Isaiah 40: 28 – 31
Everyone has a story to tell, even the people who seem to smile all the time. Some people look so well-adjusted and happy that you think they don't have a care in the world. But they do. If you work with people long enough, you discover that even the "perfect" people know all about sorrow and heartache. A tale of sadness or of failure. A story of a broken marriage, of a child with an incurable disease, of alcohol abuse, of crushing financial disaster, of loved ones far from God, of dreams dashed on the jagged rocks of reality. Every face has its own secret story.
All of us come to a breaking point sooner or later. Those moments that change the course of life forever. So many things can happen so quickly. The phone rings and a voice says, "I've got bad news."
A failed exam - The test came back positive - The child died - She said no - "We're getting a divorce" - The company doesn't need you anymore - "I'm being sued" - A friendship suddenly ends –Suicide - A move to a new job 1400 kms away - You discover there is another woman or another man. Time stops. Life will never be the same again. How will you find the strength to go on?
We turn for insight to the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah. In Chapter 40 he writes to his own people - a nation in exile in Babylon. In their despair they wondered if God had forgotten them completely. In reply the prophet reminds them of the incomparable greatness of God. For Isaiah everything begins and ends with God. Nothing in life can be understood apart from him. To a people whose faith had come to a breaking point, Isaiah points them back to God. His words speak to everyone struggling at a break point of life today.
1. The Principle v. 28
This verse contains four vital truths about God:
A. He is the Everlasting God – Totally Reliable
Because he is everlasting, he has no beginning and no end. Take a line and draw it from infinity to infinity. When you come to the end of infinity, there you will find God. He stands above and beyond anything we can imagine. There are no deficiencies in him, he does not decay, neither does he change. So we pray and hear his answer: "Lord, can you take care of my problem?" "It is no problem to me." "Lord, have you seen this before?" "I've seen it many times." "Lord, you won't believe the mess I'm in." "Try me." "Lord, will you be there when I need you?" "I was there before you were here, and I'll still be here after you are gone."
B. He is the Creator of the Ends of the Earth – All Powerful
No problem can be too great for him because he made the things that are causing you the problem. "Lord, can you handle it?" "Handle it? I made it."
When you buy a new car or a computer - the warranty guarantees the item for a specified period of time. The manufacturer stands behind it because his reputation is on the line. He knows how to fix it because he designed it and put it together. v. 28 is the believer's warranty for all of life's problems. God's warranty doesn't end after 90 days. It lasts forever.
C. He Never Grows Weary – Continually Available
"Weary" is what happens when you work to the point of exhaustion. That never happens to God because his strength has no limits. He is never too tired to help us and never too preoccupied with someone else's problems to listen to our cry. His tank never runs out of petrol. He never answers so many prayers one day that he can't get out of bed the next day. He never tires of helping his children.
D. His Understanding No One Can Fathom – Perfectly Trustworthy
He has perfect insight into your life - he understands things about you that you don't understand about yourself. We see life through a "keyhole" with all our problems filling our field of vision until we can see nothing else, but God sees the really big picture. He sees the whole universe - at the same time, past, present and future - in panoramic sweep and in the minutest detail. He is never stumped by our problems. He is never baffled by our questions. He is never confused by our confusion.
2. The Promise
The principle leads us to a promise that comes in 2 parts.
A. God will supply strength in our weakness v. 29
"Strength" - the ability to act in the moment of crisis. It speaks of endurance in hard times. "Power" - the ability to do what needs to be done. It means that you will have whatever you need whenever you need it to do whatever needs to be done.
B. God will do it because we all need it v. 30
Even the strongest of the strong lose heart and give way. We all have to stop and rest eventually. No one can take the strain of life forever. Even the mightiest oak will crash to the ground if you hit it in just the right spot. God promises strength in the moment of weakness. It arrives in the nick of time.
3. The Prospect v. 31
Note the 2 key phrases in this verse:
A. "Wait for the Lord."
Amplified Bible - "who expect, look for, and hope in Him." Waiting is perhaps the hardest discipline of the Christian life. Most of us hate to wait - trivial compared to the wife waiting for a wayward husband to come home, parents waiting for word from their son serving in a war zone, a cancer patient waiting for the results of the latest test, or friends and loved ones waiting for the results of surgery. Waiting in a hospital is like no other waiting in the world. Minutes become hours and hours become days. You sit and stare and idly read a magazine you don't care about and can't concentrate on. You wander down to the cafeteria to eat food you can't taste and listen to conversations you don't care about. You wait for what seems like an hour only to find out that 5 minutes have passed since the last time you checked the clock. Such is life for all of us. It goes so quickly sometimes, days and months and years blur together, and then suddenly it slows to a crawl and almost seems to stop.
Our text reminds us that we are not waiting for the latest medical breakthrough or even for a message from our loved ones or a new job or an end to a prison sentence or for an offer of a better job or a cheque for a million rand. We are waiting for the Lord.
