Charles Stanley - Beyond Ourselves
It is in the love and the wisdom of God that He has chosen not to tell us many things in life. One of those aspects of life He does not reveal: those things that are going to take place in the future of our life that are difficult, trials, hardships, tribulations, persecution, whatever it might be. He has chosen not to tell us ahead of time about these things. Now, once in a while He may give us some signal in our life about something that is going to take place. But most of the time He doesn't. This is why it is so very important that you and I are continually growing in our Christian life, so that whenever these things take place we'll be ready for them.
The person who gets saved and says, "Well, that's good enough in life for me at this point and I'm just going to drift now". What they don't realize is this; there are those experiences in life that are beyond our control, beyond our strength to endure and if we don't know the key to that endurance we will tumble and fall sooner or later. And so, it is so very, very essential that you and I continually grow in our Christian life. Now, people face difficulties and circumstances like these in all kinds of ways. For example, there are some people who face difficulty and hardship and the end result is they lose their faith, they become angry, hostile, sometimes angry toward God, begin to be cynical about life, grow old, isolate themselves and die in a cynical attitude.
On the other hand, here's someone else who can go through the same circumstance in life and here are the end results; they are richer in their understanding of the ways of God, they are stronger in their faith in the power of God and they are overwhelmed in their heart by the love of God. Now, what is the difference in the way these two people respond? Here's the difference; one of them knows the source of their strength and the other one does not. And that is the title of this message today: "The Source of Our Strength". And I want you to turn to a passage of scripture written by a man who understood so very, very well what it meant to be pushed to the limits of his strength and how to go beyond our human limits and endure and survive and triumph over the most difficult circumstances in life.
2 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 8. The apostle Paul understanding what it meant to be pushed to the limits of his life. Here's what he said. He doesn't tell us exactly the incident that took place or all the details. He's writing to the Corinthians just to remind them of the kind of hurt and suffering and trial and hardship that he had been suffering and he says in verse 8: "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many".
Now the apostle Paul wasn't a man who was a stranger to difficulty, hardship, and trial but a man who was very, very aware, knowledgeable and knew not only what it felt like but who learned how to respond to the most difficult and trying of circumstances. So, I simply want to begin by saying that there are circumstances in life that require strength beyond what we have humanly. There are those circumstances in life that require strength beyond what you and I have humanly. Now let's look at the apostle Paul for a moment. And I want you to notice in this passage, though he doesn't tell us exactly when this took place or where or the particular incident. It could have been the riot in Ephesus or some other incident.
I want you to notice the words he uses to describe this, for this reason; it may be that you're one of those persons who's going through one of those trials and you say, "But wait a minute. Don't tell me about the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul lived about two thousand years ago. And things have changed". Let me tell you what has not changed. Sin hasn't changed. The devil hasn't changed. Temptation hasn't changed. Hardships, trials, suffering, difficulty, attacks, none of that's changed. It's just a different day in which it is going on: And so, the apostle Paul knew what he was speaking of here and all of us face those circumstances in which we feel we are pushed to the limits. And we have to go beyond our human energy and strength whether it is intellectual, moral, spiritual, physical, emotional, whatever it might be.
So, as you think about it in your own life, let's look at it this way. You may be one of those persons who says, "You know, I have been so wronged and so wronged by the same person for so long I don't have the strength, I don't have the power to keep on forgiving someone who keeps on wronging me". Or, you may be one of those persons who is in an working environment that is so anti-God and anti-Christian you just think, "I can't keep hanging in here in this kind of atmosphere trying to be what I ought to be, doing what I ought to be. I just don't have the strength to live in this kind of environment day after day on my job, under constant criticism because I believe the Bible and believe God, go to church, and try to live a Christian life". Or, you may be in the kind of environment or atmosphere in which the temptation is so strong, so prevailing, so overwhelming you just think, "I absolutely cannot I just don't have the strength to endure this".
Now, there are many people who live in those circumstances every day. And how do they survive? God's people, how do they survive? Well, when you look at this passage of scripture you have to also conclude this and that is, that the strength required, listen, the strength required to enable us to endure those circumstances beyond our human power and strength is available in the person of Jesus Christ. Now I know that may be a simple or simplified statement. That the power, the energy required to enable us to face these things triumphantly and victoriously is to be found in Christ, but it is. It is to be found in Him and the apostle Paul understood that. He understood that well. That's why he says in this passage here. He says: "Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead".
