A Kurdish man stood in our church on Friday evening---in the front---and told us
that Christianity is the only religion of the world that has the God who does something
for his people. All the other religions including Islam have gods who demand that
their people do something for them. When you read John 3:16 you see how it is. God
loved and he gave his Son. He did that so that we could be saved and live with him.
This active and empowering God was the same God Isaiah the prophet knew and believed
too. He is the God who gives his good gifts to his people. In these words of Isaiah
we receive gifts of strength, steadfastness, salvation, seeing, unstopped, springing
and speaking. All these things---like John 3:16---happen because of Jesus. In Jesus
we are all strong in these seven ways. We see the very job description of Jesus
in these verses from Isaiah 35…
BE STRONG IN JESUS!
Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he
will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
Part of our fearful hearts may well come because of the threats leveled against us
as God’s children. Islam for one has vowed to take over the world. Everything is
in place for that to happen. It seems certain to happen by population if nothing
else. The white race is statistically doomed. With Muslim birth rate seven times
that of the white races in Europe and four times that of our own country, it will
be a short time and Islam will win. Infidels must go. They must be killed. That
really is what the Koran says when Allah demands of his followers that they “slay
and be slain.”
But no one rightfully joins the Christian Church because he wants to be in the majority.
This same writer Isaiah says in 41:14, “Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little
Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One
of Israel.” So much for statistics that “prove” the disappearance of the believers
in Jesus. If God is with us and for us, who can be against us? But listen even
to the talk in heaven right now! “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the
altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony
they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord,
holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer,
until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they
had been was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11
It is payback time so far as God is concerned. How could we be strong in anything
if we were certain that we were going to ultimately lose and be lost? If the only
prospect we faced was persecution to annihilation what comfort would there be? What
strength could there be? But the words before us say, “Say to those with fearful
hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Being strong has something to
do with God’s payback of evil…and evil doers. He is going to win. His Kingdom is
going to stand. He is a God of justice who will take care of all the wrong “out
there” and “in here.”
“Be strong!” It is God’s imperative and command. Do it! Just do it! Be it! Be
It wouldn’t do to shout those words to a weak person cowering in the shadow of someone
or something stronger than he or she is. But with Jesus there, you and I can be
strong. The command, “Be strong!” is really just another way of saying, “Get close
to Jesus!” You are strong when he is near. Lance Armstrong’s mantra is, “Live strong.”
Ours as believers in Jesus is even better than that. “Live Strong!” All right.
But more importantly, “Die strong!” Live with Jesus present! Die with Jesus there!
Be strong! Listen to the children sing, “We are weak but he is strong.” Believe
Jesus. See him standing there by your side. Live strong! Die strong! Be strong!
“Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he
will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Be
steadfast and be fearless.
You can’t be steadfast without Jesus. Imagine falling into the hands of the living
God without Jesus there to plead for you and say that he has forgiven all the wrong?
Imagine Christmas with its blazing white night light and angels hovering and trumpets
blowing…imagine that without Jesus there in his cradle assuring you that God has
become like you to save you. Imagine the Roaring Lion, the devil, standing there
staring into your eyes. Imagine being fearless at that time…unless Jesus is there
with you who himself is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Imagine the threatening
religions of the world who all have as their heart’s desire to destroy you and imagine
them standing there with their venom and hate and imagine that happening without
Jesus there. But if Jesus is with us as he most certainly is, then we can say with
John the Baptist’s father Zechariah, “To rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him
all our days.” (Luke 1) Imagine being in a dim and dingy room in the evening and
seeing someone appear who died three days before. Imagine that without Jesus. And
then imagine that knowing it is Jesus and you can reach out to him in his Word and
in the Lord’s Supper and touch him. See fear melt away then. Stand steadfast then.
Imagine being strong when you are lost. Grown men who are lost do awful weak things…they
run, they scream, they lose their sense, the cry…they die. Without Jesus we are
lost. With Jesus here we are saved…we are safe…we are strong. Listen to the words
before us this morning, “Be strong, do not fear…he will come to save you.” If you
feel lost this morning, know that your Good Shepherd and Savior will find you and
has found you. He will save you. He won’t lose you. He won’t allow you to be taken
from him. He not only will find the way to do that; he is the Way! With Jesus here
you are saved.
And how could we be strong as it tells us to be strong if we were hopelessly blind?
What if we were the kind of people who are “always seeing but never perceiving?”
What if we were like the people about whom it is said, “No one is so blind but he
who would not see?” What then? Could you truly be strong if you couldn’t look at
your baptism and see life there with Jesus forever? Could you truly be strong if
you couldn’t look at your baptism and see complete forgiveness of every wrong. Could
you be truly strong if you never saw the Light shine and shouted out, “Now I see!”?
Do you see how you are strong in your sight when Jesus is there?
Be strong in your hearing too. Isaiah promises you and me to be strong in the promise,
“the ears of the deaf (will be) unstopped.” Imagine being strong if you had never
heard Jesus say to you, “I am with you always.” Imagine being strong if you never
heard Jesus say, “Be strong, do not fear, your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Imagine being strong if you had
never heard Jesus whisper in your ear, “I love you! I proved it! See?!” Aren’t
you strong because of what you hear when your deaf ears are unstopped?
And walking is a sign of someone strong too. Jesus takes walking to the next level
here through the Prophet Isaiah. This isn’t just a walk of faith in him. This is
a sprint. This is springing. Be strong!…Then will the lame leap like a deer.” Without
Jesus you can’t get from A to B. With him you can…and B is heaven! Without Jesus
you can’t walk the walk of faith. But with him you can! With him, you do! This
isn’t a limp but a happy springing! Like the lame man at the Gate Beautiful that
afternoon at 3 o’clock in Jerusalem when Peter and John sent him skipping on his
way with the words, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” And your eyes must read ahead to
the words, “Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and
praising God.” That’s springing for sure!
And speaking. What are you going to say without Jesus in your life? What really
is there to say? “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die?” No. We will not
say that. We will not lapse into muteness either. “Be strong…and the mute tongue
(will) shout for joy.” There are cruel jokes which mimic the way deaf people try
and talk. They can’t talk correctly because they can’t hear themselves. No one
can talk correctly who can’t hear Jesus. Jesus loves us, this we know for the Bible
tells us so. We have heard it. We speak!
Be strong. God can even make it rain. He can do this thing you can’t do. Imagine
being strong if you never saw it rain. Imagine being strong if you never saw God’s
miracles of care and sustaining in your life. But the words stand. We hear them…see
them…speak them…spring because of them. “Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground
No one in the whole world has greater reason to know this fact that we who live here
in central Texas. Jarrell down the road got 21 inches of rain. We have seen exactly
what God here is saying. We have seen it. Our grass is green. There are still
pools and puddles where there was only burned and brown soil before. So strength,
steadfastness, salvation, seeing, unstopped, springing and speaking . They are ours
and we are strong because of Jesus who is with us. Amen.