Author and Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of when he first began his preaching ministry, no less than five minutes into his sermon, he would pass out cold. He would just faint right in the middle of his message. He jokingly says this is not a good attribute for an aspiring preacher. Thankfully he’s overcome this tendency, although the feelings do arise at times.
While physically fainting can be an intimidating condition to deal with, spiritual fainting is an even greater obstacle to overcome. Whenever tribulation comes, we can either fight through it or faint because of it. It all depends on our spiritual strength:
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10)
We are living in trying times and they can easily become worse. How we respond to adversity reveals much about our walks with Christ. Will we faint in the middle of serving Jesus, or will we lean into the wind knowing our Lord literally has our back, pushing us along through whatever we face?
When you study the history of man in the Bible, you often find a fainthearted people. The Israelites had a long history of being rescued by God. However, their faithless eyes allowed them to see only their circumstances in which they believed they were alone. God led them from Egyptian captivity, miraculously delivered them through the Red Sea, and had brought them to the doorstep of the Promised Land. Nevertheless, when they received reports of giants living in the land, they became fainthearted:
“Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3)
We become fainthearted because we believe we are alone. We convince ourselves that the mountain we are facing is too big to climb. We allow our human eyes to tell our brains that what we believe, that is our faith, does not apply to this particular trial. When our faith weakens, our fear increases and overcomes our hearts until we faint.
The remedy for this is to remember who God is. We must continually remind ourselves of the sovereignty and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do so by steeping our lives in His Word and through prayer and meditation on God’s grace. A sure way to strengthen our hearts is to remember God’s goodness. As Chris Tomlin sings, “He’s a good, good father.”
This does not mean we deceive ourselves and ignore the trials before us. Life is hard, and it is even harder for the Christian who is on the frontlines of spiritual battle. The Apostle Paul knew this and reminded the Corinthian church of it and how to deal with it:
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
To put it in modern terms, we have to keep on keepin’ on. We have to summon what little courage we have. If we will do so, then God will strengthen us. It’s our choice; Matthew Henry explains:
“Under troubles we are apt to despair of relief. But be of good courage, and God shall strengthen thy heart.”
I have experienced God strengthening my heart. I have also abandoned His strength and sought to go it alone. It always ends in disaster when I do so. When I find myself in my self-made predicament, I realize the mess I’ve made and I humble myself and seek God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Defeat is tough to overcome. Relief is always liberating. My defeats many times are because of my actions and at times because of outside forces. My relief always comes because of my merciful God:
“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)
That alone should strengthen our hearts…
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Copyright © 2016 David Jeffers