A Gospel song says, “I’m learning to lean on Jesus! Finding more power than I’d ever dreamed; I’m learning to lean on Jesus.” (Brentwood Music, 1976, John Stallings) That is not a position most people would aspire to, is it? We work to be self-sufficient, to feel ‘in control’ of our circumstances, don’t we? But, I have learned (sort of!) that bluff and bluster, trying to appear more in control than I am, only makes me look foolish and, worse even, cuts me off from the very resources that I need. When I go to trusted friends and ask for counsel, my levels of stress go down, and I am better able to deal with life. When I bow my head before the Lord and admit my failures and weakness, He comforts me and often – in that very moment – reveals the next step.
Learning to lean on Jesus begins with the realization that we cannot save ourselves. Oh, how we try! Most of us, especially in the confidence of youth, believe that we can overcome our world by getting an education, with hard work, with commitment to moral principle, or in the accumulation of wealth and/or influence. Some succeed partially, for a time, if they are fortunate enough to have brains, brawn, or heritage that gives them a running head start. But, sooner or later, every person begins to grasp that his best efforts are futile. New problems arise for which he has no answers. The flaws in his character become too obvious to ignore any longer. The flood of human depravity that washes over the world reaches his own door in one way or another. Or, he is trampled by the stampede of time, which no one can stop. What then? Many come to despair in those moments. Others bravely stand on the deck of the sinking ship trying to ignore the obvious. Some escape into distractions of pleasure. Or, he looks up in response to the whisper of the Spirit which calls him to consider the ways of God!
Elijah, the mighty prophet of ancient Israel, after the day of his greatest victory when fire fell from heaven and the false prophets were defeated soundly, realized that he was no match for the sins of the nations. He ran to escape, but there was no relief, no peace, until God, the Spirit, found him. “When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:12-13, The Message) In the Presence of God, Elijah found strength. The great man grew even greater that day as he learned to lean more on the Lord!
There is a message that overcomes the world! What is that message? In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that the message is that Christ was crucified, buried, and raised to life – so that we can live in a dying world! “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. . . . Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-24, NLT)
So what is your challenge today? There are many – broken hearts, cancer, aging, people that fail us, sin in us that mocks our best attempts to reform ourselves, suffering, war, hatred, meaninglessness of life – need I go on? Perhaps you’re at the peak of success experiencing none of those things. I rejoice with you – and I know – that, in time, the season will turn! Your challenge is dealing with the ego that trusts in its own strength! For all of humanity, the paradox is that the true strength to overcome is found in weakness. The Cross – a symbol of shame and death – becomes point where God’s eternal power intersects with our weakness, where we find, by faith, His life that overcomes our death! So we embrace the Cross, listen to the Spirit, trust Him. And, we come to know that the pressure of life which seems to be crushing us to death, will lead us to know the life is is lasting and eternal, the gift of grace.
Here’s a word to prayerfully ponder today. “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31, NIV) Learn to lean on Jesus, knowing that ‘when you are weak, He is strong!’
“Finding more power than I’d ever dreamed; I’m learning to lean on Jesus.”