The Apostle Paul, in writing to believers in the church at Corinth, shared a word of encouragement with them (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9). He emphasized to them that while difficult times might come as they attempted to live their lives in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord, they can never be truly defeated. May I add the same is also true for today’s believers in Christ? While meditating on the above passage my thoughts were of the Rocky Balboa movies, played by Sylvester Stallone. You probably have seen at least one of them as the “Italian Stallion”.
This fictional boxer from the film series has inspired many and came to personify the idea of overcoming the odds and coming out the victor, regardless of the cost. If you’ve seen any of the “Rocky” movies, you no doubt remember the boxing scenes, where Rocky, before achieving victory, is usually beaten to a pulp! His eyes are swelled shut, he’s cut, bruised and bleeding, but when all is said and done, he wins, having “gone the distance.”
These bodies of ours truly are “earthen vessels”, which are fragile, weak and susceptible to injury and disease. However, physical limitations need not limit the spirit. Many believers have learned that to be “struck down” does not mean “destroyed”. Leon Wood was an example of that during the closing years of his life. While this brilliant Old Testament scholar was in his prime as an author and as the dean of a seminary, he contracted Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Bit by bit, it struck down Wood’s body. When he could no longer run, he had to give up tennis. Walking became difficult as he grew weaker and weaker. Finally, he was confined to his bed. But as his body weakened, his faith and resolve strengthened. He continued to study, to teach, and to write. Some of his most significant books were written in the latter stages of his illness. The last seminary class he taught met at his bedside. His spirit remained strong to the end. He was down but not destroyed.
One of the Bible characters that never fail to amaze me is Job. He’s a very successful and wealthy man with a large family, land, live stock and shares a great relationship with His Creator. Everything is going well until a storm with all its force and fury hits him hard and all that he had was taken away. His wife advises him to curse God and die and his friends are anything but friends. They came to discourage him, break the little faith and crush the strength he had left.
Job’s reaction to all this was: “The Lord gave, the Lord took away. Praise be to His name.” He was down but not destroyed. When the sailors of old faced the worst of the storms, they would call out to encourage one another with this statement of faith, “Hold fast!” When the waves buffeted against them, the winds howled and the storm raged. When it seemed like everything was against them, they would call out “Hold fast!”
We often encounter disappointments that perplex and bother us, and we’re tempted to cry out, “O Lord, why do You allow these things to happen?” Perhaps today you are struck down by some disease or crippled by some serious setback in life. It is at times like this my beloved that we should cast ourselves on God and choose to hold fast to His Love, Mercy and Grace. Psalm 145:8 states, “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him”. He watches over and He cares deeply for you. Trust and obey Him and in so doing, you’ll demonstrate the power of God in your life and bring encouragement to others.
Even though our present trials may be heartbreaking, the all-wise heavenly Father works through them to bring about our ultimate good. Remember there isn’t a trial you go through without His assistance. Once you’ve placed your faith and trust in Christ, you can confidently say, “He’s always there for me!”
When adversity strikes you, God is ready to strengthen you.