Last week we asked the question, Why does God want your money? We made the important clarification that it’s not your money but God’s money. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to the original question:
Why does God want your (er, His!) money?
Here are just two reasons from Matthew 6:19–21:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (emphasis added).
When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
God wants your money because He wants you to have treasures that’ll last. As in, forever.
My sweet neighbor has let me watch two of her births. Elijah came out clutching a flat-screen TV, and Mercy came out with a sparkling pair of twenty-four-carat diamond earrings. (Kidding!) They both came out naked and empty-handed. No surprise, right? Paul says it like this in 1 Timothy 6:7:
We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world (emphasis added).
Have you ever asked your mom what you brought into this world the day you were born? Probably not, because you already know the answer. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that when you leave this world (whether it’s through death or through Jesus’ soon return for you), you will bring nothing with you? Nada. Zippo. Nothing.
I like how John Piper says it:
There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.
In Matthew 6:19, Jesus isn’t saying it’s wrong to store up treasures; He just doesn’t want us to be stupid about it. We can’t take our favorite possessions or clothes with us (sorry to disappoint!). When we go, we’ll leave everything behind. Everything except the money and stuff we’ve invested in God’s forever kingdom.
Randy Alcorn says it like this, "You can’t take it with you—but you can send it on ahead." He continues in his fantastic little book The Treasure Principle:
Jesus has a treasure mentality. He wants us to store up treasures! He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong place and start storing them in the right place!
God wants you to have treasures that’ll actually last—as in forever.
God wants your money because above all, He wants your heart.
There’s another reason God wants your (ahem, His!) money.
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21).
What if God is really after your heart? And what if the way to your heart is through . . . your wallet?
As I read The Treasure Principle, I learned that 15 percent of everything Jesus says in the Bible relates to money—more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined!
Why does He care so much about money? It’s ’cause He knows that wherever our money goes, our heart goes.
More than your money, He’s after your heart (Matt. 15:7–9). He wants you to share a relationship with Him that’s closer than any other relationship you have on this entire planet. (And yes, when that happens, He’ll also have your money.)
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t payback. God didn’t sacrifice His life for you so you could pay Him back (as if you could!). Your salvation was a free, lavish gift. Don’t pull out your wallet to pay Him back. Give out of joy and gratefulness for how He gave to you, and watch your love for Him skyrocket as you do. Because where your money goes, there your heart goes.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
God wants your money. But not for the reasons you think.
He’s not poor.
He’s not a mooch.
He’s not looking to take, take, take from you.
He’s not anti-money, and He doesn’t think the poor are more holy than the middle class.
Before I tell you why God wants your money, I need to back up.
Something is terribly, terribly wrong with the subject line of this post. Read it again. Did you catch it?
Nope, I didn’t misspell any words or use incorrect punctuation. I did make a wrong assumption, though.
As much as it feels like my money, God teaches that the money in my purse, the money in my bank account, that paycheck I just received . . . is actually His money. Here are just a couple places we learn this from God’s Word:
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Ps. 24:1, emphasis added).
If that’s not clear enough, how about this one from Haggai 2:8:
"The silver is mine and the gold is mine," declares the LORD Almighty.
(I know you don’t buy things with silver or gold, but this passage is talking about currency. Substitute "silver" and "gold" with "dollars" and "cents.")
Before we go any further, we need to ask God to reset our minds so we realize it’s not our money; it’s His money.
We don’t own the money stuffed away in our top dresser drawer; God has entrusted us with delivering His money to those who need it most.
Picture it like this: You buy a sweet gift for your friend’s birthday. Since she just moved across the country, you wrap it up and give it to the FedEx guy to deliver to her. But instead of delivering the package, he takes it home and breaks open the present for himself!
Obviously, this guy doesn’t understand his job. He’s just the delivery guy!
Did you know that you and I are like that FedEx employee? We don’t own the money stuffed away in our top dresser drawer; God has entrusted us with delivering His money to those who need it most.