Now listen carefully. Here is a basic foundational principle for teaching us how to walk in the most difficult, trying circumstance of life. And even though there may be dips and moments of discouragement or periods of wondering, "God, where are You"? There is a solution. There is a way. It is God's way. It is the best way and it is the only way to survive and endure triumphantly, victoriously, without losing our peace and losing our joy. And the apostle Paul tells us what it is. He says the source of our strength is in the person of Jesus Christ. What did he mean by that? Simply this: that when you and I received, by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, the Bible says, that Jesus Christ came to live on the inside of us in our spirit, in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives inside every single believer. And what is He doing? Living out through us the life of Christ.
Now, who Jesus Christ was is who He is today. The same yesterday, today and forever. What He did in those days He's doing today. And the same power and strength that prevailed in His life in those days seal still prevails in Him today and He's living on the inside of us. So that, listen, all the strength and all the power to endure, survive and keep our joy and keep our peace is not only available to us today, it is already abiding in us in the very presence of Jesus Christ. You see, God doesn't have to send down from heaven something to enable me to face anything. It is already my possession and your possession. So, God has indwelt in every single believer enough strength and enough power that you and I can face every single circumstance of life no matter what it is.
Now listen to what Paul said. He said, in Ephesians "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might". He said to Timothy in 2 Timothy chapter 2, he said, "Be strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ". And then the apostle Paul made a statement that all of us have quoted many times. He said, "Here's what I've learned". He said, "By this principle that I want to show you". He said, "I've learned that I can do all things". Listen to that. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". He didn't say I can do anything and all things and everything. He said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Did Paul always know that? No.
You know how Paul learned that lesson? He learned it the same way you and I have to learn it. And the way we learn that we can do all things through Christ who strengths us is to get thrown into those impossible situations where we feel the crushing pressure and the absolute, total inability and totally incapacitated to change our circumstances and learn the lesson that when our limits have been exhausted we can go beyond our limits because of a strength and supernatural, divine power given to and available to every single believer. We learn it by getting thrown into it. We learn it only in that way because if you only listen to it from someone else or read it in a book you will never know and have a conviction about the adequacy of Christ in your life until you have to experience that. And so, the apostle Paul, knowing exactly what was happening and as he looked at his own life and shared how God had worked in his life.
What is he saying? He is saying, "There is a power. There is a strength". He said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Now once in a while somebody will misinterpret that passage. There is a limitation on what you and I can do. That limitation is clearly defined in that passage. When he says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Where does the strength come from? It comes from the person of Christ, our relationship with Him. What is the limitation? Here's the limitation. God is not going to strengthen you and me to do anything that is not the will of the Father. So, He's not going to empower us and strengthen us to do something it's not His will to do.
And so, what does He do? Whatever God calls you to do, if it's in your occupation, if He's called you to a certain occupation and a certain type of work that may be very difficult, if He's placed you there, He is going to enable you, strengthen you and equip you to do every single thing required of you. God will enable you to do it. Now listen carefully. That's why running out on a difficult situation is never, never, never legitimate for the child of God. It is a confession to the world that our Savior is inadequate. Now let me qualify that by saying, I would never say that a person who is living in a situation where their life has been threatened by someone because of some kind of horrible, physical abuse, that is a situation that is an exception. There may have to be an exception there. But I'm talking about difficulty, hardships, trials, tribulations, we don't like the way folks treat us, we don't like the way things happen.
And sometimes, here's a person, for example, in a job and you've been working there a long time for the same company, and you get passed over in raise and promotion. And the job is given to someone else over here who's far less qualified, does not make as much money as you do, hasn't been there as long as you've been there. And they just pass over you. And you say, "Well, why should I hang in here? How do I have the strength and the power to be just as enthusiastic about my job when I am so ill-treated"? That is the kind of situation you don't run out on because you've been ill-treated. Now listen. Here's what I want us to see. Look, if you will, in 2 Corinthians 12 and I want us to notice a conflict, what appears to be a conflict here. You'll recall that Paul said in Ephesians chapter 1... or Ephesians chapter 6, he said, "Be strong in the Lord". He told Timothy, "Be strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ".
