March 10, 1998
Betty, an eighty-one year old heart patient and almost totally deaf, told her pastor she wanted to be involved in ministry to other people, despite her health problems. So a few people in her church went to her farm where she lived, and taught her how to use a computer.
Betty started using the Internet to find prayer groups and began praying for posted requests. She then began e-mail with those people to see how they were doing and how she could pray further for them. Some of these new friends started visiting Betty on her farm. They wanted to meet this warm-hearted, caring lady. Betty has even volunteered to organize a prayer network.
One of the dilemmas and fears of growing old is losing a sense of personal worth and significance. These are basic human needs, yet diminishing strength or health problems can rob us of the ability to do those things that once gave us fulfilment.
God’s people are not exempt from these fears. In Psalm 71, the psalmist wrote, “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone . . . . Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” Betty may have prayed this prayer.
Along with this accurate description of human need, God promises He will be faithful to His people. In another psalm, the writer declares, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Betty is a contemporary example that a failing heart and deafness do not hinder God from pouring His strength into those who long to serve Him.
Our weaknesses and sense of incapacity do not limit God’s power. The Apostle Paul, although younger than Betty at the time, also felt unable to do the things God called him to do. In 2 Corinthians he wrote about an experience that was so incredible God had to give him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from becoming conceited. The Bible does not tell us what that thorn was but we can identify with Paul. Just like him, aside from our strengths we have limitations that seem to stand in the way of our becoming and doing all that we want to do.
Paul asked God three times to take away his “thorn” but God did not do it. Instead, He promised: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” That promise is God’s answer to our feelings of inadequacy also.
God doesn’t need our strengths and abilities in order to use us. A primary example is salvation. The Bible clearly says God does not ask for our character to reach a certain level or our performance to conform to certain standards before He forgives our sins. In the same way, He works in the lives of His people apart from what we can do.
This does not mean our skills and abilities are useless but whatever we do has no eternal significance or consequence apart from being empowered by God. In other words, even if we go through the motions of serving Him, unless His power is there, our work is to no avail.
On the other hand, God’s people are not robots. We have longings and desires and can make choices. As we learn to align those with what we know of God’s will, we find that He is not only willing but able to give us the capacities we need to carry out what He has put on our minds.
Betty illustrates that, but her story does not end with God supernatural blessing of strength in her weakness. She recently went to see her doctor. After examining her, he asked what she had been “taking” that he didn’t know about. She was puzzled and said, “Nothing.” At that her amazed doctor told her, “Betty, your heart is healed.”
The Lord became the “strength of her heart” in more ways than one.