Now that we’ve cleared that important misunderstanding up, let’s get back to the original question:
Why does God want my (ahem, His!) money?
First, though, I’d love to hear from you. Is this news that the money in your purse actually belongs to God? Or have you already been thinking and living like it’s His?
Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:
God wants your money. But not for the reasons you think. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post.)
If you met Liza, you might think she’s an "ordinary" twenty-something girl. She works as a web developer by day and savors coffee and LIVE music by night. But if you spent some time with her, you’d quickly realize she’s not so ordinary. Yesterday we talked about Liza’s surprising bucket list addition: living in the hood. Once you’ve read part 1, catch the rest of her story here.
. . . I knew it was time to go live with these people and make God’s love real to them. All that was left to do was find a "hood."
I started looking right where I lived, and the name "Keller Park Church" kept coming up. So on a cold Sunday in February, I drove to the west side of South Bend, Indiana, and slipped into the back of a small church sanctuary. I immediately noticed the people there—all ages, classes, and colors. There was something different about this place.
After the service, I briefly spoke to a woman who loves Jesus and pours her life out for the kids in Keller Park. In the course of conversation, she said:
Liza, we were right where you are three years ago. We wanted Jesus to be more than just the dessert [on a comfy, self-sufficient life]. We wanted Him to be the whole meal. So we sold almost everything and moved into an 800-square-foot house.
She told stories of buying one kiddie pool, then two, then three to host all the kids in the summer. She talked about tutoring, youth group, Bible studies, and doing life with your neighbors.
I started swinging by the neighborhood to look at the people that lived there (creeper!), pray, and ask God if I was supposed to be involved. A love for the people was developing, and the area started to feel like home. I told God I would pursue living here and expect Him to redirect if this was the wrong way to go.
He directed all right.
Signpost #1: My Parents Say . . .
I knew it was time to involve my parents. A few weeks later, I called Dad and said, "Is Mom around? You may want to put this on speakerphone." They’re semi-used to me announcing radical, ridiculous, and passionate ideas, but still . . . I know they get nervous when I want to talk to both of them at the same time.
If you want to be truly filled, set your wants on nothing less than God Himself.
God had brought me to a place of wanting to completely honor them in this process. I was totally prepared for them to say what any loving parent would be tempted to say, "No. It’s too dangerous."
I told them everything. In one breath. Then I stopped. There was a few seconds of silence.
Then Dad said, "We think you should do it. We don’t really have any concerns at all."
"Liza, the Christian life isn’t about being safe," Mom added.
"Yeah, in fact, do they need more house-parents?"
I didn’t know what to say! Their full support of what I’m doing frees me in incredible ways. Picture the Kentucky Derby, when the horses spring from the chutes. That was me. I knew then that I was on the right track, and I could run. But I didn’t quite know which lane I should be in yet.
Signpost #2: My Friends Offer Me . . .
On March 16, a group of friends were gathered in a living room. With coffee in hand, we were telling stories of how we were seeing God working in and around us.
A friend’s husband shared how God had been challenging him to use his resources to build God’s kingdom here on earth. He wanted to build as much kingdom here as possible, so we all dreamed together about ways that could happen.
Later I shared, "I’d just love to live in a big house in the hood where lots of people could find Jesus. A place where we could house people that needed a safe place and have a dozen kids around the table every night and play soccer in the backyard."
We all rejoiced in the different things God was doing and went our separate ways. The next day, I got a text. It was my friend’s husband. "Could you show me around this neighborhood?" As we drove around the neighborhood, he said, "We want to equip you to build the kingdom of God here. We want to buy you a house. Pick one out."
What?!? Buy a house?! I have never been so humbled or in awe of the Body of Christ coming together and everyone getting serious about what God has called them to do.
That’s when I realized, God is serious about this. He means business in this neighborhood, and I better get serious about it, too. It’s time to stop dipping my toe in the water to see if it’s cold. Of course it’s cold. Jump in anyway. Because He is worthy.
This doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. I am in awe of a God who weaves His purposes and our surrendered desires together so perfectly. In turn, it’s only appropriate to fall on our knees in worship and give Him all the scraps of our lives.
I feel like a kid who just got a pony for my birthday. I’ve dreamed of it, but never quite expected it.
I cannot believe we get to do this. And it’s not the stuff; it’s God Himself and His heart and sending us out as His personal ambassadors and involving us in His grand plan.
Caring about what He cares about is blessed freedom from yourself and caring so much about things that don’t pay up on their promises for fulfillment and happiness. If you want to be truly filled, set your wants on nothing less than God Himself.
"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food [the profuseness of spiritual joy]" (Isa. 55:2).
(Hey, girls. Paula here.) Did you catch what Liza said?
Caring about what God cares about is blessed freedom from yourself and caring so much about things that don’t pay up on their promises for fulfillment and happiness.
That’s why I shared Liza’s story with you—to spark your imagination for how God might multiply your life. Yes, yours! Oh, I know you feel ordinary. But God’s always used "little" people to do great big things as they rely on His mighty power.
God made you for so much more than snagging that cute guy’s attention. It doesn’t mean you’ll write a book or live in the "hood"—God has a unique plan just for you!
How can you begin to bless others today with the talents He’s given you?
Liza is a natural beauty who shines Jesus. One of the things I love most about her is that she’s had this routine for years where she spends most Wednesday nights with God. I think that’s a big part of why He’s writing such an incredible story in her life right now. In fact, I think it’s so great that I want you to know about it. Read Liza’s account below to see what I’m so excited about.
I’m one of those people who wrote my bucket list years ago. It’s full of things I imagined would make an adventurous, worthwhile life. But it’s recently become clear there was a large oversight when making that list.
I didn’t put "live in the hood" anywhere on it.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8–9).
So yes, "live in the hood" is now somewhere near the top of the list . . . but I’m getting ahead of the story. It all started in the spring a couple of years ago.
Spring 2012, Pregnancy Care Center, Michigan
I started volunteer work at the local pregnancy care center—not because I was particularly drawn to that field, but because I was looking for ways to share the Light. One of my first times there, I saw a girl walking by with bleach-blonde hair and hard, empty eyes. My heart tightened knowing I would soon be in a counseling room with her or one of her friends having no idea what to say or how to relate. But at least I noticed her. That was new. That was progress.
God doesn’t just see 142 million orphans. He sees one. And another one. And another one.
The pregnancy care center ended up changing the way I see people like her entirely. Cut to a year later: precious friendships, baby showers, laughing with, crying with, and learning how to love people the way God loves.
June 2013, Set Apart Girl Conference, Colorado
At a Set Apart Girl Conference in Colorado, I heard the miraculous testimony of a rescued street girl from South Korea, and it sunk deep down into my heart that God doesn’t just see 142 million orphans. He sees one. And another one. And another one.
He sees Ayushi, begging at a rickshaw on the streets of New Dehli. And He cares so much. He wants to rescue her. And He uses His hands and feet, His people here on the earth, to go pick her up out of the dust, brush her off, and make His love real to her.
The gap between my comfy life and volunteering at the center was becoming wider and wider. It didn’t feel right anymore.
God, if there are people out there You want to rescue, I’d consider it a privilege to be the one to take them by the hand and lead them to safety. Please send someone to rescue them. Send me.
January 2014, Lori’s Home, Ohio
The gap between my comfy life and volunteering once a week at the pregnancy care center was becoming wider and wider. It didn’t feel right anymore. How could I truly love the people God had so clearly drawn my heart to when I kept them at such a distance?
Then I connected with an old friend, Lori, who told stories of Christians (herself included) who’d just asked God to show them people to love and then moved right next door to them in the rough part of town. I had no idea Christians could just . . . do that. They called it Christian Community Development, and there were associations and conferences and everything.
That made so much sense. That’s what Jesus did with us. He came incarnate, God With Us, and stayed. He came into close proximity with the ones He loved to rescue them and redeem them. When He finished the redemption work, He went to heaven, sent His Holy Spirit, and now gives us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–20).
