If you could ask God to give you God-sized strength, what would you do with it?
If you’re like most people, you have dreams and things you want to accomplish. And you have Bible verses repeatedly promising God’s help and strength, like:
“I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Is 41:10b NLT)
And if you’re like most people, at some point you’ve probably prayed for God’s strength and not found it. You’re left wondering, “Why won’t God help me?”
I find it helpful to ask two key questions at this point:
- Am I asking God for strength to help me? Or…
- Am I asking for strength to help God?
What do I base these two questions on?
“And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:3 NLT)
If we’re honest, those prayers for strength that didn’t get answered might be traced to a root cause of selfishness. We want to further our purpose… our name. And the fact that God doesn’t grant us strength to do that is actually the most loving response God can give. Why?
“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?” (James 4:4a NLT)
Wanting our way is very much a part of the world we live in. Unfortunately, it’s not part of God’s plan. Consider the ramifications if God granted our request for strength under a selfish agenda:
- We would become enemies of God… stronger enemies of God
- The fight would last longer (because we are stronger!)
- We would be even more devastated… prolonging the fight would only increase the damage… to us!
And as the informercials say: “But wait… there’s more!”
Fighting Each Other
As if fighting God weren’t enough, when we pray for selfish strength we also end up fighting each other. Once again, James says:
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?” (James 4:1 NLT)
In this case, the evil is the self-centered nature of the desires James is addressing. Again, if God grants us strength in the selfish request, we wreak more havoc in our communities as well. And if God grants our selfish request, why shouldn’t he grant our neighbor’s selfish request also? The result would be two stronger opponents.
Our little spat with our neighbor just turned into a heavyweight title fight!
Let’s summarize: If we ask for strength for selfish motives, we end up:
- Fighting God and…
- Fighting neighbor
What if we asked those two key questions… first… to determine if our request for strength is a good one? Am I asking God for strength to help me… or am I asking for strength to help God?
If it’s for “me”… stop right there. Quarrels, fighting, and devastation will follow.
If it’s for God, pray on! Instead of fighting, we’ll be praying for strength to love (which requires far more strength than fighting). The net result would be:
- Loving God and…
- Loving neighbor.
Hmmm… I think I’ve read that somewhere before (See Matthew 22:37-40).
Which request do you think God will honor?
I think God will honor the request that honors God… and we will find strength!
Think of a time when you requested, but did not receive God’s strength: what was your motive? Think of a time you DID receive God’s strength: what was your motive? Share and compare your stories with a friend!