“Put on Strength.” – Pastor Daniel Bramlett
How many times does God tell us to “put on strength”? The phrase means “rise” or “clothe yourself” in strength. The answer every time is “I cannot. I have no strength left in me.” Everyone who sees the Lord has the same answer “Woe is me! I am broken. I am dirty. I am weak.” But God still tells us to “put on strength.” Where is this going? The same place the Word is going with it. God calls us to the impossible all the time. This is why Paul says “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
The Bible is full of paradoxes. Jesus Himself is a paradox. There is a Kingdom we cannot see with our physical eyes that we are invited into. What do we do with these kinds of invitations? We either respond or ignore them. There are millions who ignore them every day; millions who reject the unseen for the seen. But there are millions more who take God up on His offer to put on strength. They trust Him. They believe Him. They lean on Him. They know there is no way they can accomplish the task on their own, and they still respond. They know God does not give us tasks we can easily accomplish. That would lead us to trust ourselves. We’ve never been able to do the things He expects of us. So, how do we put on strength? We put on Christ.
God is the immediate answer to every task we’re given. But for me to answer His invitation to join Him in whatever He is doing, I have to come to the end of myself. That means if I am going to put on strength, I have to relinquish any strength I have left. I have to quit pretending that I am strong. I have no option to save some strength for later or train my mind to act strong in a pinch. I have to let it go and admit that I am really weak. This is hard for independent people; folks who thrive on accomplishing things all by themselves. This is hard for proud people; guys who know and like for others to know they got the job done. This is hard for strong personalities; ladies who can push through and finish the task.
God says “put on strength” to a people who were independent, proud and strong, and most of them failed to do so. We know this because they ended up enslaved to an addiction, another country or an enemy army. They were sold into slavery, prostituted and beaten down. Their pride was mimicked by their inability to accomplish even the most basic tasks. Their strength was mocked by the lepers who danced at their funerals. Their independence ended when the irons were slapped on their wrists. Why did God allow His people to be treated this way? The same reason He allows us to be shamed and embarrassed by our choices: His goal is always for us to put on His strength, not our own. Every time we ignore His invitation and clothe ourselves in our own, homespun strength, we end up flat on our backs.
I spent the morning in an interview room with some very broken men. Addiction has defined their existence for as long as they can remember. Darkness has been their environment and their own strength their clothing. And it’s brought them to a place of despair. I can’t communicate the emotions the hit me in meetings like this. These men have bought the lies of a culture that says “You’re good and you can do whatever you want!” Many of them are beaten into a corner by a family member or friend they trusted. Their lives are in an impossible state of disrepair. But into that mess God says “Put on My Strength!” This sounds like a foreign language to most of them, but some of them are ready. They don’t know how, but that’s the point! We’ve never known how on our own! But they listen. They look at you with a desperation in their eyes and say “My way doesn’t work.”
When a man comes to the end of himself, one of two things happens. He picks up and moves on empty handed or he surrenders. We see empty men all the time. Their eyes are blank. They just go through the motions. What strength they had has been stolen and they are just existing. If no one gets to them, their lives end in hopelessness. This is the saddest reality of all. People die every day broken and empty. Some of them heard the Lord’s invite and answered in the negative. They argued they were too far gone (not true), too weak to respond (in reality, the weaker the better!) or angry that God allowed them to be broken. But many of them are broken, hear God’s invite and choose to lay down their last bit of strength in exchange for His strength.
I know this sounds confusing, but you have to understand there is more to this world than meets the eye. God’s Kingdom is often opposite the things we are used to. But when you start to gain His perspective, when you realize that He is King is in the room, you can begin to bend to His perspective; you can start to submit to His expectations.
Every person on earth knows their weaknesses. I pray you know the difference that comes when you come to the end of yourself and put on God’s strength.