From that day forward, knowing how much Jesus loves the poor, the least of these, the broken, the castaways . . . and knowing how much He loves me, I knew it was time to connect the dots and just go live with these people and make His love real to them.
All that was left to do was find a "hood."
To be continued tomorrow . . .
(Hey, girls. Paula here.) Did you catch what Liza said?
The gap between my comfy life and volunteering once a week at the pregnancy care center was becoming wider and wider. It didn’t feel right anymore.
You’re probably still sharing a room with your little sister (or maybe not!), and I don’t imagine "living in the hood" is even an option for you at this point in life. But in what other ways is God calling you out of your comfort zone in your everyday life?
Oh, and I’d love to hear . . . do you have a bucket list? What’s on it?
This past month Michael Sam came out of the closet. This was a big deal because, if drafted, he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.
In an ESPN interview, when asked what it was like to tell his teammates, Michael said, "I was kinda scared, even though they already knew, but I was still scared of telling them."
Our culture views this kind of coming out as incredibly brave
but wants to push Christians more and more “into the closet.” That’s why Pastor
Trent Griffith challenged us this past Sunday,
“I’m asking you to be at least as courageous as Michael Sam. Stop
taking the path of least resistance. Come out Christian.”
Just that week I’d come out Christian in front of 120 freshmen at the local public high school. Because Jesus tells us to expect persecution, I wondered if they’d throw their lunches at me or kick me out . . . or both. It felt illegal. But of course it’s not. (At least not yet.)
So during the four-and-a-half hours while I shared writing tips as well as the process of writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, I openly identified myself as a Jesus-follower and spoke freely about Him. Then I offered a copy of Confessions to anyone who wanted one.
To my utter amazement, over eighty students lined up for a book. They didn’t throw anything, and they didn’t kick me out. In fact, the teachers said it was the most inspiring thing that’s happened all year.
It must’ve been my orange shoes. (Kidding!)
But in all seriousness, I did put on special "shoes" that day. Ephesians 6:15 describes them this way:
And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
Let’s break that down. It basically means, "Always be prepared to share the good news of peace with God and total well-being through Him."
Whether you’re headed to high school or just playing ball with your friend at the park, strap on the "shoes" He’s given you. Isaiah 52:7 says,
How beautiful . . . are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
I’m not telling you to cart around a heavy Bible or plaster your car with bumper stickers or leave tracts in the girls’ bathroom. I’m asking you to share the good news of happiness with those who have no true hope. Don’t let the names and labels you might be called keep you from sharing the fact that God has gone to crazy lengths to have a relationship with anyone who will accept His free gift of forgiveness through faith in His Son, Jesus.
After all, this was Jesus’ last instruction to us before He returned to heaven to prepare His home for us:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19–20).
So how about it? What keeps you from coming out Christian?
The world is trying to shove Christians back in the closet, but I’m calling you out today. Will you join me?
Crazy news flash for you . . . did you know you have up to 70,000 thoughts a day?! Researchers say most of us have between 45,000–51,000 thoughts a day, but it can be as many as 70,000!
Most of the battles you fight each day rage in the battleground of your mind. Here are just a few blog comments from this last week that reveal the mind battles you’re facing:
"I feel like I’m not worth as much as the pretty/skinny/athletic/cool girls." —Ella
"I had formed a habit of thinking I hate myself or I hate my life when things went badly." —Michelle
"Please pray for my stupid self." —Mist
"I struggle with lies like I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never be pretty enough, and Even if I become beautiful enough, people won’t love me for me." —Michelle
I think the apostle Paul knew what a battleground our minds are when he wrote to believers:
Take the helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17).
Quick history lesson—back in the day, Roman soldiers wore heavy helmets that covered their cheeks, foreheads, neck, and ears so their enemy’s battle-axe wouldn’t send their head flying off. Think of the helmet of salvation like our modern-day football or motorcycle helmet—except much more beautiful.
