While preparing for the Lord’s message for this Chapel Service, my mind was torn between preaching a message based on 1 Corinthians 15, which talks about the right response of those who believe in the resurrection of Christ and a message based on the book of Isaiah. As I weigh between the two, I did seek the Lord’s guidance, which one to deliver today.
Both messages still remain fresh to me and I consider both of them very relevant in our time when most people around us are tired, afraid, weary, and even depressed. I think some time in 2009 when I was still pastoring Living Word Presbyterian Church, which is now Bread for the World located in Novaliches, I mentioned one time in my message that though I stopped my Ed. D. in Educational Leadership, I was able to pursue O. D. D., Doctorate in Overcoming Depression.
Just last Saturday, during our weekend fellowship and prayer in NCR-South Metro Presbytery, I shared a devotion from Our Daily Bread entitled “From Wailing to Worship,” and I posted on my Facebook page this reminder: “Even when we’re in dire circumstances, God can turn our wailing into dancing. Though His healing won’t always look or feel like we’d hoped or expected, we can be confident in God’s ways. No matter how tear-stained our path may be, we have countless reasons to praise Him. . . . Only God can transform wails of despair into vibrant joy that doesn’t depend on circumstances” (20 March 2021).
As we read newspapers and watch news both on television and the Internet, the situation almost everywhere is frightening and tiring. Restating what I shared during our Stated Meeting in NCR South Metro Presbytery last 1st week of February, I said:
Uncertainty and economic decline are my preferred descriptions for 2020, the year of COVID-19 and the lockdown. Uncertainty is the key word for many to describe what happened last year. More than 2.7 million people died globally based on official report as of 20 March 2021 and many big names in the corporate world disclosed negative net income as of 2020. Take Jollibee Foods Corporation for instance, which by the end of 2019 was very positive about its future prospects and reported 1,195 stores nationwide and 266 international stores. And yet the company reported the following year a 1,281.79% loss in their 2nd quarter earnings and a 204.11% in their 3rd quarter earnings. That’s 10.5 B and 1.88B loss respectively. We learned last year that both life and the economy are uncertain.
To have a sense of security in the midst of this uncertainty, two words became popular – subsidy and compliance! And these two characterized the policies that aim to address the problems caused by the pandemic. However, the sense of security provided by government subsidy and government-imposed compliance are short-lived for public policies cannot go beyond the limits of economic laws, not to mention the inconsistencies and corruption that surround bureaucratic management.
How should we respond towards news like these? How is listening to current events affected you? Does it make you afraid? Does it make it you tired? Many people are tired of COVID-19 and the lockdown. Some are even depressed and not a few commit suicide.
Typically, the usual cause of fear, tiredness and depression are worry about the future of your family, of their education and their financial needs.
This morning, I decided to choose the Lord’s message based on the book of Isaiah. I first preached this 9 years ago; that was October 2012. I just want to share it again for you to be reminded about the kind of life that overcomes fear, tiredness and depression. I want to share with you about the reality of a life that can live above circumstances. It is a life that is not closing its eyes from the ugly realities of life, but it goes beyond them into a great vision of our God. Amen! Such a life is free from tiredness; it is a life filled with excitement, joy, energy, and delight. It is a life enjoying the strength that comes from God. Do you really believe that such life can exist in this side of eternity?
I believe that based on Isaiah 40:28-31, it is possible for a child of God to have this kind of life. Let me read our passage:
27Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Before we proceed to our text, let me give you a brief historical background of our passage. According to one Bible commentary I consulted, Isaiah prophesied in Judah for approximately 50 years. This would mean that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry in Judah started during the latter part of King Uzziah’s reign, covered the entire 32 years reign of both King Jotham and King Ahaz and ended with the early reign of King Hezekiah. Among these four kings, only King Ahaz is wicked.