We are not waiting for something. We are waiting for someone.
So this is not waiting with passive resignation. "It's hopeless. I can't do anything about it." Waiting for the Lord is the highest expression of our faith. "I know God is going to resolve this situation. I don't know how and I don't know when, but I know he's going to do it. I'm not giving up. I'm waiting on him."
Life is like a river that never stops flowing even when we are confused about where it is taking us. We may come to the place in life where our fears freeze us into total inactivity. Waiting on the Lord means that even in those moments, you make a mental choice to trust in the living God who is all-sufficient for your needs and say, "I am going on with my life." Not without some doubt and often with tears but I am going on nonetheless.
Waiting does not mean doing nothing. Waiting for the Lord means, "I am totally convinced that God is at work in this awful situation even though I cannot see it at the moment. Therefore I will not let this thing overwhelm me because being overwhelmed will not solve the problem anyway. By God's grace I will do the next thing that needs to be done, trusting that God is at work behind the scenes." So that little step forward-whatever it is-is a step of faith. Waiting is not passive, but active, because you believe God is at work in the midst of the crisis.
B. "Renew their strength"
This is the heart of God's promise - his word to his weary people who feel like they cannot keep going. "Renew" actually means to exchange one thing for another. It was used of changing clothes. Here it means to exchange your weakness for God's strength. Wonderful promise because no matter how desperate your situation is, he's got more strength than you've got weakness. 3 aspects - how his strength will help us:
i. Strength to soar - "Mount up with wings like eagles." What happens when you have so much energy and enthusiasm that you can't wait to get out of bed. You rise above your problems with exuberant joy.
ii. Strength to run - "Run and not be weary." God-given ability to withstand enormous pressure. You have unusual strength that you know doesn't come from yourself. It's what happens when you say, "I don't now how I made it through that, but I did."
iii. Strength to walk - "Walk and not faint." Stability in the commonplace affairs of life. Walking without fainting is the ability to get up every day, day after day, and do what needs to be done, facing the irritations of life without flinching and with reasonable good humour. Walking is placed last because it is the daily need of every child of God, and in that sense, it is the highest attainment of faith. Walking is more remarkable than running or soaring precisely because walking is the real "stuff" of life. Walking isn't exciting but it will get the job done. Galatians 5:16 - "walk in the Spirit." Walking implies steady progress in one direction by means of deliberate choices over a long period of time. It has the idea of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide every part of your life on a daily basis.
Walking in the Spirit is not some mystical experience reserved for a few special Christians. It’s God’s design for normal Christian living. It’s nothing more than choosing (by God’s grace) to take tiny steps in the right direction day after day after day.
The Lessons for Today
1. Our greatest need - look up and see the sufficiency of God.
When you look at your problems, they will always seem too big for you to handle - because they are. Who among us is equal to the issues of life? We are not equal to divorce, the death of a friend, the ruin of a career, a vicious rumour being spread against us, a massive financial setback, our sons and daughters going off to war, our parents growing old, the collapse of a cherished dream, the end of a long friendship, an attack of severe depression, a disabled child or a massive heart attack.
Who is sufficient for these things? Yet they are come and we find ways to cope, but we are not equal to them. Sometimes our troubles come in waves - sometimes the waves overwhelm us.
It is not the magnitude of my problems that matter. It is the magnitude of my God that makes a difference. Is he big enough to meet my needs?
2. Our greatest danger - resist the work of God in our lives.
It can be a good thing to hit rock bottom if it causes us to look up and see the Lord. Sometimes we must be stripped of the things in which we trusted so that our trust might be in God alone. Who are the truly strong people of the world? It is not the glitterati we read about and watch on TV. The strongest people on earth are those who have discovered their own weakness and have turned to the unlimited resources of God. Show me a man who says, "Only God can get me out of this," and I will show you an excellent candidate for a miracle. If someone says, "I've come to the end of my rope," God says, "Wrap yourselves around me and I will be your strength." When we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord.
3. Our greatest hope - exchange our weakness for his strength.
We are invited to wait on the Lord. We are promised an exchange. God will fit the supply to our moment-by-moment need. Do we need to fly? Run? Walk? It will be given. He will come to us if we will turn to him. The unlimited power of God flows into our failing humanity on the simple condition of waiting on the Lord. Are we weary? Are we discouraged? Are we confused?
Those words describe all of us from time to time. But we are delivered by God and our weakness exchanged for his strength. We mount up with wings as eagles. We run and are not weary. We walk and do not faint. This is the promise for all of us. God will give all the help we need because he has all the strength and power in the universe. He has so much and we will never come to the end of it. It all depends on who God is. To say, "I've got no place to go but to the Lord" is like saying, "I've got nothing to breathe but air." The issue is not your problems. The issue is God. If God is who he says he is, then you've got every reason to be grateful and every reason to be full of hope and every reason to keep believing in the midst of your trials. They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. This is the promise of God. Amen.