The weight lifter
“For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath…for you have taken me up and thrown me aside”(Psalm 102:9-10).
Like the psalmist, haven’t you felt at some stage in your life that God has cast you aside and doesn’t seem to care what happens to you? About 20 years ago I was given a personnel agency by a company who owed me money but couldn’t pay. So they gave me the agency in lieu of money owed.
The business was just starting to grow when recession came. I had plenty of good people, but almost no jobs coming in. Employers were putting people off, not hiring. My children were pre-school age and I had just started attending church. Financially we just couldn’t survive. Our house was auctioned off and we were homeless! I felt humiliated, angry with God and I told him in so many words; “Here I am, attending church after 20 years of not attending, and this is what I get for my troubles.”
And yet, not once did we ever not have food on the table or clothes to wear, though we were sometimes down to the last spoon of sugar or tin of food. Then someone would knock on our door and say, “We’ve had so much fruit on our tree and wondered whether you would like some.” On one occasion someone who didn’t even know us, but heard of our plight, went and bought two huge bags of groceries and sent them to us via a mutual friend.
John 15:1-2 says; “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.”
We were certainly pruned at that time, and though we were often short of luxuries, God knew exactly what we needed to survive, and what our strengths were. He uses times like this to educate us about ourselves, and about His constant love and protection.
One of God’s heavyweights
A weight lifter can never know the extent of his strength until he puts it to the test. And the more he puts it to the test, the stronger he gets. He needs to work at it every single day. When we are new in Christ, we often come to Him as a result of a heavy trial we have been faced with, and cry out in despair to God for help. Then we suddenly realise that He has intervened for us, though perhaps not immediately, or in the way we expected.
Job was one of God’s spiritual heavyweights. He had lived close to God, but as often happens, the closer we get to God, the more we are noticed by Satan. And Satan said to God; “You think Job is a heavyweight? Watch him crack under real pressure.”
But God knew Job just as he knows us, and knew exactly how much weight Job (and we) can lift.
Well, Job was certainly in a class way above me, for in a single day he went from being a huge land baron to a penniless pauper. What’s more, his whole family was destroyed with only his wife left, and she only added to his troubles by saying in effect, “Just blow your brains out and get it over with.” (Job 2:9).
But Job, who was way stronger than most of us, simply replied that we should be willing to accept trouble from God as well as good. Then, incredibly, Job tore his robes, shaved his head, and fell to the ground in worship. Yes, Job praised God in the midst of the worst circumstances imaginable – his children all dead, his wife criticising him and his body covered all over with sores. Talk about a heavyweight!
How about the really big problems ?
Imagine a shipping container weighing about three and a half tons. Not the kind of weight any human could hope to pick up by him or herself, but it can be done when you know how to drive a special forklift designed for stacking containers. Does the driver of this forklift do the job himself?
No, he’s been trained to operate this powerful piece of machinery. Does he doubt he can do it?
No — he uses the power at his disposal. Would we put a five-year-old behind the controls of this huge container loading forklift? No, it takes years of practice and exercise to know how to handle one properly. We too, are too immature to wield the full power of God. We need a lot of training. That is why we’re in that process now. But just as the five-year-old can ask the forklift driver to move the container, we too can ask the Lord in faith through prayer to use His power, and He will, in the way that is best according to His perfect will. Should we doubt he can do it?
Psalm 46:10 says; “Be still and know that I am God.”
The secret to success as a spiritual weight lifter is that when you are burdened beyond your capability and crushed by the weight of life, take a leaf out of Job’s book, and praise God immediately. This isn’t something that comes naturally, in fact the last thing we want to do is praise God when we are hurting, but praising God in all circumstances enables us to persevere and see through the circumstances into the heart of our loving Father, and this takes the weight off the problem (Philippians 4:6).
As the hymn says: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”