Pacing bear at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Strong

I think of myself as a strong person. I’m independent and self-reliant, almost to a fault, and I hate asking for help. The way I look at it, if it’s something I have to ask help in completing, maybe it’s something I don’t need to worry about doing. Many times, I’d rather not do it if I can’t do it alone.

But that’s a silly, prideful way to live because nobody is really strong enough to make it through life alone. The older I get, the more I begin to understand exactly what it costs to be that strong, and the more I learn that I really don’t understand strength at all.

Pacing bear at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Pacing bear at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:11.

Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.

I blogged on this verse earlier this year, focusing on how it says we’re supposed to seek God. Continually. But this morning, something else stood out to me that I hadn’t really seen before.

This verse is nestled in a song David sang as his armies were in the process of moving the Ark of the Covenant (the symbol of God’s presence on Earth in the Old Testament) back to Jerusalem. He sang this as they reached the city, if I have my timeline right. It’s a long song, and you can find it in 1 Chronicles 16.

This statement is in between lyrics about praising God for what He’s done and remembering the greatness of His deeds. But what struck me this morning wasn’t the bit about continually seeking God. That’s important because it’s easy for us to lose focus. What hit me as I read this verse today was the statement that we need to be searching for the Lord and for His strength.

Really?

It’s not surprising to me that we need to search for God’s strength, I guess. I’m not strong enough to make it alone; I get that. But what does God’s strength look like? Have you ever wondered? Ask yourself what that means.

God’s strength.

Strength has many definitions and connotations. There are many different kinds of strength, and I think we need to be clear about which one God is talking about.

Are we talking about the strength to create a universe out of nothing? Are we talking about the strength to part the Red Sea and leave it gaping open long enough for millions of people to cross over on dry land? Are we talking about the strength to stop the sun in the sky?

God did all of those things for the Israelites, and all of those things demonstrate that God is very strong. But is that the strength we’re supposed to search for? I don’t think so. Because that kind of strength is unattainable for us. I don’t think God would tell us to seek something if it were something we could never achieve.

So what kind of strength does God possess that we can achieve? What kind of strength can we learn from Him? Well, this is my personal opinion, but it makes sense to me.

It takes more strength to be patient and to wait for God to answer a prayer than it does to get up and try to do it myself. Action is easy; waiting is difficult.

I think it takes more strength to love people truly than it does to ignore them. Indifference is easy; love is difficult.

I think it takes more strength to get up the second time I’ve fallen down than it does to stand up before I fall the first time. The first try is easy; the second and third tries are difficult.

Real strength is facing those difficult moments in life without hesitation because it’s what God has called us to do, because it’s the right thing to do. That is the kind of strength God has, and that is the kind of strength He wants us to seek.

God is patient, especially with us. God loves, even when it hurts Him. God never gives up on us, even when we give Him every reason in the book to turn away and never look back. And it takes a strength far beyond the physical to do all of that. So maybe we can’t physically have the strength of God, but we can mimic His strength in the way we live and in the way we treat each other.

What does it mean to seek His strength? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, just like in Wal-Mart or Sears, the best way to find something you’re looking for is to ask for directions. So ask Him for it. Life isn’t one big scavenger hunt with God giggling about our failures from the sky. It’s more like a treasure hunt, and He’s waiting for us to ask Him for the map.

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Fountain at night

Continually

My coffee pot doesn’t regenerate automatically. Does yours? Probably not. Whenever I want (or need) a cup of coffee, I have to make it myself. I have to pour in water and measure out coffee grounds. I have to push the start button. It something I do every morning, part of my routine, because if I want to remember how to spell, I need coffee in my system before I start working on this devotional!  Maybe you have a swanky coffee pot with a timer that will make coffee at a certain time so it’s ready when you wake up. But I don’t. And until I get one, I have to make it myself.

That’s a lousy illustration, but the point is there. Some things in our lives can’t be set on cruise control.

Fountain at night

Fountain at night - Bradley Fair Shopping Centre, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:11.

Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him.

Life is constantly changing. I blogged about this earlier in the week, but it is an inescapable truth. Our lives change. Our circumstances change. We as a people change. The one Person who doesn’t change is God. And in the midst of all the changes we must experience, the only way to stay steady and solid is to hold on to Him.

This verse says that we should continually seek Him. That just means that our relationship with God isn’t something that can be set on auto-pilot.

There’s an old movie, Airplane, that had a funny joke about the auto-pilot system. When they switched it on, this inflatable person appeared in the pilot seat (his name was Otto, of course). But he flew the plane and left the others free to roam about the cabin, doing all the ridiculous things that made the movie so funny.

But when I start thinking about how that applies to my own life, it’s not so funny anymore. Because I have an auto-pilot system. And the more tired and more stressed out I get, the more I use it. It’s easier when I don’t have to think. It’s easier when I don’t have to delve too deeply into my concerns or examine my motives. I just drift through life on cruise control. And while I don’t rock the boat, I don’t catch any fish either.

Our relationship with God is just like any other relationship. If you don’t spend time investing in it, you’ll be strangers. It you aren’t willing to sacrifice your time to get to know Him, He will feel like a distant, impersonal God who only demands obedience and who is no longer relevant to your life.

But that begs another question. If He’s so steady and stable and unmoving, why do we have to search for Him continually? Why is it something that we have to do every day?

Well, we change. We move. We leave. We wander off on our own, even if it’s just a day’s journey. And if it’s longer than a day’s journey, it just takes that much longer to get back.

So is it even necessary to go back?

No, of course not. You don’t have to. If you want to wander off on your own, that’s your prerogative. Even if you’re a follower of Christ, you can go off by yourself. God is a gentleman, as my pastor likes to say. He won’t force Himself on anyone. But there’s a reason God is called the Rock of Ages. When everything else in the world is spinning out of control, He doesn’t move. He’s the anchor that keeps the ship secure in a storm. He’s the solid foundation that keeps the house standing when everything else falls apart. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that strong.

Seeking God continually is something every believer needs to do. It’s a habit we all need to develop, whether it’s daily Bible reading or a special time set aside every day for prayer. Whatever works for you, and if you don’t like structure (like me), do something else. Make something up. But whatever you do, seek God. Continually. Because if you aren’t anchored to Him, you’ll drift away. And before you know it, you’ll be so far away you won’t be able to see Him anymore.