Now listen. It looks like a contradiction. On the one hand he's saying, "Be strong in the Lord". On the other hand, he says in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. Look at that. He says in verse 5: "On behalf of such a man," speaking of himself, "will I boast; but on my on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses". He says, "You want to know what I want to boast of"? He says, "I boast about my weaknesses". Look in verse 9. He said he discovered that God's grace is sufficient to him. And he said, again, in verse 9: "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me". And verse 10 he says: "When I am weak, I am strong".
Now what kind of double talk is that? I mean, wait a minute, Paul. On the one hand you are commanding, "Be strong in the Lord". On the other hand, you are saying, "But I love to be weak". That doesn't even make any sense. Until you understand. Here's what Paul is saying. Paul says, "Here's what I've discovered. It's the most amazing thing". He said, "I have discovered that when I am weak and I get weaker and weaker and weaker and weaker and weaker and weaker". He says, "When I'm down here in my weakest moments," he says, "here's what I've discovered. It is in those moments I feel the greatest surge of this supernatural, divine energy either intellectually, either emotionally, morally, spiritually, physically". He says, "In that weakest moment of my life that's when I get the biggest surge of the power of God working in my life".
So, he says, "Here's what I've discovered. I discovered instead of despising weakness and feeling out of control and helpless," which none of us like. None of us like to feel out of control. No one wants to feel helpless. Nobody likes weakness. I don't like that anymore than anybody else. No one likes that. But you see, here's what Paul discovered. He says, "Here's what I discovered. If I am willing to experience great weakness, then I can experience great strength". Watch this. Watch this. Are you listening? Say, "Amen". To the degree I am willing to be weak, to the same degree I am willing to experience strength. Which says, I have to deal with the pride problem. Because you see, no one likes to admit, "I'm weak. I'm frail". You see, today's world says, "Be strong. Be beautiful. Be handsome. Be rich. Be all of these things". You know what God says? "Be poor in spirit, full of weakness, humility". And the world hates that. They can't stand that. They despise weakness. You know what God says? He says, "I love it".
Now, I don't like it very well to be honest. And probably you don't either, if you're honest. None of us like to feel weak, out of control and helpless. But, when you and I learn that it is in those weakest moments when we cannot, we're out of control, we can't do anything about it, that's when God is free to do His greatest work in empowering and strengthening us. That's when we become the most equipped, the most enabled to suffer, to experience, to endure. No matter what the trial maybe we can walk through it not with a sad face, not having a pity party, not complaining and moaning and groaning though sometimes we're tempted to do that. But he says, "No matter what's going on there is a power and strength available to the children of God".
Now, if someone else had said that in the scripture, somewhere along the way, that didn't make a big, strong impression on us maybe we could say, well you know, this, that, and the other about him. But you can't say that about the apostle Paul, because here's a man who experienced it. Now, if you think about the character and the nature of this strength that he gives. Listen, He says the strength that He gives to all of us, whatever we are facing is unsurpassable. It is unsurpassable. One of our problems is we want, we somehow, we can't believe that God would love us enough or that He's interested enough in you as a student in your classroom or you on job to be genuinely interested enough to, I mean, to focus His divine attention upon your circumstance and provide exactly what you need for that moment, this day, that day, the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year and to keep you in that situation.
We just think, "Well God, why"? And you see, this is the promise of God, "My God shall supply," what? "All your need according to His riches in glory". Listen, one of the riches of the grace of God for you and me is the power and the strength to live, to face, to endure, to survive and to do so victoriously and triumphantly. God doesn't want you and me failing in the Christian life. We all do at times, but He wants us to learn the truths, to know how to walk through difficulty. And as we said before, the only way we learn it is to get thrown into it. Most people just want you to give them a book, give them a passage, preach a sermon, "Got it". No, you haven't. Because I've discovered, in my own life, many truths that I learned. I thought, "Well, I've got that one down". And then the Lord sends me a big test along the way, and I realize, "No, I don't have it down. I thought I learned it".
