Saturday, August 4, 2018

Strengthen, Help, Uphold

Photo by Nyehob 2016

During various trials I have experienced in the past year, including storms, illness and injury, God has spoken to my heart through Isaiah 41:10: Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

It is amazing how often this verse, which was not particularly familiar to me before, has appeared so often recently, typically in clusters, as a sermon text, part of a daily devotional, verse of the day, or even a group email or Facebook post. These reminders of God’s faithfulness come at the darkest hour of the storm, just when I need them most.

It begins with the exhortation to fear not, which in various forms occurs in the Bible 365 times, one for each day of the year. Often it is God Himself or an angel sent by God who begins their message with this encouragement (Genesis 15:1; 21:17; 26:24; Luke 1:13, 30, etc.), for we are all sinners who have reason to fear God’s judgment (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Even in this evil world, we have many earthly reasons to fear, yet none at all, for our Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell itself through His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 57; Matthew 16:18).

If God is with us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). No human, physical, demonic or other power or being can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39) or pluck us from the hand of Jesus, which is held tight in the hand of the Father (John 10:28-29) and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). We need not fear, for He is with us, and He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

No matter how desperate, discouraging, or diabolical circumstances may seem, we are not to be dismayed, for He is our God, our Abba Father through adoption (Romans 8:15) once we are born again (John 3:3-8). Jesus Christ is also our Lord, Master (John 13:13), Savior (Isaiah 43:3, 11; Luke 2:11), Bridegroom (Matthew 25; Mark 2:19), Advocate (1 John 2:1), and High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, Guide and Teacher (John 14:16, 26; 15:26). With such all-powerful connections, what reason can we possibly have to be dismayed?

As the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.  
In other words, we can be reassured as we endure trials that our body, soul and spirit are mirroring the suffering, betrayal and even death of Jesus, Who endured all these for our sake, that we may experience eternal life through Him.

In troubling situations, we need not fear, for He is with us, He is our God, and He will strengthen us. God is all-powerful (Revelation 4:8), and we cannot even take our next breath unless He wills it (John 15:5), yet His strength is made perfect in our weakness. When we are weak, we are therefore strong, giving us reason to glory in our frailties and afflictions, for He will be glorified by empowering us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

But He does not strengthen us so that we can go it alone, for He promises to help us! It reminds me of an experience I had during my second week as a medical intern. Exhausted, sleep-deprived, and challenged beyond my abilities, knowledge and experience at that time, I was in the last hours of night call when two critically ill patients were admitted to my service and two others developed life-threatening emergencies.

I knew I couldn’t begin to handle these challenges on my own and felt overwhelmed and ready to give up, when suddenly the chief resident appeared. Normally the chief resident on call, who was responsible for all the medical wards, would merely stop by to offer a few quick words of advice, but this extremely knowledgeable, capable, and experienced physician stayed with me until all the problems were under control, not only giving counsel but pitching in with blood drawing, spinal taps and other needed procedures.

And he did it all with kindness, compassion, and grace, never once making me feel inadequate or lording his authority over me, actually taking the time for some encouraging words and even a cup of coffee! So if my spirits could be lifted immensely by the help of one in authority, how can I not be encouraged by the help of God Almighty, Who has all power, resources (Psalm 50:10) and wisdom (Psalm 139:6) to achieve the best outcome? 
He loves me infinitely (1 John 4:8; John 3:16) and will provide for my needs before I even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).

Not only does God promise to strengthen and help His children, but He has promised to uphold us! Others may criticize, attack and condemn us, but God will uphold us with the right hand of His righteousness! Although I have sinned, and some of the trials I face may be consequences of or chastisement for my sins (Hebrews 12:5-9), God no longer remembers or sees my sin (Psalm 103:12). Instead, He sees me as clothed in the robe of righteousness imparted by His Son (Isaiah 61:10), Who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The morning after the night on call described above, the attending physician questioned medical decisions I had made and possible errors of omission. To my surprise and gratitude, the chief resident who had rescued me and the patients under my care took full responsibility for all that had been done and left undone, even though he could have easily and justifiably blamed me.

On a much grander scale, Jesus Christ, Son of God, the sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29) Who knew no sin, took upon Himself the burden of all our sins, past, present and future, and paid for those sins with every drop of His shed blood, so that sinful man could be reconciled to Holy God (Romans 3:25). Now we can stand without shame In God’s holy presence, for He Himself upholds us with the right hand of His righteousness!

Praise God that we have no reason for fear or dismay, for our Savior is with us and strengthens, helps, and upholds us with the right hand of His righteousness! 

© 2018 Laurie Collett



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Scripture verses such as Isaiah 41:10 are very encouraging words to read, but I have asked myself whether they can be applied personally to me and my circumstances, or whether they strictly apply to Israel only, as was the prophet's original intent.
However, I too have found strength and encouragement by reading these verses, especially when they appear more distinct on the page, like as if God was supernaturally illuminating the page on which these words are printed.
Or the time when we lost our children to adoption back in 2005. When I was reading Matthew's record of the slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:18), I was drawn back to Jeremiah 31:16-17, which reads,
"This is what the LORD says:
'Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work shall be rewarded,' declares the LORD.
'They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future,' declares the LORD.
'Your children will return to their own land.'"
These are words of promise, and to this day I have held on to them, never doubting God.
Thank you for writing and posting such an encouraging blog, which has reminded me of these things.
God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Praise the Lord for the encouragement He provides throughout His Word. You are right that we must rightly divide the Word of truth, and that not all passages apply to the church. Yet all Scripture is profitable for instruction, correction, reproof, and I believe encouragement. I believe that in the present dispensation, God speaks to His children most often through His Word. What wonderful, specific verses He brought to mind for your situation! May they continue to be a blessing and promise. Prayers and blessings for you and Alex to be able to claim that promise very soon. Thanks as always for sharing your experience, encouragement and insight.
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Even when they do not apply to us directly, verses such as Isaiah 41:10 reveal God's love and concern for his children, adbn can be a source of great encouragement. As II Timothy 3:16 says, all scripture is from God and provides benefit, enabling us to be fully equipped to do what God gives us to face.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! All Scripture is divinely inspired, and if we are faithful to study it, it is amazing how God brings just the right verse to our attention, exactly when we need it for encouragement, instruction, or correction. Thanks as always for your Scripture-filled comment and God bless,

Susan said...

I’ve heard it said also that certain verses apply only to Israel and not the gentiles, and am reminded of when the woman asked Jesus for the crumbs that are left for the dogs...Jesus was there for a specific purpose and His ministry was only to Israel, but as the examples with several interactions He had with gentiles (the woman at the well, the Centurian, and this woman seeking healing for her child) His blessings meant for Israel overflow to the rest of us so we can all have blessed assurance of His long suffering love for us.

Laurie Collett said...

So true, Susan! Jesus addressed His earthly ministry primarily to the house of Israel, but He did not reject those few Gentiles who approached Him in faith. His revelations to Paul opened up the plan of salvation to all, whether Jew or Gentile, praise the Lord!
Thank you for sharing your insights, and God bless,