Happy Resurrection Day! The resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago changed everything for everybody. God promised it would happen and it did.
Recently I woke up at 4:15am with Isaiah 40:31 rehearsing itself in my mind. Does that ever happen to you? Just as you are coming out of a deep sleep maybe there’s a quote, a scripture or maybe a song that just won’t seem to leave you alone? For me, on that morning, it was something Isaiah wrote: “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”
Just prior to that, I had met a man who was at the end of his hope.
As I recall, he had come to the church looking for help. He was asking for a hand up, not a hand out. He needed hope in the worst way. Everything in his world was in total chaos and getting worse by the day. He had hoped that there would be more work in his field of construction, but, at the time, jobs like that were scarce. He had hoped that the relationship with his fiancé would be stronger, but it was falling apart and the pressures of not having enough money just seemed to make everything worse. Worst of all, he had hoped that he could provide for his daughters, but times were tough and everything he tried seemed to fail. He wasn’t just having a bad day. He was in distress and needed something to grab onto.
More recently I had a call from someone I haven’t spoken to in at least seven years. He explained that was waiting in the school carpool line to pick up his daughter and that he had been looking for a number in his phone when he came across my name. He said he felt like he needed to hear a familiar voice. As I listened, he described that he had been laid off several months ago from a high-level position and as of yet nothing of lasting significance was opening up. He was afraid. He cried. I understood. He needed hope.
Most everyone I know has had a time in life when they’ve struggled for something solid to hold onto. We’ve all had times when we’ve felt like what Peter must have felt as he went from walking on water to nearly drowning. One minute he’s walking on water and I imagine him thinking, “Hey, I’m walking on water!” Not really thinking that he’s a big deal, but more of the thought that he just did what Jesus called him to do and the next thing he knew was that he was walking on water. Everything was working out until it wasn’t. So long as he focused on Jesus everything worked out. However, when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and he begin to sink. As he sank, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
And Jesus did.
He reached out his hand and pulled him out of the water and as he did, yelled one word to Peter over the sound of the storm. In English it takes four words to translate. But in Greek it’s only one word. Jesus yelled “Oligospistos!” Translated that means, “You of little faith!” What Jesus said to a man who was just saved from certain death was to call him a name. At first it seems strange, even uncaring. But Jesus was teaching Peter. He diagnosed the root of Peter’s problem as fear. Next, Jesus asked Peter a question, “Why did you doubt?”
It’s still a valid question.
And it’s really more a lesson to be learned than a question to be answered.
Some things are hard to believe, even if they are true. Take God’s promises, for instance. They can be hard to believe; either because they have not happened yet, or because they are unusual or seem extreme. The resurrection was one of those things that was hard to believe, especially for those closest to Jesus. While all of His disciples struggled with doubt, Thomas was the last of the Twelve to believe. Jesus came to Thomas and said, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27b). Believing that God CAN do something is very different from believing that he WILL. The promise that God will renew your strength if you’ll wait on him can be hard to believe especially when you’re afraid, or panicked or terrified.
“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…”
(Eph. 1:18, 19-20)
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in everybody who believes. When God exerts himself, dead things come back to life! But I’ll say it again: Believing that God CAN do something powerful is very different from believing that he WILL.
Let’s jump back to Isaiah’s words, “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”
The word Isaiah that is translated “renew” literally means “to exchange” like changing into a new set of clothes. Isaiah is talking about active waiting. Whatever you are hoping in as a source for your hope, peace, or joy can be exchanged for hope in the Lord. That promise is for everyone. By hoping in the Lord, your weakness will give way to God’s strength. To bring us perspective and hope Isaiah goes into great detail: God stretches out the heavens like a canopy…he brings out the stars when its time and calls each one by name an never misplaces even one of them…he never gets tired…never needs to catch his breath and he knows everything, inside and out. There’s more:
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope (wait) in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”