Strength for the Moment, Isaiah 40: 27-31

Mike Sennott Service,

August 15, 2012

Laura, Rachel, Michael, Jason and Brad, this gospel word of hope is meant for you.  You gathered in this public house of worship because you wanted others to not only be here with you today, but to walk with you beyond this day.  Thus, these words are for all of us, so we may walk better together in our days of grief, whether we be the one grieving or consoling.  This grief came suddenly and much too soon.  Laura has said, “I never walked this road before.”  So, my words of hope are meant for any pilgrim who will walk this unfamiliar road of an unexpected death at one time or another.

We anticipate what future holds through our imaginations or by what others have told.  Often, when we arrive at the future moment, we find reality to be something entirely different.  The actual can clash with our expectations; for rarely is what we anticipate identical to what happens.  Expectations can disappoint; causing disillusionment, which is the product of illusion.

I stand to offer ways we can realistically expect God to provide in a time of loss.  I speak honestly how God has been present with me at these times from my own experience.  I thank John Claypool, my preaching mentor, in helping me make these distinctions in the way God helps.  From my seat, Isaiah 40 provides realistic expectations regarding our hope in God who is able to help any of us in days of grief.  Isaiah said, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  These are promises that do not overpromise.

Verse 31 begins with a specific promise: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  This is talking about people who open their lives to God with a dependence on a source greater than their own resources.  The promise is they will experience a supplement of heavenly power.  On the heels of this promise, the writer describes three different ways which divine strength comes.  These distinctions are crucial; they safeguards us from expecting one thing and experiencing something different.

First, there are times when we experience the help of God that comes through a moment of ecstasy.  This is what Isaiah meant when he spoke of “mounting up like wings of eagles”.  This is the experience of exuberance, abandon, and celebration.  These have always been a part of life.  From the very beginning this is part of the nature of God.  Genesis depicts God looking over all that had been created and finding it “very good“.  In fact, God proceeds to take a day off to celebrate the wonder of “isness.”  We experience this kind of ecstasy when we are caught up in joy over some reality.  This is the place where creativity is born and where we let the child within us out to play and celebrate.  This is one way to experience God.

Both family and friends of Mike know his life is a witness to moments of celestial ecstasy.  Mike’s childhood was filled with moments of divine discovery.  His adolescent and young adult experiences took him places he would speak of with a chuckle that came from deep within his soul.  His life as a husband, father and friend, is marked by stories of heavenly ecstasy that only some of you can tell well.  Whether it was Mike’s deep laugh or his mantra that life is good, he believed God was present in his exuberance and often sought ways to celebrate God’s goodness.

This isn’t the only way God gives strength; and woe to us if we absolutize this form of God’s help and say, “If there is no ecstasy, God is not with us.”  This is a formula for disillusionment.  There are certain moments in life where that is not only impossible; but it is totally inappropriate.

There are other times in our lives when we experience the power and provision of God as energy for activism.  This is what Isaiah meant when he said “we will run and not grow weary”.  The inspiration to rise to a challenge and to tackle tasks is an authentic experience of God.  We are aware of the thyroid of the human spirit that motivates women and men to heroic, problem-solving activity.  If we will look into the history of our own country, we will see almost all the schools, hospitals and other serving institutions were born of and individuals with an active impulse.

When I came to visit Laura and the kids this week, they took me back to another room they described as Mike’s room, a man cave, don’t you know.  They spoke words of apology, for the room was a work in progress, this was the project Mike was working on when diagnosed with cancer.  They asked me to sit in a very comfortable chair.  I knew I was sitting in Mike’s chair.  Then, I spoke my first words to the family with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, “You mean Mike was working on a project”.

Projects were the energy for his activism.  It was obviously a finely tuned gift God gave Mike.  Whether it was his home and yard, the needs of another, or a scouting or family event, Mike possessed a divine energy of getting it done.  One way Mike was sure God was working in his life was the vigor he had for productiveness.

The energy for activism is just one of the ways we experience the dynamism of heaven; it is not the totality of divine experience.  There are times when activism cannot change a situation.  If this is our understanding, it is an illusion that will lead to disillusionment.

There is another way we experience the power and provision of God.  This is the way God comes to us mostly when we are troubled.  At times like these, God gives us the gift of endurance.  This what Isaiah meant when it was written “we will walk and not faint”.  This may look like the least of these forms of divine strength, but when we have to keep on keeping on while surrounded by immensities we cannot change, the gift of endurance is God’s greatest gift.  When there is no occasion for ecstasy or activism, endurance becomes infinitely significant and appropriate.

Laura, I am confident you will overcome any temptation to make presumptive decisions or to despair on days when you miss Mike the most.  You gut will tell you to wait upon God’s promise of endurance for each day.  On days when it seems nothing is possible, you will find the strength to persist.  Brad, Jason, Michael, and Rachel on days you realize he will not be there for you, God will give your enduring grace to meet challenges you face without him.  For the rest of us, may we affirm when it is our time to sit in this family’s seat, and we feel hemmed in, God’s help will come in the most appropriate way; giving us the strength for the moment to keep on.

Life is not about God giving one ecstatic experience after another, or is about God providing problem solving energy.  Life is about learning God gives us the gift of endurance to walk down whatever road we travel.  Cherish the gift of endurance, which helps us keep on keeping on.  Give thanks to God who gives us strength for the moment in whatever circumstances we face.  This may seem like a little thing, but when we are up against it, and we have no room to run or walk, the gift of staying on our feet and not giving up is a mighty thing.  There are times when endurance is not only enough; it is everything.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.  Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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