The Promised Strength
( Originally Published 1868 )
IT is well, in every period of the Christian life, to have a right estimate of our own strength. The advanced believer is as unable by his own power to defend himself from sin and sorrow as the youthful Christian. But to each—and with peculiar force to the aged pilgrim, whose lengthened experience and deepened humility make him so distrustful of self—the promise comes of Almighty help and succour. "As thy days," says the God of Israel, so shall thy strength be."* In every moment of need, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God." When difficulties and dangers arise in your path, let not the thought of your own weakness and insufficiency discourage you; for "I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." "Without me ye can do nothing ; "but " My grace is sufficient for thee : for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
Take courage, aged Christian, as you listen to these cheering assurances of the most high God ; and rejoice that he is able to " supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." t For, remember, the strength which his promises guarantee to you is adequate strength. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be ;" the one fully commensurate with the other. Your present necessities and your future wants might well fill you with distress and apprehension, did not God stand engaged to prepare you for every emergency and to sustain you under every burden. But since the omnipotent Creator has pledged himself to furnish his people with whatever spiritual energy they require in their perpetual conflict, you may gratefully exclaim with the Psalmist, " The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my de liverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust."t Yes, "trust in him at all times," "for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Let no misgivings disturb your mind as you think of approaching and augmented trials ; for with the increased demand for strength you may confidently calculate upon an increased supply. Now you are ooking, perhaps, at some great trouble in the distance, and you are feeling as if, when it arrives, you must sink under it. Ah, you are estimating your power of endurance then by what it is now ; you are supposing that, with your present weakness, you are summoned to a more arduous encounter than you have hitherto met with, and you are mournfully anticipating an inevitable failure. But do you not perceive that your conclusion is drawn from wrong premises? You will not have to grapple with increased difficulties before you are able to surmount them. God will never call you to the fulfilment of any duty, nor the endurance of any trial, without having first provided for you sufficient strength for the occasion.
But the promised strength is daily strength. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." You must not expect to have a large stock on hand which will last you for a ong time ; nor endeavour to make the strength of to-day suffice for the wants of to-morrow; but in every fresh period of conflict and suffering you must seek for fresh strength from above. You cannot live upon past supplies, but you may safely rely upon present and future succour. The spiritual aid which you require will always be vouchsafed at the right time. Each day, each season of renewed solicitude will bring with it its own appointed strength.
It may be that you are advanced, not in years only, but also in Christian experience ; still you must depend as perpetually and as entirely now upon the help of God as you did at the commencement of your religious life. Day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, you must trust in him and look to him.
And the strength which he grants to his children is appropriate strength. "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." The days of the spiritual life are as varied as the days of the natural life. Sometimes they are bright with hope and prosperity; sometimes they are dark with disappointment and sorrow. There are days when our path lies through green and flowery meadows ; and there are days when our road is through a tangled forest or aong the edge of a precipice. At one time we have to toil up the Hill Difficulty ; at another, to fight our way through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Now there is a beautiful adaptation in God's grace to the diversified circumstances of his people's history. Have you not found it to be so, dear reader ? Have you not felt in your times of need that there was an exact minuteness in God's gracious dealings with you—that there was a delicate adjustment in the bestowal of his varied gifts? Expect the same considerateness in his conduct still. Believe that the strength which he prepares for you is suitable, as well as sufficient.
What day is it with you now ? The day of physical infirmity? Is your health declining, your energy abating, your faculties one by one becoming impaired? Is yours the day so graphically described by the royal preacher, " when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened ;—when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish; and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail ?"* Then remember God's promise, " Even to hoar hairs will I carry you." Carry you —not leave you to bear up as you best can under the burden which old age brings with it, but uphold you with his own everlasting arm. He will help you to endure with cheerfulness and resignation the pain Which is occasioned by the decay of nature.