Now obviously, you don’t need to put on the helmet of salvation in order to be saved, ’cause Paul wrote this to people who were already Christians. But you do need to put on the helmet of salvation in order to think true thoughts that line up with who you really are now in Christ.
Your thoughts matter—big time. In Romans 12:2 we’re told, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Your mind was never meant to control you—you were meant to control your mind! As you do, you will be transformed from the inside out.
So how are you to get the upper hand over your thoughts?
Thinking Brand-New Thoughts
The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5: "Take every thought captive to obey Christ." Warning—that’s a lot of hard, unending work! But it’s worth it, because the alternative isn’t pretty. Taking every thought captive to obey Christ means you’ll have to constantly monitor every thought to see if it passes the Philippians 4:8 test:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
If a thought doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test, rather than letting that thought captivate you, instantly capture it in your mind and turn it over to King Jesus. Then replace that stray thought with one that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any of those thoughts on my own. I have to borrow Christ’s thoughts by memorizing His Words so I can replace my thoughts with His.
Can I encourage you to do the same? Buy a spiral-bound, index-card notebook from Walmart, and write out verses you find most helpful. Or store them in your phone. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get His words into you.
I encourage you to start with verses that talk about what all is included in the gift of salvation. Become a serious student of your salvation. (This is how you put on the helmet of salvation—by knowing and chewing on what Jesus has done for you and given to you.) What saved you? How do you know this? When God saved you, what benefits and lavish gifts did He give you? For a great place to start, read or listen to these forty-five gifts God gave you when you were saved.
If you’re in a relationship with Jesus, you now "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). Obviously that doesn’t mean you’re omniscient, that you know every single thing there is to know as God does. But it does mean your mind, which used to be hostile toward Him, can now understand, accept, and think on the things of God. Incredible!
So pick up that helmet of salvation and put it on. I want to see some helmet hair!
Then come back here and tell me about a mind battle you won this week. Let me know what thought you caught yourself thinking and how you beat that thought back by putting on the helmet of salvation and taking every thought captive to Christ.
The past couple months I’ve been learning how to acknowledge and live within my limitations. After all, God alone is infinite; I am not. Here are four truths I’ve been remembering and implementing in everyday life:
1. It’s okay to work at a less frenzied pace—and even take breaks!
I used to work straight through my eight-hour workday. I’d even take my laptop into the bathroom stall with me. I’m not kidding. Lunch would be inhaled at my computer. I worked at mach speed. Who knows, my coworkers may have even witnessed smoke coming out my ears!
Now, though, I’m joining the sane lunch group in the cafeteria. I’m getting up from my computer every hour or so for a game of Ping-Pong, a short walk, or a change of scenery. Breaks are important. In fact, Jesus had to tell His disciples to take breaks, too:
“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).
2. Everything doesn’t have to be done NOW.
Last week I picked up a prescription, dropped off my energy bill, and got my tire patched. I didn’t, however, make my Walmart returns, cash that check, or grocery shop (there was enough food in my fridge for at least a couple more days). On a whim, I stopped by the library on the way home and picked up a book a friend recommended. Progress!
The truth is I don’t have to run all my errands now. I don’t have to respond to all my emails now. The world won’t end if I don’t knock everything off my to-do list right now. In fact, it will be a whole lot better for me and others if I use that extra time to drive the speed limit back home rather than racing on to the next thing on my to-do list. Proverbs 19:2 warns,
“Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
3. I can and need to prioritize.
The way I used to live was based on the belief, When I get all my work done, then I’ll rest and play. What a fool I’ve been. My work will never be done, no matter how hard or fast I work. So I need to ask God to help me prioritize.
Jesus modeled this beautifully when He came to earth. As you know, He didn’t heal every sick person. There was so much He didn’t do in the world. But He did spend time with His Father seeking His priorities. That’s why Jesus was able to say at the end of His life on earth,
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
4. I can ask for help.
I’ve asked for help more in the past couple months than I have in . . . well, possibly my entire life. I think the breakthrough happened the night I asked a friend to drive me to my hair appointment because I just didn’t have the energy. Who asks someone to drive them to their hair appointment?! Girls like me who are willing to acknowledge when they’re feeling really weak, I guess.
