As a new year begins, I’m often full of energy and willpower to change and improve my life. This year I will lose those pounds, make time for relationships, draw nearer to God. But without fail, that energy and optimism all but disappear when resistance inevitably kicks in. It reminds me of a time years ago when, as a young pastor, I had an invitation to go fishing with my neighbor.
I hadn’t done much fishing in my life, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know him better. So we loaded the boat on a trailer and hooked up to his pickup. The sun was shining and it looked to be an awesome day to be on the water.
We launched the small fishing boat onto the Ouachita River, he pulled a cord on the small motor and it sputtered into life. We headed downstream on the rain-swelled river at a pretty good clip. In short order we arrived at his favorite fishing spot and spent a good deal of time there. As I recall, he caught quite a few good sized Bream and I drowned a lot of worms.
When we had about as much fun as we could muster, it was time to head back to the truck. My friend pulled the rope and the engine once again hummed into life. However, now we were headed upstream. The river seemed angry and fought against us. Progress was slow.
Powerless on our own
About half-way home, that little motor decided the river could have its way. It sputtered, coughed, and choked — then stopped. This did not bode well. My partner in misery reached into the bottom of the boat and picked up a couple of oars. I looked at him like I’d never seen one of these strange contraptions before. He handed one to me and told me to get busy rowing if I wanted to get back home.
So we rowed. We rowed hard. We rowed valiantly. We both began to breathe hard and sweat was pouring off of us. It was then that I glanced toward the shore. What I saw was utterly demoralizing. Giving it our absolute best effort, we were drifting downstream. The current was much stronger than we were, and it was clear the river would win this fight.
We had two choices. Steer to the bank and begin a long walk back to the truck or give the engine another try. He reached back and with a mighty pull on the rope, nothing happened. Two more tries. Nothing. Then, on the fourth attempt, the motor woke up with renewed vigor! We were back on our way again!
There are times in my life when I try to handle things by myself. I give it my all — my best efforts. But, the truth is, if I look over at the banks of my life I’m losing to the current. So much around me is bigger and stronger than I. My very best effort will not ever be close to enough. The end result of all that rowing and struggle on my own will be wasted sweat and tears, and lost progress.
The Good News is that God knew that all along! He has placed in my life the power to overcome!
Here are three ways that we can bring our spiritual motor back to life.
- Look at Jesus, don’t look at the power of the current. If we only see how powerful the river is, we can be overwhelmed and give up. Our boat is small and the water is moving so fast that fear can take us over! Remember what happened to Peter when he stepped out of a perfectly working boat onto the stormy waves? When he kept his gaze on the Savior, he was able to do supernatural feats. It’s when he took his eyes off of Jesus and gave his full attention to the storm that he succombed to his circumstances..
- Acknowledge that your strength is not enough. This is a case of your weakness being a strength! Knowing our limitations will cause us to look outside of ourselves for help. Because my efforts alone will not get me home, I cry out to the One who is more than enough.
- Believe that God is with you and for you. His power is greater than any storm we will ever face in life. Listen to what Paul had to say about it in Ephesians 1. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know …his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…”
The motor of God’s Holy Spirit can roar back into life and we can overcome the strong currents that oppose us. There is nothing we will ever face in our lives that is bigger than God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you and me! Think about that.
Power that gave life to something dead, that caused an idle heart to begin beating, fresh blood to flow once again through veins, breath to return to empty lungs…that is the power available to you and me to accomplish His purposes. It amazes me!
I think it’s about time we pull that rope, don’t you? We can trust Him and rest on the knowledge we are not alone in our struggles. God is with us and for us, and He is big enough.
A Prayer for Power
Lord, life can be hard. Sometimes we feel like we’re going the wrong way even with our very best efforts. Help us to remember that we aren’t dependent on our strength, gifts, or talents alone. Because You are with us, we can overcome. We choose to put our trust in the power of our Living Lord in Whose name we pray.