Is it the day of mental depression? The infirmities and sufferings of the body often affect the mind. They cast a gloom over the spirits and throw a shadow over our prospects. " Our mind is like a stained or clouded glass, which mars the hue of what is bright and deepens what is sombrous." We are discomposed and disheartened by trifles ; we are frightened at shadows. All around us and before us looks dark and gloomy. Well, there is One who knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust; and he can support and strengthen our disturbed and fearful spirits. We need not be ashamed to disclose to him our mental weakness ; he feels for us all, nay, more than a father's tenderness ; for as one whom his mother comforteth, so will he comfort us. " He giveth power to the faint ; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."
Is it the day of spiritual conflict? Are you sore let and hindered in your endeavours to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ? Do your unseen enemies seem to in-crease ? are their assaults more malignant? and is your own heart inclined to yield to temptation ? The great adversary of mankind is sometimes permitted to attack with unusual violence the soul of the aged Christian. Sins which the believer imagined were ong since subdued rise up as it were into new life; thoughts and feelings utterly at variance with his renewed mind seem almost forced upon him ; and the fiery darts of the wicked one are hurled at him without intermission. Is this painful experience yours ? Be not alarmed or discouraged by it. God is faithful, and he will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear; but he will strengthen you for your last struggle with a disappointed and already vanquished foe. Clad in the panoply which God provides for you, and furnished with those weapons which through him are mighty to repel and overcome your spiritual enemies, you shall be enabled to stand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. It is true you are weak, but his strength is perfected in weakness ; it is true your infirmities are many, but his power rests upon you. Fear not ; look to the Captain of your salvation ; folow his directions; rely upon his assistance, and you shall at last be " more than conqueror through him that loved you."
Is it the day of temporal distress? Are you poor? in want of the necessaries or the comforts of life? incapable of supporting yourself by the labour of your hands, and obliged to depend on the charity of others ? Or are those dear to you in adversity? are you obliged to witness sufferings that you cannot alleviate, and to hear of troubles which you can neither remove nor lighten ? Or have you been bereaved of some beoved relative, some cherished friend, with whom you were associated in the closest union, and to whom you looked for sympathy and affection. Are these, or similar afflictions, the crosses which you have to take up and carry, and do you tremble beneath their weight? Then cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. He will strengthen your faith to believe that these mysterious dispensations are necessary for your real welfare; he will strengthen your lave to receive with meekness and gratitude the discipline of a kind and tender Father ; he will strengthen your hope to anticipate those glorious things which are unseen and eternal, and to reckon your present sufferings as unworthy of a moment's comparison with " the gory which shall be revealed."
But there is one day rapidly approaching when you will pre-eminently require the succour and sup-port of an Almighty hand—the day of death. Ah ! that is a solemn day even to the believer. A darkness, a mystery rests upon our last conflict which ex-cites feelings of seriousness and awe in all thoughtful minds. And when there is great sensitiveness of temperament and timidity of disposition, the Christian often shrinks painfully from the contemplation of death, and through fear of it is perhaps all his life-time subject to bondage. But why should you fear the approach of the last enemy? If God promises that as your day your strength shall be, surely he will make that promise good in the day of your mortal agony. When you pass through the dark valley he will be with you; his rod and staff will guide and comfort you. When heart and flesh shall faint and fail, he will be the strength of your heart and your portion for ever.
A young Christian once said to a minister, "Although I trust implicitly in the Saviour, and rejoice in him as mine, yet I look upon death as very terrible." At that time she was in perfect health. The reply was, " Doubt not that, according to his sure word, `As thy days, so shall thy strength be';' and that there shall be dying grace for a dying day." Not ong after mortal sickness seized her, but her "peace flowed like a river;" and again and again, as her fond mother and loving sisters watched by her bed of suffering, did she exclaim, " Oh, how true do I find the assurance given me that there would be dying grace for a dying day !"
