Our Strength

Psalm 29:11 “The Lord gives strength to his people.”

The words are simple enough. The promise isn’t difficult to understand. What is not immediately obvious to you and me may be the emphasis that would have been seen by David’s original Hebrew readers. Think of the word “Lord” in big bold letters, underlined three times, and read twice as loud as the rest of the sentence. The LORD gives strength to his people. The Lord is the one we need to turn to for all those things that make us feel weak.

            As obvious as that may seem, it is a truth that goes against our natural inclinations. All of us know that salvation is not a do-it-yourself project. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Jesus paid for all our sins because we couldn’t pay for them ourselves. He suffered the hell that would have been our eternity. He turned death into the gateway to heaven. He gives us the faith that makes all of these gifts our own. The Lord gives salvation to his people, salvation they could not have achieved with a billion lifetimes of their own efforts.

            David wants us to know that this present life is not a do-it-yourself project, either. We are inclined to pin our hopes for strength to cope our own abilities. Maybe if I can complete my education, and get that college degree, I will have the edge I need to get ahead and become a success. Maybe if I get seriously involved in the political process, and start a movement; maybe if we can get the right people sent to Washington, life will be better for all of us. Maybe if I get my spending under control and start saving for the future, I will finally have the security I have been looking for. Maybe if I get my diet and exercise right, I will start feeling better. Then I can throw some of these pills away, I can attain the quality of life I have been looking for.

            All of these things are good. But not one of them is a guarantee. Even with good education, good government, good investments, and good health, life can be insanely difficult. And whom are we depending on to get us all these things? All of these things should rightfully be the subjects of our prayers. But it is easy, even natural, to think that we can get them done ourselves.

            The Lord gives strength to his people. If you read the preceding verses of Psalm 29, all the descriptions of the Lord emphasize his power over all creation. It is certainly true that the Lord has all the strength he needs to take care of all we need.

But the name itself, the LORD, emphasizes something else about him. It is the name that emphasizes his freedom and faithfulness, and so it is the name that emphasizes his grace. The God who was not obligated to love you, nor forced to love you, nor manipulated into loving you, but freely chose to love you and me, gives us strength as his gift. The faithful God, who never changes, will not, cannot, and does not take back his gift.

            Then, don’t miss the nature of the gift itself. “The Lord gives strength to his people.” This is not the same thing as “success,” at least not as many people understand that word. This is not a promise to make your life easy. David is not saying that the Lord is going to end your struggles and battles. He promises that the Lord will give you the strength to face them.

            He does this primarily by giving us himself. When Paul prayed about his thorn in the flesh, God didn’t take it away. He made Paul strong to endure it. Then Paul concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul reminds the Philippians about how we get things done: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

            So, it turns out you have been struggling, battling, laboring for a long time. You have been trying to make this family work. You have been trying to make this job work. You have been trying to make this body work. You have been trying to make this church work. You have been trying to make this life work. Don’t expect the work to end. But the Lord gives strength to his people, the strength to do the work he has given them.

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