ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid" PSALMS 27:1
As a great battering ram slowly weakens the castle door, so does Satan perpetually hammer away at our souls from day to day. If he does not hammer away at the door, Satan is tunneling underground for secret passages into our hearts or raising ladders to ascend over the walls. To fight a persistent enemy one needs a persistent and never ending source of strength which is both ready and available in time of need "the Lord is the strength of my life."
As we consider this verse let us first notice that David does not have His Lord in one place and his life in another. David's Lord was not just a Lord for Sunday; David's Lord was to him as bone and marrow. The two were so interwoven and intermingled that one could not easily tell exactly where the weld was. As we read the Psalms we readily observe that David includes the Lord in his common, every-day thoughts, struggles, battles and problems. Have you ever thought "well, that's o.k. for Sunday, but now I've got to go out and face the real world". In doing so you detached yourself from the Lord; you detached yourself from your power supply and your source of strength "the Lord is the strength of my life".
There is great and eminent danger when we look to self and the world for strength for "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many, and in horsemen, because the are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!"-Isaiah 31:1. Horses, chariots and horsemen are indeed impressive and strong by worldly estimation but they are no match for God. If the Lord has something for us to do or learn in this life it is best to forget the horses and chariots and get down to the problem. "Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together." Isaiah 31:3. Not only will the strength of Egypt fall but so shall we when we depend upon it, for in this language, not only is the helper (Egypt) falling, but also those that Egypt is helping (he that is holpen). Egypt has many helps but notice that the language implies that to get to Egypt we must go down. Down is the direction away from the Lord and our strength; down is below Canaan. Where is your source of strength? Where are you headed? As we trust in Egypt and the many horses and chariots found therein we become weaker and weaker but "the way of the Lord is strength to the upright" Prov 10:29a.
Here is a man that slew a Philistine giant as a small lad; who slew the lion and the bear as he tended his father's sheep; who avoided the wrath of King Saul; who was anointed by the prophet; revealing his true source of strength: the Lord. He did not brag about his conquests; he did not claim to be a self sufficient man but rather confesses "Have mercy upon me, O lord; for I am weak" Psalms 6:2a. David does not try to hide the fact that he is weak but rather confesses it to the Lord who supplied his needs. When we find a successful person in business we want to learn their secrets. When we observe a successful athlete we try to learn their skills. Here, by inspiration, David reveals his source of strength "The Lord is the strength of my life". Why look further? David's secret is revealed to us all. It may seem that I am being very repetitious but I find this one premise to be so very hard for us all to remember especially when the battle rages the hottest. Learning to trust the Lord as the strength of our life is no different than trusting Him as our personal savior. If we can rely upon the finished works of Jesus Christ to land us securely in heaven one day, surely we can trust Him today with our earthly struggles.
Our faith for living today must be in the same Lord as it is for eternity; having faith not in our own strength but in God's; strength for every battle and every day for "As thy days, so shall thy strength be" -Deut 33:25b. How many days do you plan to be around? God has promised strength for each one. For every Goliath in our future God has promised a smooth stone and strength to sling it. Strength for each day, day by day, but tomorrow's strength shall come when it is needed so "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." -Mat 6:34. Indeed we must plan ahead and lay up for the future but Jesus is careful to warn us that needless worry about things in which we cannot change is dangerous and a sure indication of darkness (see verse 24). Thinking, thinking and thinking upon things that we can not change and that are out of our hands is wasted time and energy for "which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature" Mat 6:27. The answer is obvious! None can. A person's stature or height is not controllable and so are many things in life. The Lord doesn't expect us to control every facet of life around us but rather control ourselves in our lives amidst a crooked and perverse world. Control our temper; our tongues; our attitudes; our behavior; and even our thoughts. Many times tomorrow's fears are today's fantasies. We die a thousand deaths before many battles are fought and more often than not they never occur.
We are living in a day in which Egypt's charms are depicted as strength. Have you seen the tough men with their "Skoal" in their pockets or the "Bud" in their hand? Have you seen the strong men smoking a particular kind of cigarette? Have you seen the attractive female with her briefcase? Is this strength? Have you every seen a Godly father or mother depicted by the world as a strong person? Have you every seen a man, who was a good father, a faithful husband, who worked very hard to provide for his family depicted as strong? Have you ever seen a faithful wife, who cared for her husband and children, who made their house a home depicted as strong? Have you ever seen a teenager who was faithful in their daily walk depicted as tough? Have you ever seen a gray headed grandfather who stood for the principle of God's word depicted as strong? According to the principles of God's word these are truly the strongest people in the world. These very simple every day conquests require great strength and those who pursue these noble activities must remember "the Lord is the strength of my life".
Egypt's concept of strength is in direct opposition to the strength which comes from the Lord, after all, Egypt promotes Egypt. We are not looking for strength to fit into the world and become as the world, but rather strength to oppose the world but yet live in it. Therefore this source of strength would appear ridiculous to the world. Paul said "my strength is made perfect in weakness"- II Cor 12:9b. The world would say "now wait a minute, you expect me to believe that; do you expect me to live with that premise?" Under inspiration the scriptures say yes, for in this spiritual paradox two may put ten-thousand to flight; mouths of lions are shut; fiery furnaces become close walks with Jesus; prison cells become places of worship and miracles; because here is where Jesus is found. As you read the Bible do you ever find Jesus in houses of mirth? He is found with sick people; He is found with dying people; He is found with suffering people; He is found with learning people; He is found with people possessed with devils; He is found among many sinners; but never participating or encouraging sin. I'm quite sure that if our strength is in the right place we could spend the night in a den of lions and even get a little sleep in doing so.
We are living in a day in which people do not want to experience any pain and they feel that problems are shameful; just remove me from any sight of suffering or responsibility. Our pride can prevent us from confessing as did David "I am weak" or even to say "I have problems", "my family has problems", "my chidren have problems", "please pray for me". But Paul's words are a blazing testimony of the fact that our times of weakness are the best times to give God glory and become strong through God. What kind of weapons are we most apt to reach for when we become weak. Many times it is a weapon which comforts the flesh but does not require dying to it. How could Paul say "My strength is made perfect in weakness"? Because self desires, self motives, self ambitions slowly wasted away in physical weakness and the Lord's will in his life became paramount. Have you ever been sick and made repeated trips to the mirror to observe just how you fared; to look for signs of improvement. Many times a sick person will look in the mirror to observe how they are faring and it is at times of weakness that we are most apt to take a more accurate inventory of self and make necessary adjustments. When the gold is tried by fiery trials and afflictions something is burned away and that part of us which is most valuable is refined and comes forth as precious before God "but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" -Job 23:10.
As we read this Psalm we notice that David had looked even to people in his own family for strength at one point in his life but there were times they forsook him. Indeed family can be of tremendous comfort and support in difficult times, but people, whoever they are, are not perfect, and many trials are beyond family and friends "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up" Psalm 27:10.
From the Lord, and the Lord alone, we find the strength for this life; the strength for living, and yes, even for dying; the strength for overcoming sinful lusts and harmful habits; and even the strength to overcome self which can be our greatest enemy. And to close with the apostle Paul's words which bring the Psalmist David's remarks into new testament terminology "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me"-Phil 4:13.