No, what I did is; I heard it and I understood it and I believed it, but I didn't learn it. How do I learn it? By getting thrown in the fire. That's how you learn it. And you see, the people who avoid the fire and try to avoid the valley experiences the they don't want to feel weak. That's just... and I agree it is a total opposition to everything human nature cries out for. Human nature within us cries out to be strong. Human nature cries out to be courageous. Human nature cries out to be fit, ready, capable, adequate to meet every situation in life. God says, "You want to know how to do that? I'll tell you how. Get real weak. Be absolutely, totally helpless, dependent upon Me, that's the way you experience the greatest strength".
Now he called it unsurpassable power. Look, if you will, in Ephesians chapter 1, when Paul was writing there in his prayer for the Ephesian Christians here's what he prayed for them. Ephesians chapter 1, he says in verse 18: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints". And he says, "Here's another part of my prayer for you". He says, I want you to experience and to know: "What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us".
You know what he's saying? He says the power that almighty God, the strength that He makes available for His children is unsurpassable. You know what that says? That Satan cannot throw anything in your path with all of His Satanic power to match, listen to this, Satan cannot throw anything in your path, with all of his Satanic power, to match the supernatural, divine power available to the believer in the person of Jesus Christ. Satan's power can't even begin to match it. This is unsurpassing power. And secondly, it is available to every single believer. He says that is the gift of God. When you received Jesus, you got it! And it comes in a very simple way. It comes through the introduction, it comes through the confession, the acknowledgment.
And this is where, I think, we have to ask ourselves the question, "Do I know how to have this power and strength released in my life when I'm facing this"? And the answer is yes and it's very simple. He didn't make it complex because he wanted us all to understand it and all to be able to experience it in our life. And here's what he says. And you've caught it already. How do I get this strength and power released in my life? Acknowledging that I am absolutely, totally helpless. "God, if You don't do it, it won't work. You have to do it Lord, I can't do it". The confession and acknowledgment of weakness and helplessness, and we don't like to do that. When's the last time you ever said to a friend, "I feel so weak and so helpless and so absolutely and totally out of control. There's not a thing in the world I can do in my situation. Not one thing".
Have you been willing to humble yourself and acknowledge that to someone or do you want to keep up to keep up the appearance? "I can handle it. I've got it under control". That is arrogance and pride and there is no blessing that comes through that. It is the, listen, Paul said, "I'm weak". He said, "When I came to you to preach, I came to you to preach in weakness and fear and trembling"! Have you been willing to say to someone, "I feel so weak and so inadequate". You see, listen to me carefully now. You can tell God that in private but act strong in public and I don't think it works. I think you have to say to someone, in other words, I think there is a requirement of a humbling of ourselves to say, "I am inadequate. I am weak. And God, I can't". And I'm going to tell you, I wouldn't walk out here a single Sunday feeling like I have it under control, or you wouldn't see me coming through those doors.
And I'll tell you why. Because I feel like the old apostle Paul. Every time I walk of here it's fear, weakness, and trembling because I'm sure, back yonder, somewhere in my life I walked out, thought I had it under control and the Lord slapped me flat on my face. And I am grateful to God, listen, weakness! Listen, for the growing child of God weakness is inviting. We understand the power of weakness. We understand the power of humility. I don't mean some fake humbleness. I'm talking about genuinely relying upon Him, the acknowledgment of our weakness and just saying to Him, "God, I'm relying upon You. I cannot. If You don't do it, it's not going to happen".
And thirdly, simply believing that He'll do what He said. He says, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory". When? When I need it. How long? Ever how long I need it. How much? Ever how much I need. Anything that God does less than that or off timing or out of step with my needs, that's not God.
Now I don't know about you but I'm telling you, I've tried it both ways. The first way doesn't work. You can't do it in your own strength and survive. And there's a better way. If you want to become richer in the understanding of the ways of God, if you want to become stronger in your faith in the power of God and if you want to become overwhelmed in experiencing the love of God the way to do it is to acknowledge your weakness and helplessness, throw yourself upon God, rest in Him and trust Him to be in you and through you everything you need at this moment in your life. And my friend, no matter what your circumstance this I can absolutely assure you of, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is your Savior, if you have trusted Him as your personal Savior, who dwells on the inside of you will release all the power and the strength necessary to enable you to face what you're facing victoriously, triumphantly, with great joy through it all.