My wife, Katrina, battles progressive weakness. She was diagnosed a quarter-century ago with multiple sclerosis, and one of the symptoms is weakness. The other day as we were sitting at our home in Roan Mountain, Tennessee, she said, "Robert, hand me that bottle of extra strength tablets."
"Do you have a headache?" I asked, grabbing the pain reliever.
"No," she said, "But I need extra strength. I'm going to take a couple of those extra strength pills." I thought she was kidding, but she wasn't; so, feeling a little weak myself, I joined her and we both had a couple of extra strength pills. We swallowed them tongue in cheek, because we're smart enough the read labels. But we wished we really did have a bottle of "extra strength" pills that would give us extra doses of energy as needed -- extra physical strength, moral strength, emotional strength or spiritual strength.
Some people do try to find extra strength through pills, steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. Doping has nearly ruined professional sports, and PEDs have ravaged the bodies of some of the world's greatest athletes. On the other hand, modern medicine and nutritional supplements can afford us many ways of finding a little "extra strength" in wiser ways.
Yet when it comes down to it, the secret to extra strength isn't found in medication but in meditation, particularly in meditating on what the Bible says about the very subject of strength. Several months ago, I felt myself getting weak and tired, as we all do from time to time. My physical fatigue led to faltering spirits, so I sat down at my desk and looked up every occurrence of the word "strength" in the Bible. It was a simple study. I didn't investigate Hebrew or Greek words. I didn't use a variety of translations. I didn't open a lexicon or linguistic aid or even look up parallel terms like strong and might and power. That would have been too much. There are so many verses in the Bible on these topics I would have been overwhelmed with the references. The Bible hums with the energy of omnipotence, and every page is powerful. The subject of strength is all-pervasive in the Bible, just as we'd expect from a book from an almighty God.
Not wanting to be overpowered by it all, I simply looked up the words strength and strengthen in the New International Version. Even then, I found over two hundred references. Thumbing through each of them one by one, I isolated twelve that spoke to my exact need. I've since adopted them as my extra strength verses. I carry them around in my little notebook and refer to them often, especially when drained by the stresses and strains of the day. Here's my list.
1. Lifelong Strength: Your strength will equal your days - Deuteronomy 33:25.
2. Imparted Strength: The eyes of The Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him - 2 Chronicles 16:9.
3. Joyful Strength: The joy of The Lord is your strength - Nehemiah 8:10.
4. Timely Strength: God is our refuge and strength - Psalm 46:1.
5. Relaxed Strength: In quietness and trust is your strength - Isaiah 30:15.
6. Renewable Strength: Those who hope in The Lord will renew their strength - Isaiah 40:31.
7. Gracious Strength: The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden - Isaiah 58:11.
8. Energizing Strength: The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights - Habakkuk 3:19.
9. God-Fearing Strength: Love the Lord your God with all your... strength - Mark 12:30.
10. Unwavering Strength: (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God - Romans 4:20.
11. Inner Strength: I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being - Ephesians 3:16.
12. Productive Strength: I can do all this through Him who gives me strength - Philippians 4:13.
It's no easy thing to live through even a single day on this earth. We need strength from beyond ourselves, and these verses explain the energy source for a productive life. In a sermon based on the first of these verses, Deuteronomy 33:25 ("your strength will equal your days"), the eloquent Charles Surgeon said, "The same God who guides the stars in their courses, who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and keeps the stars perpetually burning with their fires--the same God has promised to supply thy strength.... As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
Our world is enamored with strength: Core strength, upper body strength, lower body strength, military strength, industrial strength, financial strength, emotional strength, personal strength, peace through strength, strength through peace. On the other hand, we view weakness as a liability. Who wants to hike through a dark forest with a weak flashlight, for example, or look for a job in a weak economy? Yet strength and weakness come and go, ebbing and flowing like tides backwashing into the harbors of our own hearts. Sometimes we feel as weak as water.
But the God of the Bible is omnipotent, His words are packed with power, and our strength is derived from Him through His written word (the Bible) and His living word (the Lord Jesus Christ). If you need some extra strength today, Katrina and I recommend grabbing a couple of extra strength verses from the Great Physician's pharmacy. I think you'll find, as we do, that strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. He gives daily strength for daily needs. As the old hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," puts it: "At home or abroad, on the land or the sea / As our days may demand shall our strength ever be."