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How to connect with God for strength 2019-04-24T14:44:56+00:00

Connecting with God for a Strong Finish

Why connect with God for strength How to connect with God for strength Sources of Strength

Part 2: How to connect with God for strength

Waiting, Resting, Rejoicing, Prayer, Food, and Exercise

Introduction for how to connect with God for strength

Waiting for the Lord is an ongoing process sustained by faith, reinforced by hope, and enriched by love.

He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:29-31 NAS)

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Jesus issued an unusual prayer request in preparation for “great tribulation”. He emphasized the severity of the situation by saying, “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Planning for perilous times, “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will,” Jesus prescribed prayer. He urged His disciples to “pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.”

Of all the prayers that Jesus might recommend for extreme tribulation, the season and the Sabbath topped His list. The focus of this prayer elevates the importance of the Sabbath beyond conventional wisdom or Jewish tradition. Apparently, observing the Sabbath remains an ongoing priority for Jesus. He considers it worthy of prayer and valued in practice until the end of the age.

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Stopping to catch our breath allows our soul to catch up with our body in a sacred repose of being rather than doing. We remember the Sabbath by pondering its meaning and we observe the Sabbath by celebrating its significance.

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. …Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:1-2; 8 ESV)

We are not required to serve this day as a slave would serve its master. God gave us the Sabbath as a gift―it serves us with anticipated blessings and recurring benefits. Sabbath days offer protected time for rejuvenating our strength and reconnecting with God.

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During a typical lifetime, each person averages about 8 hours of sleep each night. That equates to about one-third of our lifespan or 30 years of sleep for every 90 years of life. That’s a big chunk of time. It emphasizes the importance of sleeping

God organized our solar system with recurring periods of light and darkness to facilitate sleep. He designed everyone without exception, to participate in this daily rhythm. Sleep-wake cycles are more than a biological instinct―they accommodate a special love-gift from God. He gives sleep to those He loves.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows [of painful labors, NAS]; For so He gives His beloved sleep. (Psa 127:2 NKJ)

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Gordon MacDonald forecast an epidemic of weariness and fatigue. Years before widespread use of the internet with social media, email, and cell phones, he wrote:

“The believing community has never been so busy, never had so many voices to listen to, never so many choices to make, never so many ways to respond [in 1987]. That, I believe, explains why we are facing the potential of a wholesale exhaustion of the spirit. To ignore that unique phenomenon is to invite spiritual disaster.”

MacDonald stressed that weariness, exhaustion, and fatigue are not a function of the body alone but of the spirit. In “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion”, he advocates rest as a remedy if it touches our inner spirit―where we connect with God. MacDonald uses the phrase “proper rest” since “much of what we call rest today is amusement or leisure, a temporary patch over weariness.” Rest that truly recuperates affects the core of our being.

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Connecting with God activates strong feelings. He enriches our heart with love and sustains our faith with joy.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy , for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet 1:8-9 NIV)

When the magi arrived in Bethlehem beneath an extraordinary sign, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”. Before setting eyes on Jesus, joy erupted with elevated intensity. Pagan priests rejoiced at the sight of a prophetic sign, a bright star that pointed to Jesus. Luke used four separate words to describe this exceptionally passionate response: chairo, sphodra, megas, and chara.

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From the beginning, God bound the destiny of the human race with food. Before Adam and Eve sinned, He established a clearly defined menu saying:

“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food”. (Genesis 1:29 NIV)

One exception held dire consequences for Adam and Eve and their offspring. The Lord commanded:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 NIV)

Food consumed by Adam and Eve not only sustained their strength, it revealed their heart. The Bible emphasizes three words while describing their first act of rebellion: eat, eaten, and ate (used seventeen times in Genesis 3).

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Adam and Eve tasted death because they consumed a forbidden fruit. Their heedless indulgence corrupted generations of descendants with inbred iniquity. It tainted their DNA with fatal genetic variants. Some variants predispose us to illness, disease, and death.

Jesus came to restore our life with renewed strength and vitality. He told His disciples:

“there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mark 9:1 ESV; also Matthew 16:28, Luke 9:27 and John 8:52)

The name Jesus literally means Savior: He saved us from a fatal outcome with eternal consequences. We embrace God’s Kingdom and experience His power because Jesus replaced our heritable weakness with everlasting life. Jesus became sin so we might become His glorious bride adorned with exquisite virtue and enduring beauty.

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Jesus appeared to John on the Isle of Patmos. During this exceptionally rare encounter, He detailed progress reports for seven churches in Asia Minor. For the church at Pergamon (also called Pergamum or Pergamos), He issued a strong reprimand involving food and sex. Jesus said:

“‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you [roasted on the Altar of Pergamon], where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:13-14 ESV)

The early church fought satanic battles involving two God-given appetites: food and sex. Since dietary and sexual restrictions “seemed good to the Holy Spirit”, church leaders required abstinence from food sacrificed to idols, from eating strangled animals or blood, and from sexual immorality. Luke, a trained physician, describes the consensus of a counsel in Jerusalem, which considered these issues.

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From the beginning, God assumed the role of menu-maker for the human race. His earliest command came bundled with a carefully crafted meal plan. Specific terms governed Adam and Eve’s diet. Life and death hinged on their compliance. In contrast, God’s mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” did not specify parameters for sexual behavior. The command to “subdue” and “rule” did not come with a moral code for justice. Nonetheless, eating a forbidden fruit earned the death penalty.

At epic season changes throughout history, God stipulated a new menu to facilitate progress in our relationship. His commands emphasize perfecting our love rather than perfecting our behavior.

but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him (1 John 2:5 ESV)

While the rules may have changed, His goal remains the same―to draw us closer to Him.

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18-19 ESV)

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Jesus taught His disciples to pray using an inspired script. With concise talking points, He reveals a cluster of weaknesses dating back to the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve consumed a food that God had not provided. They ate banned fruit in a fatal quest for independence and self-determination. This defiant food-grab infected our gene pool with sin and death; it corrupted our judgement with a bent for evil.

Jesus taught His disciples to ask their Heavenly Father for daily bread, for forgiveness, for temptation-free guidance, and for deliverance. Each request counters a toxic vice inherited from Adam and Eve. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, He activates a liberating do-over, which emancipates us from bondage.

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King Solomon promised a nationwide blessing when royal leaders ate at the right time and with the right motive. Begotten from nobility, they ate for strength rather than self-indulgence.

Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength, and not for drunkenness. (Ecclesiastes 10:17 NAS))

King David acknowledged God’s role as provider. He is faithful, dependable, and timely:

The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time [at the proper time, NIV]. (Psalm 145:15 NAS)

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