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HIS Delight Is NOT In Your Strength

We discover where we really find our strength not when we feel strong, but when we feel weak.

Exhaustion and frustration have a way of blowing away the fog, revealing what’s really happening inside of us: Have we been leaning on God for all that we need, or have we made his help, his strength, his guidance a kind of last resort? Many of us are more self-reliant than we would admit, and self-reliance is far more dangerous than it sounds.

The widespread delusion, especially among more secular people, is that I can do anything, if I am willing to work hard. I am stronger than I think, strong enough to do anything I want to do in the world. The reality, however, is that the vast majority of us are weaker than we realize — and yet love to think ourselves strong. And that false sense of strength not only intensifies our arrogance and our ineffectiveness, but it also offends our God.

His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:10–11)

Our delight is often in the strength of our legs — our work ethic, our perseverance, our cleverness, our strategies. And that temptation touches every part of life — at work, in ministry, at home — because every part of life in a fallen world requires strength. But God is not pleased by all that we can do — unless we do all that we do in his strength, and not our own.

Rejoice in All He Can Do

One way to combat a sinful sense of self-sufficiency is to meditate on all that only God can do — all that he can do, that we cannot. Psalm 147 models how to expose and unravel the lies of pride with the strength and authority of God.

The psalm says that God alone places each cloud in the sky (Psalm 147:8). He chooses when, where, and how much rain will fall, and he tends every millimetre of every blade of grass.

God alone crafts every snowflake that falls, fashions every inch of frost, and decides just how cold it will be (Psalm 147:16–17). Every aspect of our winters is scripted and conducted by him, including precisely when they end (Psalm 147:18).

God alone feeds the elephants, the sharks, the squirrels, and even the ants (Psalm 147:9). When newborn birds whimper in hunger, he hears each faint cry.

God alone can count every star in the universe (Psalm 147:4) — and not only count them, but decide their number and give them each a name.

God alone heals the wounds of the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). Very few are ever tempted to think we ourselves could bring rain, make snow, or count the stars, but we might be tempted to think we could heal a broken heart. We might imagine we could compensate for someone’s loss, or talk someone out of despair, or save someone’s marriage. But Psalm 147 says that God is the healing one.

God alone makes peace (Psalm 147:14). We cannot achieve real peace — in families or friendships, in a church or a nation — unless God quiets the conflict and awakens harmony. If we think we can achieve peace without God, we have not understood peace, or God.

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5). Our power is small and often failing, but his power is abundant and never exhausted. Our understanding is extremely limited and often flawed, but his understanding is universal and inscrutable. Why would we ever rely on ourselves?

Embrace How Little You Can Do

Yet we do rely on ourselves. We slip into habits of living, and working, and serving that don’t require him, and sometimes that barely even acknowledge him. Jeremiah’s warning is as sobering in our day as it was in his: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord’” (Jeremiah 17:5). The man who deep down trusts in himself cannot help but slowly walk away from God.

We fight sinful self-sufficiency by glorying in all that God can do, and we fight by learning to embrace just how little we can do apart from him. Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Many of us can recite the phrase, and still quietly suspect that he’s really exaggerating. We know we can do something on our own. And if we won’t admit it, our prayer lives betray us.<