Saturday, December 23, 2017

"I Have Made You Strong."

In November 2014, I was in Jerusalem. One night after dinner, I decided to walk from my hotel to the Wailing Wall under the Temple Mount and spend some time alone in prayer. I walked several blocks to the Jaffa Gate and proceeded down David Street through the old markets to the Jewish Quarter and on to the Western Wall plaza. I went to the wall and laid my hands on the wall and began to pray. I prayed with my understanding and I also prayed in the Spirit. It was an extraordinary, powerful, and emotional experience.

When I got back to my room at about 10:30, as I sat on the edge of my bed getting ready to turn off the lamp beside the bed, I suddenly heard the voice of God say to me, "I HAVE MADE YOU STRONG." It took me completely by surprise, and I literally shuddered. God spoke to me telepathically. I heard his voice in my head. In a million years, no one will convince me that was not the voice of God. He said, "I have made you strong."

It suddenly occured to me that I really had been on holy ground that night. The Western Wall is the nearest place to the site of the ancient Holy Place of Solomon's Temple where Jews and Christians are allowed to pray. For thousands of years, Jews and Christians have considered the Temple Mount the most sacred piece of real estate in the world. And it is indeed a holy place, set apart by Almighty God Himself.

But the thing that God spoke to me has lingered with me almost continuously in the three years since I heard those words. I think of them very often. "I have made you strong."

I have contemplated the meaning of those words. What does it mean when God says, "I have made you strong?"

Because of God's help, I AM strong.
I am strong spiritually.
I am strong mentally.
I am strong physically.
I am strong for God's glory and for God's sake.

But I don't think that is the real meaning. I believe there is so much more to it, because GOD'S STRENGTH IS SUPERNATURAL STRENGTH.

I think of Samson, who had supernatural strength. We have seen paintings of Samson that depicted him as a muscular hulk, but I don't believe that Samson's strength was in his muscles. The Bible shows that when he compromised his consecration with Delilah, he lost his strength. "He wist not that the LORD had departed." Samson was immediately captured, and his eyes were put out by his enemies. 
But in the end, Samson re-consecrated himself to God in prayer, and said, "Strengthen me, I pray Thee, only this once, Oh God!" And with that, Samson bowed himself and brought the house down - with SUPERNATURAL strength! DIVINE strength!

For more than 50 years, I have been a preacher. The stories of great trials and tribulations I have endured in those fifty years could fill several books. The tragedies, sorrows, difficulties, reversals, set-backs, losses, hurts, hardships, disasters, sicknesses, deaths, and more would have destroyed a weaker man. But God made me strong.

I remembered the first night after we returned home from the hospital after my wife's cancer surgery in 1997. They had removed a large portion of her digestive tract, and informed us that the cancer had already metastasized into other parts of her body. In the middle of the night, I woke up and looked at my wife sleeping in the dark. Suddenly it struck me that unless God miraculously healed her, my wife was going to die. I instantly began to panic. I don't remember ever having a panic attack before, but I can tell you that I had a full-blown panic attack that night. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't go back to sleep. I had to get up and walk around and try to shake it off, but for several hours, I could not shake off the panic that I felt. It seemed that I would die.

But God strengthened me. For the next six years, Dixie and I fought a valiant battle against cancer. We prayed. We fasted. We believed God. We did everything we knew to do to turn the tide against the cancer, in anticipation of her miracle. And God miraculously helped us cope with many, many very difficult situations through those years. Nevertheless, after six years and 3 days, Dixie passed away.

The night she passed away, it was almost 2 in the morning. I was left alone in the house with her corpse. I panicked again. I thought I would completely fall apart. I could not believe we had lost the battle. I never expected her to die. I called my sons and their wives, and they all came over, along with the sheriff and the coroner. But within hours, I was alone again. The next day, relatives and friends drove from long distances to be there for the funeral, and I was alone at home for the first time.

In an act of desperation, I sat down at my computer and wrote a pledge to myself. I determined that I would never allow Dixie's death to rob me of my faith in God. I vowed to myself that I would never be bitter, and that I would never stop preaching that God was a healer. I knew better. God IS a healer, and losing Dixie did not change that fact. I made several other vows to myself that were intended to make sure that my relationship with God would never falter.