" Yes, in your latest moments, when with death
And then there is the day of final judgment—that last day when all the dead shall be gathered around the great white throne of the Eternal, and hear from his lips the irreversible sentence which shall fix their everlasting destiny. Oh, the unutterable momentousness of that decision ! How will you have courage to listen to it? How will you stand with any calmness before that awful judgment-seat, and hear the records of the past and the awards of the future? Ah, strength shall be given you in that trying hour—strength so unfailing and so indomitable that you shall meet without fear the scrutiny of him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The sweet assurance will then be yours that to those who are in Christ Jesus there is, there can be, no condemnation ; that, clothed in the robe of his righteousness, and sanctified by the grace of his Spirit, you are faultless in God's sight. Who shall lay anything to your charge, when God himself will be your justifier ?
Thus his blessed promise, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be," will never fail. Through life, in death, and before the judgment-seat, it will be richly fulfilled in your experience. Oh, the comfort of feeling sure that, however wearisome and difficult the path of duty or of suffering may prove, God will impart to us adequate and appropriate strength, and . guide us in safety to the heavenly Canaan!
Dr. Doddridge was walking out one day in a very depressed state of mind. His trials were at that time peculiarly heavy ; he saw no way of deliverance from them, and he was greatly discouraged. As he passed along, the door of a little cottage was standing .open, and he heard a child's voice reading the words, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." The effect produced upon his saddened feelings was indescribable ; his despondency vanished, and his heart was filled with peace and joy.
Yes, one simple promise from God is enough to chase our fears and cheer our hearts. Our wants and weaknesses are many, but he knows them all, and is both able and willing to supply our every need. Then let us seek the Lord, and his strength;" let our earnest and constant petitions at the throne of grace be, " Give thy strength unto thy servant;" " strengthen thou me according unto thy word." For it is they who wait upon the Lord that shall renew their strength. " Wait," then, " on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart."* The faithfulness of his character is your security for the fulfilment of his promises ; for " the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent;" " Rath he said, and shall he not do it ? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?" And his conduct to his people in past days is a pledge of his readiness to help them now ; for he is " the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." § He has been a strength to the poor—a strength to the needy in his distress; and he is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." There should be no hesitation on our part to apply for the strength which we require, for there is no reluctance on God's part to communicate it. In his hand it is to give strength to all. A sense of our weakness, and a cry for his aid, are the only prerequisites for its bestowal.
But how is this strength imparted? It is the gift of God, and through grace is laid hold of by faith. Faith is the hand which grasps and appropriates the promises, and thus fills the soul with an all-sustaining, all-conquering energy. The Holy Spirit, by whom all spiritual blessings are bestowed, brings to the Christian just the strength which he needs, and teaches him to embrace it by faith. That faith may be weak ; but its efficacy depends upon the reality, not the degree of our faith ; and, therefore, if we sincerely trust in God, through Christ, we may assuredly expect that the aid which we ook for, and for which we supplicate, will be granted us. Yet, while it is true that the smallest amount of true faith forms, so to speak, a channel through which God's grace flows into our hearts, it is equally true that a stronger degree of faith is more honouring to God, while it would lead us to anticipate, and prepare us to receive, a far greater measure of heavenly assistance than we now possess. "According to your faith," says the Saviour, " be it unto you ;"* and, therefore, if we de-sire to run without weariness, to walk without fainting, and to mount up with wings as eagles towards our rest above, we should make the request of his disciples our own, Lord, increase our faith."
Your " wanderings in the wilderness," reader, may be now drawing towards a cose. It will, then, not be long before you will be called to pass over the river Jordan, that you may enter the promised land. Yet, as we have seen, new trials may have to be encountered in the last stages of your lengthened and perhaps wearisome journey. There is no immunity from sorrow until you reach that blessed country, where God shall himself wipe away all tears, and give you that fulness of joy which is inseparable from his presence. But, remember, aged Christian, the promise, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be," and hold the beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end. As you think of the evening of life, the night of death, and the solemnities of the last judgment, resolve with the Psalmist, "I will go in the strength of the Lord God I will make mention of thy righteonsness, even of thine only." So shall you go on from strength to strength, until you appear in Zion before your God.