Tag Archive: favourite verse


Verse 31 of Isaiah 40 is a well-known muchly quoted one:

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.

Which is great and has become a huge source of strength and encouragement… BUT if you skip the lead up into that verse you miss out on so much more:

Isaiah 40.27-31

Isaiah 40.27-31

The first part to note is the context of this passage. This is being given to a people who are frustrated by God and feel like He has not been there for them:

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”?

It is helpful to be reminded of that as this is a place where many of us find ourselves from time to time and often don’t have the words to express it. We feel like ‘God doesn’t care about me’ and yet we might be too scared to express it and instead put on a happy face as if we are feeling close to God and all is well. What that does though is prevents God from really reaching in to that place of loneliness and desolation and responding with His felt Presence and hope.

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.

So firstly there is this reminder of Who we are dealing with and just how huge and capable He is. Which can be really helpful when we tend to put God in a tiny box based on our experiences of Him and think that He can’t or won’t do much more than we have ever experienced before. But IF the God we are in relationship with is ‘everlasting’ and the ‘Creator of the ends of the earth’ then we can be very confident that ‘He will not grow tired or weary.’ At the same time, it is helpful to be reminded that we won’t necessarily always understand His way of working. Sometimes situations that look like they are against us can be very useful for strengthening us or working character in us and by removing those situations or helping us escape them, we might miss out on the growth that God has intended for us in the midst of them. We should constantly be living life with the refrain of ‘God is bigGER’ in our minds, especially when we don’t understand. That’s where trust and faith come in big time, but at the same time we are still able to ask God for guidance and wisdom to understand the confusing times we might find ourselves in.

And that’s where the big finish comes in:

29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but 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.

In the light of our complaints and feelings that God has deserted us, and with a reminder of exactly how big our God is and what He has already accomplished, that is where this final piece becomes so powerful. It is also encouraging to be reminded that in our world the response to the weary and the weak is to push them to the side or to drive right over them. Not so with God. The other misstep the church has often made is to expect God to remove all hardship and challenge, and prosperity doctrine gives the strong idea that we will never need to face tough times [God wants us to be happy and comfortable and rich and strong] but what this passage seems to indicate is that IN times of struggle or stress or pain or weakness, God’s response is not to protect or remove from, but rather to give us the strength within…

So in our tough situations, God gives strength when ours is fading… 

When life feels all stacked up against us, God gives power to us to see it through…

When we feel like we have nothing left to give, God draws near and renews our strength…

And not just to the extent that we can crawl through and get a hand over the finish line…

We will soar, we will run [without getting tired] and we will walk [without fainting] – God has promised us life to the full and when we put our hope in Him [that is a key part – see also John 15 and remaining in the vine] we will see that lived out in the most incredible way.

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

i have used this passage in a lot of preaches. It is possibly one of the greatest starting points of connection with God, or simply a helpful reminder when life is feeling a little overwhelming, as it tends to be at times…

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Ephesians 3.20-21

and i am wanting to focus on 20 and 21, but i really love the preceding passage as well as i think it sets it up so well:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints,to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

# Christ dwelling in your heart through faith [reminds me of Colossians 1.27 – Christ in me, the hope of glory] – this is a huge and needing to be continually aware of promise.

# being strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit – so helpful if we remember where to look to for strength, ability and capacity

# being rooted and established in love which is also the most powerful reminder – Jesus pointed to Love as the greatest commandment and we need to keep going back to that as the place of starting and foundation for everything we do [else it all means nothing, see beginning of 1 Corinthians 13]

# grasping how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – speaks for itself and what i love about this is the description of  what love is just keeps going – the writer almost can’t contain himself in terms of just trying to get across the message that this Love is so ridiculously huge – can’t even wrap your mind around it [imagine if all Jesus followers could wrap their minds around the unmindwrappability of the love of God?]

# to know this love that surpasses knowledge – it just keeps getting better – this love is beyond our capacity to understand and fathom it – that is insane and WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT? how small do we make the love and reach of God?

# that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God – be filled with all the fullness of God. again, this whole passage feels like something that could use long and hard meditation, because we [or christians in general] tend to live lives that are so small and certainly would not for the most part be described by outsiders as ‘all the fullness of God’ right? Maybe we should forget our focus on rules and who is in and who is out and just step back and be awestruck but this God we serve and what He freely offers us and who He calls us to be [and the fact that He does all the work of that – not our feeble efforts or strivings]

the best part is that was not the bit i wanted to focus on, but how incredible, right?

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Him [God] who is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than ALL WE COULD HOPE OR IMAGINE

What does that verse say to you? That maybe, just maybe, for the most part, we are hoping and imagining too small?

Because sometimes our prayers are so small [especially when they are me-focused] – God is wanting to end poverty and we are asking for a safe car journey. God is wanting to revolutionise your neighborhood and we are requesting more people in our sunday meeting? God is wanting to see His church in the marketplace and on the front lines connecting with and seeing life change in those who do not know Him… we pray for enough money to redo the church roof.