I’ve been trying to implement this maxim, “If you don’t ask the answer is always no.” The other day I asked someone to shovel my snow, and they offered to do so for the rest of the winter! I’ve been so blessed and helped by sharing my needs with others. I dare you to try it, too. Warning, though, it will take a dose of humility to admit you can’t do it all on your own. Reminds me of Moses, actually,
“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You . . . will certainly wear yourself out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. . . . look for able men . . . and they will bear the burden with you’” (Ex. 18:17-23).
I hope these truths help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I’m curious, do you think you’re living within your limitations? How so?
What’s your favorite Valentine’s memory? Mine took place on a snowy Saturday night in 2012 when five teen girls piled into my home with their pajamas, pillows, and Chi hair straighteners.
We did the typical things girls do at slumber parties (ate a lot of sugar, did each other’s hair, posed for a photo shoot) but the main reason we got together—and the highlight of the party—was sitting on the living room floor cutting and gluing and writing and praying.
We’d asked the church secretary for a list of the names and addresses of the widows in our church, and then we made them each a homemade Valentine’s Day card and included a picture so they could put faces to our names.
Why did we spend our evening reaching out to a bunch of older women we hardly even knew rather than watching a couple of chick flicks? Because we wanted to love the same people God loves. Did you know widows have a very special place in God’s heart? He protects them and provides for them and urges us to do the same:
"You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child" (Ex. 22:22).
"He [God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing" (Deut. 10:18).
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation (Ps. 68:5).
The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (Ps. 146:9).
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).
The next morning we hand-delivered one of our cards to a woman in a nursing home and stayed to visit, sing, hug, and pray for her. We dropped the other cards in the mail and were delightfully surprised when we received a couple letters back from widows warmly inviting us into their homes!
I wonder what widows you know. Would you make a list and send at least one of them a Valentine’s Day card this year? (You might want to send one to a single mom, as well.) After you’ve done that, I’d love to know your thoughts. Why do you think God cares so deeply for widows and wants us to do the same?
PS: I think a highlight this Valentine’s 2014 will be sharing my new book, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, with the teens around me. If your heart is hurting this Valentine’s Day season, would you pick up a copy? It’s 40% off over at Moody Publishers today through February 17. Enjoy!
Do you think of yourself as a strong or a weak woman?
Personally, I’ve counted myself a strong one.
I was the girl who ran around flexing her biceps, challenging boys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranging my heavy bedroom furniture all by myself.
I was the young woman who had a scheduled activity on her calendar every night of the week. I was the woman who wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I was the woman who always, always pushed through.
But then last month I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall,
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”
My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did.
I wasn’t so sure.
God, do You think of me as weak or strong? And how should I think of myself?
Taking Cues from a “Strong” Man and a “Weak” Man
I went to God’s Word for answers, starting with the strongest man I could think of: Samson. You know the beast—tearing a roaring lion to pieces with his bare hands, striking down 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, pushing down a house killing 3,000 party-goers.
Here’s the surprising pattern I found. Just before Samson displays great strength, this is what happens just before:
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:6).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:19).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 15:14).
It was always God’s strength Samson displayed; never his own. God is the strong One. Even Samson was weak apart from God.
Then I re-read the familiar story of David and Goliath. Anyone observing the battle scene that day would’ve put their money on the intimidating war champion Goliath, not the young, inexperienced David. Goliath had complete confidence in his strength; David had complete confidence in his living God. And at the end of the short fight, David was the unlikely victor.
I Am Weak, but He Is Strong
Funny how many times I’ve gotten it mixed up. I’ve considered myself strong and believed God to be weak. Nothing could be further from the truth:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28, emphasis added).
God’s strength will never, ever give out.
