear the Word of God?” it is in the position of absolute trust and as James said, “submission.” Submit to it....all of it! Believe it! Stop making excuses. Acknowledge your weakness, your inability to accomplish anything on your own and throw it all on Jesus.
1Pe 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty