but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the gentiles might hear it. so i was rescued from the lion’s mouth. [2 timothy 4:17]
today i’d like to make three observations out of the statement “the Lord…strengthened me.” there’s nothing revolutionary here. but i believe these three statements represent the gospel playing out in our lives in a very real and full way.
1) i am weak
this should go without saying, but it often doesn’t. if i need to be strengthened that means, by default, that i don’t posses the proper strength as a starting point. without this understanding the gospel can never take effect in your life. a person that says, “i am strong on my own” has no desire for anyone else to provide strength. when it comes to our relationship with the Lord that is the equivalent of saying we have no need for him to provide. this, of course, is pride in it’s purest sense. if you are weak, you need Jesus. if you are strong (on your own) you do not. are you able to see the ways in your life, heart, and mind that you need Jesus to be your supply?
but he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” therefore i will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. for the sake of Christ, then, i am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. for when i am weak, then i am strong. [2 corinthians 12:9–10]
2) i am empowered
the greek word meaning “strengthened” has the connotation of being empowered – having power put into you. there is an element of this which implies God gives you the authority to do what he is asking of you. you are representing him and his mission. he’s not simply providing you physical or mental strength, he is authorizing you to carry out his will. whether that is enduring through persecution as stephen did when he was stoned, speaking boldly against an oppressor such as moses when he spoke to pharaoh, or extending love to your enemy as Jesus did when he washed the feet of judas, he is providing you with the right, authority, and responsibility to carry it out.
when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to simon peter, “simon, son of john, do you love me more than these?” he said to him, “yes, Lord; you know that i love you.” he said to him, “feed my lambs.” he said to him a second time, “simon, son of john, do you love me?” he said to him, “yes, Lord; you know that i love you.” he said to him, “tend my sheep.” he said to him the third time, “simon, son of john, do you love me?” peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that i love you.” Jesus said to him, “feed my sheep.” [john 21:15–17]
3) Jesus is the hero
do you worry that the Lord won’t strengthen you? when would be a time that you can recall he did not provide you with strength? the endurance, authority, or wisdom that was necessary? i’m not saying everything was pleasant. no, sometimes God provides you with the endurance to be persecuted. but can you bring to mind a time when, after all was said and done, he did not strengthen you? my guess is, if you are even possibly bringing something to mind, it is – if i can be bold here – not actually a time when you were seeking the glory of God. if the Lord desires you to do something, and he has said his will is for your good and his glory, then why would he not provide the strength to see it carried out. again, this doesn’t mean the sin of others does not bring hurt to our lives – it means he provides the strength to forgive the sin. it does not mean every plan we have comes to full fruition – it means he provides us the strength to sing his praise even in our lacking. it does not mean we never fall into sin ourselves – it means he provides us the strength to confess our sin to others and to him.
it means he provided us a savior to be our strength when we were faced with death as a consequence to our sin. a savior to carry a burden that we could not. a savior to conquer death and rise from the grave. that is the one who strengthens us. who empowers us. he is the hero.
…“death is swallowed up in victory.”
“o death, where is your victory?
o death, where is your sting?”
the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [1 corinthians 15:54–58]
~ keith kozlowski