Being awake at 2 am is a common thing for me these days. At that hour I am so aware of my limitations and the demands of my work. In the darkness, I remember that aged man who is dying, that marriage that is failing, that person who is wrestling with faith, that ministry that needs to be staffed, those who are hurting, the budget that needs to be balanced … And I pray! Knowing full well that I cannot heal, save, or restore, I turn to the One who is ‘able to do immeasurably more’ and ask Him for wisdom, for spiritual renewal.
In another era of my life, I sang a Gospel song with these words – “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) I am still leaning on Jesus, more now than ever. The counsel of the world is that we ought to be self-sufficient and ‘in control.’ The truth that I know now that way of prideful man separates me from the resources that are freely provided to me by the Spirit of God. When I abandon the “Lone Ranger” mentality and work with people, my levels of stress go down. When I kneel in prayer, confessing weakness and proclaiming His Majesty, God comforts me and leads.
Elijah was a mighty prophet of ancient Israel. He had a day of victory when fire fell from heaven and the false prophets that were deceiving the people of the Lord were defeated. Curiously, in the moment of triumph, Elijah became vulnerable, the threats of Queen Jezebel overwhelming him, causing him to run for the hills. He even abandoned his companions, seeking solitude in the wilderness. He had 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!
Will we lean on Jesus? So many other things will tempt us to ‘take control.’ Even pastors are deceived by the illusion. I hardly attend pastoral conferences anymore. The emphasis is seldom on waiting on God, on listening for the Spirit. Instead we are taught ‘leadership’ skills, told to be sensitive to our culture, and trained in psychology. Oh, I make no case for foolishness, laziness, or insensitivity. However, pastor or plumber, teacher, Mom, or President – we are successful in God’s eyes only when we are leaning on Jesus!
We might find a measure of success, for a while, if we are fortunate enough to have brains, brawn, or fortune. In time, though, all of us find ourselves facing situations for which we are no match. New problems arise for which we have no answers. The flaws in our character become too obvious to ignore any longer. Mortality stares us in the face, defying our attempts to slow the march of time. What then? Many despair in those moments. Others bravely stand singing into the darkness trying mightily to create a new reality. Some escape into distractions of pleasure.
OR, we can lean on Jesus, who promises that He will lead us, never leave us, and make us ‘more than conquerors.’
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 reminds you of your human weakness this morning?
It is a broken heart?
Is it a diagnosis of cancer?
Is it the wrinkles on your face?
Is it the failure of a friendship?
It is the mocking voice of the Enemy who reminds you of your past sin?
Is it, perhaps, the world that is full of suffering, war, and hatred? Need I go on?
Just maybe, you are still feeling like a master of it all. I once did, too. Curiously, I would never go back to that time. I know His love, His grace, His tender mercies, so much better today than I did then. Like Paul, I know that ‘when I am weak, then I am strong,’ because I lean on Jesus. His Cross is my glory. That symbol of shame and death – I know as the place where God’s eternal power meets my greatest weakness and saves me. It is His life in me that overcomes the death sentence that sin spoke over me! So I embrace the Cross, listen to the Spirit, and trust Him, even at 2 am!
Here’s a word from the 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)
“Finding more power than I’d ever dreamed;
I’m learning to lean on Jesus.”
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
- Public domain