Don’t Worry: Strength

Don’t Worry: Strength
A Message on Isaiah 40:25-31
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Oct. 4, 2020
By Doug Wintermute

Isaiah 40:25-31 (NRSV)

To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

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Today as we continue our sermon series titled “Don’t Worry” we are going to talk about the subject of “strength.”

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be strong. I have friends that lift weights and they will sometimes post photos or videos of them lifting weights that look to me like they are heavier than most vehicles with a full tank of gas. But through lifting those weights their muscles become stronger and they become healthier.

It’s good to be strong and healthy and people invest a lot of money and time in gyms, workout equipment, and exercises to make themselves stronger and healthier.

Well I’m here to share with you today some exercise developed for seniors like me that don’t require fancy equipment or a gym. I found this on the Internet so it has to be true, right?

So you start out with two 5 pound potato sacks. You put one in each hand and then hold your arms straight out like this (demonstrate) and hold them there as long as you can. Then put them down, relax a while, and repeat.

What you will find is that over time you can hold your arms out longer and longer. After a few days do the same thing with 10 pound potato bags. It will be harder, but you can do it.

Then, after several days of that, step up to holding 50 pound potato bags in each hand. I know, it’s difficult, but you will find that you can do it.

Once you can hold those two 50-pound potato bags out for one minute, then you are ready to go to the next step: put a potato in each sack. Be careful, though. You don’t want to overdo it.

Today’s scripture from Isaiah tells us that when we get tired we can turn to God and he will renew our strength. At Mini Methodists this week our memory verse was Isaiah 40:31, “…those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”

To illustrate this we did a little experiment. Now you young folks who were in Mini Methodists this past Wednesday, don’t give it away, okay?

So what I need is someone who is strong and in shape. How about Chris Bingham? He’s fit and trim and strong. Chris, would you come up here? [Wait for him to come forward.] Okay, I want you to come up here and I want you to hold these weights for me. [Hand him two 10 lb. weights.] These are small weights and they don’t weigh much, right? Ten pounds each. That’s nothing for a strong guy like you, right?

Okay, so I want to see how long you can hold these. Okay, got it? Easy, right? Oh, but I want you to hold it like this: (hold arms straight out, like in the potato sack story). Okay, let’s start timing now.

How does it feel? Oh, it’s starting to feel heavy? But you just said that it’s not a very heavy weight, right?

[To congregation:] This illustrates how as we deal with the troubles and worries of this world by ourselves they begin to get heavy. Our emotional and spiritual muscles become tired as we have to deal with the struggles of this world day after day after day.

And then this COVID pandemic comes along and that weight gets even heavier. I read an article recently that said one of the most common effects this has had on people is that they find themselves increasingly tired. No physically, but emotionally and spiritually they find that they are just worn out and tired.

Do you feel that way? If I’m honest I find myself feeling that way.

The prophet Isaiah tells us in the scriptures today that there is hope for those of us who are tired: God. Listen to what Isaiah says: “He [God] gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” — Isaiah 40:28-31

It’s kind of like this: [walk over to Chris] When we try to handle all our difficulties by ourselves, it’s like holding this weight out by ourselves. Over time we get tired and weary, and our muscles become exhausted.

But when we turn to Jesus Christ as the source of our strength it’s like this happens. [Put hands under and help support Chris’s arms.) The cross can support what we can’t by ourselves.

[Thank Chris, ask them to return to their seat.]

Now if you notice I didn’t take the weights from Chris. He still held them. But I helped him hold them.

In the same way when we turn to Jesus it doesn’t mean our troubles will disappear. No. But it does mean he will provide us the strength to persevere, to get through them.

That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to remind us that just as just as the body needs food to function, so our emotional and spiritual bodies need the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper to remind us that we are not alone, but that through faith our strength is renewed. This isn’t from anything that we do own our own power, but it was done 2,000 years ago by the blood of Jesus Christ.

As our first reading from Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” We can do all things, not on our own, but through Christ.

So my challenge to you this week is to not worry, but depend on the strength that comes from the Lord. Soar on wings like eagles, run and don’t be weary, walk and not faint. Don’t hold your troubles by yourself. The cross of Jesus is there to help.

And don’t be afraid to put potatoes in your sack. Jesus will help you hold them.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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