MY STRENGTH COMES FROM HIM
After a long struggle, I realized that what I could not do is live up to the spirit of Christianity. I could live up to “the letter” by acting kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. But I found that acting killed something in me; it was death to my soul. The Christian life was not the development of my acting ability! The Christian life was God’s Spirit living His life in me.
After admitting that my own resources were not enough, I faced other spiritual obstacles: Why did my fellowship with Jesus fade after my conversion? Why did God seem so distant, so unconcerned? Worst of all, why did God sometimes seem not to exist at all?
The Bible met all my questions with a single answer:
Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you. And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call! But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because of sin He has turned his face away from you and will not listen anymore. (Isaiah 59:1-2, LB, emphasis added)
The Bible put the finger on the problem: sin was keeping me at a distance from the Lord. Those verses that disturbed me said it all:
Stop being mean, bad tempered, and angry. . . harsh words and dislike of others have no place in our lives. (Ephesians 4:31, LB)
These were the sins that made God seem so distant to me. My boss and family didn’t cause them; they were only used to reveal them in me.
Since only God could cleanse me from sin, I asked Him to cleanse my heart. I also asked the Lord for help because I knew I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t love my boss or my wife or my little boy. Oh, yes, I could seem loving, but that’s not the same as being loving on the inside. The turning point came when I admitted to God that I was helpless and asked Him to give me His love for my boss when he was yelling at me. The next day on the way to work I again appealed to God to take away the intense anger when my boss yelled at me and give me His love for my boss.
Although I could not see any outward changes in my life, I remember very well the day when my boss, his jaw loaded with tobacco, shouted, “Brandt!” and to my surprise, I wasn’t mad at him. For the first time that I could remember, the smile on my face reflected my spirit. What an incredible experience for me! I’m not trying to say that I entrusted every day to the Lord. But every day that I did, I found the Lord was always there.
A few weeks later, my boss yelled at me again: “Brandt! Come in here!” By now he amused me. I actually enjoyed watching him! Let me tell you! What a different experience it was when there was joy in my heart! I could watch an old crab and not become a crab myself! It was wonderful to be released from that trap. I walked into his office feeling friendly and relaxed. I asked, “What do you want?” And he said, “What’s gotten into you? You’ve been in a good mood lately!”
As the days went by my boss still yelled, but I was not mad at him. It was a miracle. First came cleansing; then came strength—a strength not my own but God’s.
I cannot change what I am deep down inside; only God can. I can only change surface actions. I have a human tendency to idealistically view myself: I think I can change my behavior if I am just determined enough. This thinking leads to some great acting, but not to a changed and cured heart. I may feel that I must add to the finished work of Christ, but when Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30, NKJV)—He meant it.
Only Jesus lived the Christian life. Only Jesus in control of our hearts will enable us to live the Christian life today. Every day that I yielded to Him, I found the Lord was always there. And across these years, the principle that we can live the Christian life with God in control and win against sin has made a tremendous difference in my life.