Me on the other hand, I’m weak. My strength is finite.
What freedom that realization brings.
Strength comes when we first own up to our own weakness. (That’s ’cause we don’t rely on God when we consider ourselves strong.) But in our weakness, as we depend on our strong God, His strength flows through to us. Catch Paul’s personal testimony of this:
“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).
And then there’s my favorite passage from this past month,
“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29–31).
How is this strength-for-weakness exchange possible?
Strong Made Weak; Weak Made Strong
It’s all because the Strong One was made weak so we, the weak, could be made strong.
Check out this baffling verse:
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25, emphasis added).
The weakness of God? But God isn’t weak!
Study the context, and you’ll see this verse refers to the cross. The world judges Jesus weak and pathetic, hanging there exposed and bleeding. “Weakness,” they spit.
But to us who are being saved, we gaze at the cross and celebrate. “Strength!” we shout.
God refuses to save Himself so He might save us. The Strong One is made weak so we, the weak, can be made strong.
What weakness can you boast about today? How might God want to showcase His strength through your particular weakness?
Hey, girls, I’ve missed you! Now you’ll know why I disappeared for a month—and why I’m so glad to be back with you.
This series on spiritual armor just got real personal.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been writing about how to fight our spiritual enemies or if it’s because I’ve been asking God to root out every bit of pride in me, but either way-this past month I felt shot at from every side.
A big part of the "attack" had to do with my health, including a visit to the emergency room, a terrible full-body rash (I’d share a picture, but then you’d never visit this blog again!), and terrifying insomnia (how is my body supposed to heal if I can’t sleep, I anxiously wondered as I tossed and turned night after night).
Satan really will use whatever circumstances he can to discourage and defeat us—even our health. A man named Job knows that even better than I do. It all started when Satan asked God for permission to attack Job’s health, swearing that Job would curse God if his health was compromised. But instead Job worshiped God.
In physical misery but tangible faith Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). And for the record, God didn’t kill Job; just the opposite! Read the end of Job’s story here.
There were times this past month I felt like Job and wondered if I would survive.
So rather than writing a theoretical post about the different pieces of the armor of God, I’m going to focus on one piece I used a lot this past month—the shield of faith. Turns out the armor of God isn’t just an interesting concept to toss around on the blog; it’s intensely personal and necessary for normal, everyday life. Ephesians 6:16 urges us:
In all circumstances take up the shield of FAITH, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (emphasis added).
Taking up the shield of faith is just a fancy, colorful way to say trust God.
For me it started with a choice to thank God for the hives, the trip to the emergency room, and the itchiness, even when I didn’t like or understand it. Lifting the shield of faith meant thanking Him—and believing—that this was His best for me. This was how I would learn to trust Him more, to depend on Him more, to experience His peace.
It meant thinking about His names as I lay in bed and asking Him to be that to me:
My Wonderful Counselor when I didn’t know which doctors to believe and which medical advice to take.
My Mighty God who is able to heal me.
My Everlasting Father who delights in me and protects me.
My Prince of Peace who can give peace even in the most frightening situations.
As I’d take medication or eat, I’d remind God that He’s my Healer (Ex. 15:26). I’d acknowledge that my trust was not ultimately in this medicine or food; I needed Him to heal me.
Five weeks later, I’m happy to report that my rash has now almost completely disappeared, and I’m sleeping some every night. And while Satan wanted to take me out through this difficult ordeal, God has used it to rescue me in ways I never dreamed possible. I could fill pages with how He has used it for good (well, I already have in my journal!), and I may share some of that with you in the future.
For now, though, I want to encourage you in your own difficult circumstances to lift up the shield of faith. Lean into God; rest your full weight on Him. This will protect you from the temptation to doubt His goodness, listen to Satan’s lies, and walk away from the One who has your back, who has your very best in mind.
God is for you. He is with you in the darkest, blackest night. Lift up your shield of faith, and lean into Him with a heart full of trust. He will not fail you. I promise. (Well actually, He promises.)