Sometimes we come across a quote which just grabs us. Such is the case when I came across this one today: "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) I may not have originated these words, but they are something which really reflects my heart. I live for today - because God never assures me I will have tomorrow here on this earth. I learn for an eternity - because God has assured me I will learn at his feet for all of eternity. There are certain things worth learning - such things make us stronger, giving us depth and breadth which would otherwise be undiscovered in our lives.
I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 MSG)
Have you ever looked at an individual, considered what they "appear" to be like on the outside, and then made an "estimate" of their strength? If I see a guy who is muscular, with a great set of biceps bulging and six-pack firm, I think he must have spent a lot of time developing his strength. If I see a busy man in a business suit stop to help a small child explore the wonder of a snail crossing the sidewalk, I see a totally different kind of strength! There is much to be said about the difference between the outward "appearance" of strength and the inner assurance of strength. I think this might be what Paul had in mind as he wrote to the church at Ephasus those many years ago. It is what is on the inside which makes the man, not the display of what we see on the outside.
Brute strength is good if you need to open a stubbornly sealed jar of pickles, but inner strength is even more awesome when you see it manifest in the ability to sense the opportunities that otherwise would be wasted if passed by. Brute strength is the result of consistent work-outs. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about a good physique or a "tight" body, but if it is our ultimate goal, we miss something more valuable than rippled muscles, and tight abs. Inner strength is "learned" - not as a result of "working out" in the gym, but in "working out" at the feet of Jesus. We have a "personal trainer" of sorts, better known as the Holy Spirit, just for the purpose of helping to develop this inner strength.
Paul tells us the strength of the inner man comes in looking first at where we plant our feet. If you have ever been in any athletics, you might have heard your coach tell you to "plant your feet". With this simple instruction, you are being urged to get a "stance" which will aid you in having the "base" or "foundation" upon which to build a solid hit, send a carefully calculated pass, or hit some mark down the course. Some believe having both feet solidly placed means you are not willing to try anything new - the meaning of having your feet solidly planted on the ground. Paul tells us to plant our feet firmly on love - not human love, but the love of God which permeates us with the vastness of his grace. Where we "plant" our feet is as important as having them planted. It is in planting them solidly in his love where we begin to have the inner strength of our being expanded.
Paul tells us we begin to experience the vastness of his love by getting to know its breadth. Maybe this is best expressed in the promise from scripture: As far as east is from west—that’s how far God has removed our sin from us. (Psalm 103:12 CEB) Now that is some "breadth", isn't it? Think on it - as far as the east is from the west - this is how far God's love expands, for his love is the basis of our sin being removed! We need to test its length. Part of experiencing something is to "test" it. In other words, you see if it endures, holds up under pressure. Paul reminds us to explore the "lasting power" of God's love - it endures when nothing else does. If this is not enough, he reminds us to plumb the depth and rise to the heights of God's love. His love is found in the deepest sorrows of our soul and in the soaring "wins" of the mountain-top experiences.
You know, it will take me an eternity to understand fully God's love. What I see and understand about his love only scratches the surface right now. My "finite" understanding is ever expanding, but I know it is limited by what I can see today, understand with my mind, and interpret with my emotion. In eternity, I will continue to learn at his feet. How about you? We need to truly learn to live for today - not letting the opportunities pass us by. The very "snail" we stop to observe could be the thing which leads us to the next great step in our lives! Just sayin!