If you have ever spent any time around people who frequent a gym, you have probably noticed one question seems to come up in every conversation regarding an individuals' strength. That question is, of course, "how much can you bench"? For some reason, the bench press has become the gold standard for evaluating a persons' strength. I know that I myself fell into that trap when I was seriously working out, and often found myself setting goals regarding how much I could press.
Yet when one begins to get serious about bench pressing, one of the first things you learn is the importance of having a "spotter", or someone very strong who stands behind the bench while you attempt to lift in order to help you if your strength begins to fail. Obviously serious injuries can, and have occured when people attempt to lift a very heavy weight above their heads while laying down on a bench. In cases like this, the truth is your very life can be in the hands of whomever you choose to be your spotter.
This past week one of my all time favorite movies has been playing on television in the evenings. I'm sure many of you have seen or heard of it because it has a number of very well known actors in it. The movie I am referring to is "Space Cowboys" starring Clint Eastwood. If you are not familiar with it, the movie revolves around four individuals that had been involved with the beginnings of the space program, but had never had the opportunity to go into space. As it happens, a situation occurs where they get an chance to go into space on the space shuttle, but they are required to pass the same physical requirements given to potential astronauts half their age.
My favorite scene in the movie occurs in the gym where two of the "senior" astronauts played by Tommy Lee Jones and James Garner are challenged by one of the younger astronauts to bench press 225 pounds. Jones manages to press that weight with Garner as his spotter, but it is obvious to we the watchers, (but not the younger astronauts) that Jones is getting more than a little help from his "spotter" Garner.
While watching that this week, I immediately thought of what we have been talking about lately, and pictured God as our "spotter" as we try to exhibit spiritual strength. I want to share some thoughts with you about that and possibly answer some questions many believers have had lately about the trials we all seem to be facing.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. [We are] hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present [us] with you. For all things [are] for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 NKJV
When I read this portion of scripture and considered the picture of God as our spotter, I saw three points I believe God is sharing with us about our situation as believers in this world.
One...The Power is Gods'
Here Paul makes the point that it is all about God by referring to us as "earthen vessels", which in the Greek means a clay pot. Truthfully, it's another way of saying there is nothing special about us. A clay pot was the most basic implement of that day. It's not made of gold, silver, crystal, jewels, or anything else that might reflect some worth. Just a pot made of mud. And what does a pot do? Obviously it's made to carry something. That's it. We as believers are here to carry Gods' power, not our own, so the focus is on Him. It's not about how strong we are, or what we think we can do, but all about what God can do through us.
Two...The Strength is Gods'
If I can lift a massive amount of weight without the help of my spotter, I am the one who "demonstrates" strength. In verses 8-11 Paul makes it clear that Gods' strength will not be visible unless our weakness is. This is why so many believers are experiencing trials, troubles and struggles. It is required of us to experience these things in order for God to exhibit His strength. Notice verse 11 says "constantly"? It's a part of our life, and like Paul, we should expect these situations to occur. The good news, however, is this. Not only will Gods' strength be manifested through us, it will deliver us. We will not be crushed, despaired, forsaken, or destroyed.
Three...The Glory is Gods'
If the strength was ours, who would get the glory? Us, of course. Unfortunately that would accomplish nothing in regards to advancing the Kingdom of God. But what happens when the world sees Gods' power working in and through His church? This is how God has decided to reach out to an unbelieving world. As He reveals His power through the lives of believers, others see and believe. Paul makes the point that as we struggle and endure trials, our lives then become visible to others. Who notices people who coast through life without troubles? It's the struggles that draw peoples' attention. When people see us struggle, and see the power of God at work in our lives, they in turn are drawn to Him. When this happens, Paul says in verse 15 that the result is..."having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God."
Paul makes it clear that the life of a believer will be filled with struggles and trials. This is, I know, a thought that many believers will have a hard time accepting, yet it is the means by which God has chosen to reveal His power to the world through us. We may struggle, we may be weak, yet God is our spotter. His strength is made manifest in our weakness, and He will never let us down. Take hope in the knowledge that God promises to deliver us through this life, and into the next. May His glory shine through all of us as we await His coming.