As long as matters are really hopeful,
hope is a mere flattery or platitude;
it is only when everything is hopeless
that hope begins to be a strength.
Like all the Christian virtues,
it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.
–G. K. Chesterton
By Patricia Knight
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31)
Eagles are magnificent birds, flying at level speeds around thirty miles per hour. It is fascinating to observe the great birds soar without flapping their wings for long periods of time, gliding on thermal updrafts, disappearing above the clouds at altitudes of a mile or more.
The eagle is opportunistic and fast. Spying rodents in a field or fish swimming beneath the water, the eagle can obtain diving speeds of one hundred miles per hour, splashing into the water to grasp a fish with its sharp, curved talons. Capable of lifting its prey while ascending at full speed, the eagle may slice the catch with its hooked, razor-sharp beak to eat in mid-air, or it may deliver the meal from miles away to feed eaglets in the nest.
God masterfully created the eagle with hollow bones for minimum weight and maximum flight aerodynamics. Each bird is covered with about seven thousand feathers, tapered for flight and downy for insulation. It has been estimated that, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane. Is it any wonder our Lord has selected the example of the eagle to promise the renewal of our own strength?
Human weakness provides the ideal occasion for the display of divine power. The apostle Paul prayed repeatedly for God to remove his distracting physical problem, but the Master Physician replied that the better solution would be to convert Paul’s weakness to His sovereign strength. God’s answer prompted Paul to admit, “‘For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’”(2 Corinthians 12:10). Paul established his priorities and trust in the almighty source of all power, who promised to respond to believers with the gift of extraordinary strength.
The classic example of power in weakness is the cross of Christ. “He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by God’s power” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Imagine the tremendous divine force required to raise Jesus from the dead, the ascension power that restored the Son at the right hand of the Father in heaven. That same immense power is available to those who believe.
Though our Lord delights in enhancing our physical strength, He is far more interested in providing our strength of character by empowering us spiritually. “‘Let not wise man boast of wisdom or strong man boast of strength; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in this I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).
The apostle Paul prayed to God, “‘that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you … may have power … to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God’” (Ephesians 3:16-19). How incredible that God desires to share His infinite love and strength with His finite children! His magnificent love measurements are beyond our calculations, unfathomable in human understanding. God desires to fill us up to the brim with the inexhaustible measure of His love.
Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would experience God’s “‘incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength’”(Ephesians 1:19). In Greek, the term for God’s greatness of power is “dunameos,” the origin of our word dynamite. God’s power extended to us transcends the force produced from a blast of dynamite, the intense power of an atomic bomb, or the energy required to launch a rocket into space. God promises that His power will be available to us upon request, for the purpose of buttressing our stamina to serve Him. Spiritual dynamic power is ours to claim!
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace
gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your heart and strengthen you
in every good deed and word”(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
We were created in our heavenly Father’s image. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we assume His characteristics of purity and righteousness. God not only commands that we mirror His personality, but that our motives align with His. He provides the inner strength we need to maintain a sovereign replica.
“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28). The grieving psalmist asks for God’s encouragement in order for him to endure emotionally. Strength is endowed for truth and obedience to prevail, providing a lesson to us about requesting our Lord’s intervention for our daily needs and emotional courage. Like the eagle who is uplifted in the thermal air currents, our spirit rises on the strength of God’s provisions.
Extraordinary expressions are emitted from those of us who observe the graceful, powerful feats of an eagle soaring to the heights of the atmosphere. Do we exclaim in proportion to the Designer of such a magnificent bird, for His awesome gifts to us? As with humans, the eagles’ only strength comes exclusively from its Creator. Let us soar in God’s love and glide on the strength of His encouragement, as He lavishes us with gifts of love and power!
No matter what is going on in your life:
leaning on and trusting God for strength and direction always produces a mighty faith, joy, and hope. And how can you not share all of that with those who need to hear it?
When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful.
—D. L. Moody
As I’ve written about before, the short version of our church’s mission statement is “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 29:19). To be able to do that effectively, we pray for each mission. We also pray over our bikes and riders, that God will use these to spread His Gospel message, for His glory.
Each year we also gather in several different places for the annual bike blessing. The photos in the collage above are from the bike blessing on March 15, 2015 at the Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson dealership in Mayer, Arizona. The prayer blessing was led by Pastors Joe and Tim of our Full Throttle Biker Church. I thought it particularly appropriate to make up a collage using photos from one of this year’s bike blessings to illustrate D. L. Moody’s wonderful quote.
He gives strength to the weary,
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
We all have days when we feel like things will never get any better. The car breaks down, our health declines, or we lose our job. Maybe a family member is coping with cancer, or one of our children dies. Sometimes it seems that all we ever do is struggle, with no hope in sight.
Life has a way of throwing us curves, doesn’t it? Just when we think things are going well, something happens to dash our exuberance. Bill is a friend who lost much in a tragic car accident years ago. His wife and children died, and one of his legs was badly mangled and is now several inches shorter than the other.
In the hospital, despite what must have been the darkest time of his life, Bill’s positive and trusting demeanor was a shining example of his hope in God. Of course he mourned the loss of his family, but he still praised God through it all.
There is hope for all of us—a hope that transcends anything here on earth. That hope lies in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, ensuring eternal life for all who believe. Even though our earthly bodies may suffer and we experience heart-rending disappointments, we have the assurance that our heavenly bodies will never feel pain.
What a tremendous hope we have that helps us “soar on wings like eagles”! When the bad times come—and inevitably they will—we have the assurance of knowing that our Lord will grant us the strength necessary to get through those tough times. His strength is the source of our strength.
Today Bill is once again married and the father of two young children. God comforted his grieving heart when he needed it most with the knowledge that no matter what, He was still in control and would take care of things. Bill’s trust in God never wavered, even when his physical strength was compromised by his injuries. His spiritual strength was renewed by the trust and hope he showed in God.
We can have that same hope, no matter what our circumstances. God invites us to call upon Him in the midst of our pain and suffering, and He will lift us up and enable us to get through those difficult times. He’s right there, ready to surround you with His comfort and peace.