The period of Isaiah’s ministry was a time of great political turmoil for the nation of Judah. Assyria was expanding its kingdom. When Israel and Syria joined forces to attack Judah, King Ahaz asked the help of Assyria. After the fall of Israel in 722 B. C. into the hands of Assyria, Judah was next on Assyria’s hit list. Assyria, a former alliance turned into a national threat, Judah had no other choice but to look to Egypt for help. Prophet Isaiah counseled King Hezekiah to trust in no alliance but only in the Lord. King Hezekiah listened and God destroyed the Assyrian army. Sometime after the destruction of Assyrian army, Babylon, Assyria’s enemy sent ambassadors to Judah, and Hezekiah showed them his treasures. Isaiah then paid a visit to Hezekiah and foretold that a time would come that Babylon would take all his treasures and that the people of Judah would be taken as captives to Babylon. King Hezekiah considered the message of the prophet as good for at least there would be peace and security during the remaining years of his reign (2 Kings 20:12-19 particularly v. 19 cf. Isaiah 39 particularly v. 8). That message of prophet Isaiah served as the introduction to the second part of the book, chapters 40 to 66, which the prophet speaks about hope, deliverance and restoration. Though prophet Isaiah did not live during the period of Babylonian captivity, he was able to speak words of comfort to those who would experience that difficult time in Israel’s history. Here in our passage, the prophet declares that such comfort and hope is grounded not in forming alliance with Egypt, but in the one and only true God. By grounding comfort and hope in the knowledge of God, the prophet Isaiah tells us that it is possible to live a life of faith above political turmoil and ugly human circumstances. He compares people who live such life to soaring eagles. This morning, I want to share with you the qualities of people living this kind of life like soaring eagles.
People soaring likes eagles are not complainers.
Read verse 27: “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
If you are weary and tired about your husband, about your wife, your parents, your children, your job, the economy, and even the ministry, it will manifest in the way you talk. You will keep on complaining. You will keep on saying, “Why things are not happening the way I want it. It should be this way. It should be that way. They are wrong and I am right.” And you will keep on finding faults from your circumstances and the people surrounding you.
Perhaps like the nation of Israel, you are saying, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?” The other way of putting it, perhaps you are saying to yourself, “The Lord no longer loves me. He is no longer answering my prayers. Why am I not getting the things I have been asking from him? Why the Lord is hiding his face from me? Perhaps, I have done something terrible in the eyes of God that makes him angry. I no longer deserve his love.”
Are you saying this to yourself? If you are saying this to yourself, it is high time for you to stop talking like this to yourself. If you are a child of God, the truth is God loves you far greater than you know yourself. There is nothing more or less you can do that can change the greatness of God’s love for you. God displayed the ultimate proof of His love for you when He gave His Only Begotten Son to die for your sins on the Cross.
What words did you say to yourself and people around you just this morning? How about yesterday? Last week? Are they words of weariness? Or are they words of people soaring like eagles?
I think as teachers and students of Bible and theology, you know that your words come from your thoughts and that they will finally shape your action determining results in your life. Watch therefore the words that come out from your mouth for that will certainly affect your daily walk and even your future. If you want to change your life, change the words you use from words of weariness to words of soaring eagles. But for you to change your words, you must also change your mind.
People soaring like eagles firmly know their God.
Reed verse 28: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
It is ironic that in the age of information, still a crisis in knowledge exists. But this kind of crisis in knowledge is not in any way related to the popular understanding of knowledge. Nevertheless, I have no other way to describe this crisis but a crisis in the knowledge of God. I remember reading a year ago a report published by the CHED in Calabarzon about an urgent need for research in the field of mental health because it is a growing concern. This reminds me of dementia, though not a mental illness itself, but a kind of brain disorder causing cognitive decline and memory loss or forgetfulness. To me, pardon me for the use of the word, but there is a kind of dementia or forgetfulness that is far worse than brain disorder, and that is widespread complain and weariness, which are symptoms of forgetting your God. You forget what you heard from the word of God about the greatness of our God. You forget what kind of God you are praying to, that He “is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” You forget that our God does “not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” This is the kind of forgetfulness that is more damaging than the breakdown of the physical brain.
