Many times I have felt weak, faltering, about to fail. Circumstances look insurmountable. Fears arise on every side. Yet I have to keep going. I have a family to support, a church to lead, people in various places who are dependent on me in one way or another. Most of all, I have a Lord I want to honour. I don’t want to fail anyone, and more than anyone else, I don’t want to fail the Lord.
When I feel like this (which is thankfully not all the time), I am encouraged by the fact I have not walked this way alone. “Afflicted in every way, yet not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; knocked down but not knocked out.” Those are Paul’s words, not mine. And yes, before anyone points it out, I admit that his trials were in a whole different league to mine. But still, it’s comforting to know others we respect have gone through the same range of emotions. Christians do not go through life with a bullet-proof coating guaranteeing immunity from every negative experience and emotion.
But whatever my struggles are or yours, how do we get through them? One good answer comes from Paul himself, writing to Timothy, his spiritual son, at a difficult time in Timothy’s life: “You, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).
“Be strengthened” in Greek is a present passive imperative. What does that mean, you ask? Well, the most important part is the passive. We cannot strengthen ourselves. We haven’t got the ability or the power to do it. We need someone else to strengthen us. There’s no point whipping yourself when you’re down because you can’t turn your world right side up again. No amount of will power, emotional energy or mental concentration will do anything for you. You can’t think your way out of trouble. You can’t will your way out of trouble. You need to be rescued from it, and right here he tells us exactly how that happens. Our strength does not come from within, it comes from somewhere else. It comes from the grace of God.
Grace is not firstly a theological concept. It is not firstly a doctrine. It is not firstly a principle or a truth. No, grace is an energy. Grace is the power of almighty God sent to set you free. Yes, we can (and must) explain grace in the words of a doctrine or teaching or principle or truth. But we can never reduce it to any of those things, for it is something much greater. Grace is God’s rescue mission at work by the power of his Spirit in your life.
And Paul’s command “be strengthened” is a present imperative. The “present” part refers to something happening in this very moment. It does not refer to something that happened a long time ago or every so often. We need to find the power of the grace of God on a present, continuous basis. The grace of God that delivers me today is an amazing thing, but today’s grace will not deliver me tomorrow.
I need to stay in a living relationship with the Lord so that his mighty strength will flow into my life today, tomorrow and the next day. Without it, I will dry up. But the good news is, even if you feel dried up, you can still go back to the well. There is always grace for you. Ask, and you will receive.
Go somewhere and cry out to God until he meets you. It’s as simple as that. Take my word for it -- I’ve been doing it for decades! God’s grace will not solve all of life’s difficulties. But it will get you through them.
And in the end, here is a rock we can all hold onto: God will never call you to do something or be something or endure something without giving you the grace to get through it.
Let me leave you with one final thought. The goal of being strengthened by grace is not to rise above everything that would unsettle or disturb our comfortable lives. Jesus came to draw us into an adventure. This adventure is never without risk. It will cost us. But the price is always worth paying because of the reward. The reward is to walk alongside God and experience his great power and love. And then one day to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Don’t lose heart -- his grace will get you there.