St. Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, includes a prayer for them which, in Chapter 3 Verse16, includes the following, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened by might by His Spirit in the inner man.” Paul knew from experience that strengthening had carried him through his many trials. We know about those trials because Paul recounted them in his epistles.
He mentioned stoning, where he was left for dead, lashes, imprisonment, three shipwrecks, and his appointment with the executioner. When Paul asked for relief from the thorn in his side, some believe that it was a physical ailment and others believe that he was asking that the devil be removed from his back, believing the devil was at the heart of all his misfortunes. So, we know that Paul valued highly the spiritual strength of the inner man.
Some time ago, I wrote a speculative piece about Jesus’ prayers that were offered in the garden of Gethsemane. Now, I would like to look at it again as reported by Luke. Luke has Him praying twice. After the first prayer, so well known I will not repeat it here, Luke reports that God sent an angel from heaven strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat were as great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Although the angel strengthened Him, He was still in agony and asked once more that the cup be removed, always ending with the undertaking that God’s will be done. This was the moment of truth! Before the world was, Jesus gave His father an undertaking. That undertaking by the prehistoric Christ was recorded in Psalms 40: 6-8, “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast Thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering has Thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will O My God; yea, Thy law is within my heart.” For me, this is a climax point in the Bible. Although in agony knowing what was to follow, suffering God’s wrath instead of us the deserving, He gave his commitment after already shedding some of His precious blood in the garden.
In his epistles, Paul urged us to rejoice when we are suffering because it is an opportunity to share in Jesus’ suffering. Personally, I have found this to be a very difficult thing to do and I confess I do not remember rejoicing. Oh, but how that strengthening of the inner man served Jesus. You can read the details of His persecution in the gospels but also in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, from which I will mention a few now.
“I am a worm and no man”. Presumably, He looked like a worm due to the blood flowing from the scourging; “I am poured out like water; all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; My strength is dried up like a potsherd; My tongue cleaveth to my jaws; they pierced My hands and feet”; and further on in the Psalm, He declares, “I will pay my vows before them that fear Him.” It is difficult to read these chapters without tears. Sometimes I fear that we are almost offhand when we confess He died for our sins. It is a fearful thing to face the wrath of God; that is what Jesus did for us, loving us the undeserving by laying down His life.
By suffering such extreme humiliation, God exalted Jesus to sit at His right hand, to receive the Kingdom and all power in heaven and earth. Are you convinced? Did Jesus have strength of Spirit?
Yes He did! And He is willing to share His Spirit with us! We are heading into the time of Jacob’s trouble and I suspect that we will need all the strength we can muster to cope. I am asking the Lord for such strength for my inner man. Are you?