After Dixie's death, I had several years of agonizing challenges. After spending my entire life in pastoral roles, I felt that I could not pastor any longer without Dixie. Too many pastoral responsibilities require the help of the pastor's wife, and I was at a terrible loss. I made a most difficult decision to resign the church I had pastored for almost 17 years, and give myself to writing, broadcasting, and evangelizing. That move separated me for the first time in my life from my two sons and their families. That was the most painful and agonizing experience of my life, even more devastating than Dixie's death. I experienced suffocating sorrows that led me again and again into extensive fasting and prayer vigils.

But over the next 10 years, I wrote 9 books, and built a very large worldwide following on the Internet. I preached in various churches around the country. I began guiding Holy Land tours and preaching prophecy conferences. I built a video studio and started preaching and teaching in front of cameras to a large YouTube audience.

Yet through all of those years, I felt very, very weak. I felt as though I was scarcely surviving. At any given moment, I felt like I was so very close to the edge, I could very easily have fallen off.

BUT... I did not fall off.
I continued on.
And now I know exactly why.
God gave me supernatural abilities to continue.
In spite of my own natural and personal weakness, God strengthened me. At a time when many men would have quit God, or quit church, or become bitter, or turned against everything they believed in, I did not. GOD MADE ME STRONG.

When I contemplate that, I realize that God's strength is everything, and my strength is nothing. Jesus said, "It is the SPIRIT that quickeneth [gives life]; the flesh PROFITETH NOTHING," John 6:63.

God told Zerubbabel that it is "not by MIGHT, nor by POWER, but by MY SPIRIT, SAITH THE LORD. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: ...Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you," Zechariah 4:6-9.

Just as God promised Zerubbabel that he would FINISH the task that he STARTED (restoring Jerusalem and the Holy Temple), God assures me (and you) that if we will remain faithful to HIM, we WILL finish the tasks that we have started in the name of God.

But we will NOT finish the task by our own MIGHT.
We have none.
We will NOT finish the task by our own POWER.
We have none.
We will finish the task BY HIS SPIRIT - saith the Lord.

By GOD'S SPIRIT we will finish what we have started.
By GOD'S SPIRIT, we will do the work we have to do.
By GOD'S SPIRIT, we will be strong, and He will help us.
Therefore, the Spirit of God - the Holy Ghost in me - is my only real strength. I CAN face whatever I have to face because BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, I have STRENGTH that GOD gave me.

The Prophet Daniel said, "The people that KNOW THEIR GOD SHALL BE STRONG, and do exploits," (11:32).

The Hebrew concordance defines STRONG as:
"to fasten upon, to seize, to be strong, courageous, obstinate, bind, restrain, conquer, fortify, harden, lay hold, play the man, wax mighty, mend, prevail, be recovered, repair, retain, seize, wax sore, strengthen self, be stout, wax strong, be sure, take hold, be urgent, behave self valiantly, withstand."

According to the above definitions, I fasten upon my adversity, SEIZE it, and obstinately bind and restrain it. I conquer, fortify, harden, lay hold, play the man, wax mighty, mend, prevail, recover, repair, wax strong, act valiantly, and withstand all my foes. I have nothing but God to fear.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but MIGHTY THROUGH GOD to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled," 2 Corinthians 10:2-6

Again and again, God says FEAR NOT, I will STRENGTHEN thee:

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I WILL STRENGTHEN THEE; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee," Isaiah 41:10-14.

The Psalmist said, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth," Psalms 121:1-2.

My help cometh from the LORD.
My STRENGTH cometh from the LORD.
I overcame the things that caused me anxiety and fear because GOD MADE ME STRONG.

Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Therefore, I will not be defeated by the great burdens or trials of life, because God has made me strong.

"It is GOD that GIRDETH ME WITH STRENGTH, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. FOR THOU HAS GIRDED ME WITH STRENGTH UNTO THE BATTLE: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me," Psalms 18:32-39.

"And he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for MY STRENGTH is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me," 2 Corinthians 12:9.