Immeasurably [which means can’t be counted, unable to be worked out or measured] more [as in not that much, but even more than that much] than all [as in everything, not just the easy ones or the things we can do in our own strength or as a community] we could hope or imagine [are some of us even hoping and imagining at all?]

Are you hoping and imagining big enough? Am i?

[For my next favourite verse, i look at Psalm 119 vs 105]

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

I learned the first three verses of Hebrew 12 at Christmas time in the city of Amsterdam in Holland in 2000.

it remains one of my favorite go to verses and is both highly challenging and encouraging. it is also an excellent verse to consider as we had towards the new year, time of new beginnings and so on…

i was doing a discipleship training school (DTS) with youth with a mission (YWAM) and before we hit the streets, we were all given a scripture to learn and then pass on to someone we met.

i feel like so much of the gospel message is contained in this passage:

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‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.’

As you look ahead to the beginning of a new year, why not give this first part some significant time and attention:

# Throw off everything that hinders:

what is there in your life that is hindering you in your walk with God? besides obvious sin which we will get to in a moment, could it be that your current lifestyle is so busy, that you don’t make regular space or time for God? time to read the bible… time to talk to God or simply be still and listen to what He might be wanting to say? time to honestly wrestle with the ideas of scripture and what that means in terms of how you live your life… What can you put into place as you head into the new year that will remove that hindrance and help strengthen your walk with God? Regular time in your schedule, someone to meet with, perhaps a new book or journal to help you be intentional about this?

is there maybe anger or disappointment or confusion that you are feeling towards God for something you feel He has or hasn’t done? Maybe removing the hindrance is as simply as speaking or writing it out. Addressing your feelings with the confidence that God is secure enough on His throne to be able to take whatever you have to share with Him. And deeply desiring the interaction with you.

is there a distraction in your life, a time waster or procrastination activity that is stopping you from living a fuller more effective life? is it a computer game that is draining hours of your time or perhaps a facebook application or a site like Instagram or Pinterest [or even Facebook itself?] that turns minutes into hours without you realising, day after day? perhaps it is sport or tv watching or music? a lot of these things aren’t bad things in and of themselves… but when they start to rob you of a couple of hours per day then perhaps there are more useful things you could be doing with a lot more of your time. Is there something you need to reduce or cut out of your life as you head into 2014? 

maybe it’s a relationship? It could be a dating one or else just a friendship which is proving detrimental to your life and well-being. It could be a toxic relationship that is influencing you in a negative way and every time you spend with that person you end up doing stuff you don’t want to do or becoming the kind of person you don’t really want to be. It might be a bad habit in your life that is affecting your marriage or a family relationship… or even something that you have done that you need to apologise for or repent of. it could also be the lack of a relationship that is hindering you in your walk with God? someone to mentor or encourage you or even just to be able to listen to your struggles or pain. If there is someone who needs to be added or possibly stepped away from, maybe even just for a season of time, then make a plan to initiate that.

So whatever it is, and it could be a number of different things, and might even be more than one, if there is anything that is hindering you, distracting you, preventing you from living the fullest life you could be, then make a plan to throw off everything that hinders so that you can start the new year well.

#Cast off the sin that so easily entangles:

– is there any sin in your life that needs dealing with? Decide now to get intentional with repenting and walking differently from now.

– is there perhaps some sin that you have minimalised by calling it something else? a bad habit or “just who i am”

– is there sin you’ve given up on because ‘i cant help it’ has become your go to defence?

Know that God is bigGER. Know that He is able to do more than you have experienced up to this point. Know that He desires to help you to cast off any sin that causes you to be less than who you were designed to be. Take it to Him, confess what has been dragging you down and resolve in His strength to walk away from it.

One of the greatest pieces of mentoring advice i ever got was to “Keep a short account with God” – much like a bar tab that you keep adding to, the less frequently you deal with your sin, the more it builds up and often shames you into not even wanting to approach God at all. So make regular times of confession, even if it is something you have struggled with for a long time, just keep going back and restoring relationship and inviting Him to empower you to take it down completely.

Cast off the sin that so easily entangles.

The rest of it is the how. And it is quite simple [in one sense] The best way to run the race we have been called to [which is always a kingdom of God building race] with perseverance is to throw off the things that have hindered and cast off the sin that has entangled your legs and to “Fix your eyes upon Jesus” – so we need to regularly make sure that our gaze is firmly on Him and be reminded that He is cheering us on loudly [He is in heaven interceding on our behalf] and it is in Jesus Christ that we can “do all things” [Philippians 4.13] What makes is a little easier is knowing that Jesus [A] is the author of our faith – He created us and knows how this thing works well and so it makes sense that we look to Him for guidance and strength, and [B] endured the cross – He has experienced life and death on earth and so He knows the struggles of temptation and physical duress. He is not commentating as one removed, but He speaks to as as one who gets it.

Powerful, powerful stuff and a scripture worth committing to memory and living out well.

[For my next favourite verse – Romans 12.1-2 – click here]

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

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