By Brooke Holt
"O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." The Collect for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, Book of Common Prayer
Our world offers many portrayals of strength. The first image that comes to mind is the very fit man or woman on the front of fitness magazines showcased in grocery store check-out lines. Additional covers display those who appear to be very strong because of their financial wealth, their powerful political position, or business status. Or perhaps you see their pictures on the news or on social media. Our world and the media herald these people as strong, but do they reflect the true picture of strength? Are they the ones heralded by the Lord?
The Apostle Paul once considered himself to be quite strong. At that time, he was called by the name Saul and was a Pharisee set upon protecting the traditions he had been taught throughout his Jewish upbringing and training. Saul had been given power by the religious leaders to persecute and kill the followers of Jesus Christ. And Saul was zealous to fulfill this mission until he experienced the glory of the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. That day, Saul’s mission changed as did his source of strength. Eventually, even his name changed.
When Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, he shared where he now found his strength: “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may resist upon me. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul was a transformed man! Where he once found his strength in earthly powers, he now found his strength in the Lord.
The prayer of our Collect today asks that God’s people would look to him for their strength. To do so, like Paul, you must relinquish your earthly sources of power – physique, wealth, authority, etc. – and embrace humility before the Lord. Don’t misunderstand, it does not mean you quit your workouts or your job but that those activities do not provide your sources of security and strength. You surrender earthly power to find the sufficiency of Christ in you.
Earthly strength or divine strength? May God grant you the strength to experience his divine transformation in your life today!
Take a few minutes today to consider your true source of strength. Is your strength founded and grounded in your trust of the Lord or something of this world? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus’ great commission to his apostles after his resurrection was to go into all the world to preach, teach, and baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, baptism has been understood as the doorway into this new kind of family. Explore what Jesus expects of this new family that finds its origin and purpose in him. The baptized are called into a new life of faith. From passages in Matthew to the shining examples of faith in our passage from John, Waters of Baptism is a helpful resource for those seeking the sacrament of baptism or those who want a deeper understanding of their faith. This six week study will help us understand the importance of baptismal living.
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