The most serious crisis we have in our time is not economic in nature but crisis in the knowledge of God. Despite that still today many claim to be theists, but it’s very rare to see a true knowledge of God. I wish I am mistaken in my personal assessment that the mainstream academic community today is either ruled by atheism or a concept of theism that is contrary to biblical theism. What is more unfortunate is to find that even those who claim to be followers of Christianity are compromising with the spirit that rules this age in ignoring the true and living God. I do pray that you will still maintain your biblical discernment if ever there is an attempt to equate the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob with Allah, the gods of the Hindus, and other world religions, no matter how sophisticated their arguments would appear.
People soaring like eagles see things differently. They choose to see the size of their God rather than the size of the current situation and their personal problems. Are you thinking that your problems are too big and too difficult for you to solve? Yes, compared to yourself, your problems may be too big and may overwhelm you. But compared to your God, are your problems bigger than your God? The fact is no one, nothing can be bigger than our God, not even the pandemic, the lockdown and economic crisis, and nothing is impossible with Him. Amen!
Prophet Jeremiah said, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast about this: that he understands and knows me, (that is, the true knowledge of God) that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth for in these I delight” (9:23-24). Amen!
Jesus’ mission can be summarized as bringing the true knowledge of God into this world. He said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
People soaring like eagles receive strength from God.
Read verses 29 to 31: 29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
What makes you strong? Who makes you strong? Is he your husband? Is your wife your source of strength? Are they your kids? How about your business?
How about if your husband is too busy in his job, in his ministry and no longer gives you attention that he used to give before? Will you be disappointed? Will you be discouraged? Will you complain? How about if your wife becomes unfaithful to you, will you be devastated and could no longer go on living? How about if your kids die, can you still sing “It is well with my soul”? How about if your business becomes bankrupt, can you still say, “Praise the Lord!”?
We can describe the strength that comes from God either as “supernatural” or “supranatural”. The key idea is that the strength from God is above or beyond the natural strength. Ordinarily, despite that the youth are known for energy, but still they get tired. Runners too grow weary. Walkers experience fainting. But the kind of strength that God provides is a strength that knows no natural boundaries. It is a strength that surpasses even the youth; it does not grow weary; and it is the kind of strength that never faints. That is why those people who possess this strength are compared to soaring eagles.
This supernatural strength is a gift. It cannot be obtained by our own efforts. There is nothing in us that deserves to receive this strength. The only qualification for us to receive this strength is to acknowledge that on our own we are weary; that on our own, we are weak. This requires humility for the greatest obstacle to receive this strength is pride. As long as we keep on trusting ourselves, this strength is beyond our reach. But once we place our entire hope in God, the strength of God will come upon us. Amen!
Do you want to have this strength? If you do, humble yourself before God for He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. I think Jesus’ invitation to find rest in Him is also an invitation to renew our strength (Matthew 11:28).
People soaring like eagles once made a decision in their lives to stop complaining, to focus in knowing God, and have received supernatural strength from God. But we all know that complaining and trusting in ourselves are constant battles we must overcome for us to experience this higher kind of life. It is only by the grace of God that we can soar on wings like eagles. Indeed, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that you and I can soar like eagles.
Join me in this prayer that by the grace of God, PTSCAS will produce missionaries, preachers, biblical counselors, theological educators, Christian teachers, and possibly even chaplains and caregivers in the future who soar like eagles. Amen!
Let us pray. Lord forgive us for our complaining, for trusting in ourselves, for trusting human solution without asking for your guidance and direction, for forgetting about you. Help us to soar like eagles, people who are thankful, strong and have a firm knowledge of you. Amen!
Ruel Chavez is a Presbyterian minister and a theological educator. He has taught several Bible school extensions under Evangelical Presbyterian Mission in the Philippines for the past 20 years. He served as full time faculty member of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 2006 to 2009. After eight years, he returned to PTSCAS last 2017 and is now serving as the Academic Dean of the institution. His major is in the field of theology, but he also earned 34 units in Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.