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.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
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.
the first time i met dr. spencer he described his church as “a wonderful place to be sick in.” he responded to the question on my face by saying, “if i was dying of cancer, pilgrim church is right where i would want to be.” as a progeny of the church growth movement, i had expected dr. spencer to define his church by their vision, numbers or programs. so it surprised me when he defined his church as a source of sweet consolation.
a couple of years ago, i got really hooked on a sermon tape that was produced by leadership magazine. on one side of the tape, john piper preached a rousing sermon on racial reconciliation focusing on 2 corinthians 5 and mlk’s “letter from the birmingham jail” as his primary texts. since i am a son of the south who has wrestled with the demons of racism and learned that the surest sign of salvation is one’s desire for and sacrifices on behalf of reconciliation, i found this sermon incredibly inspiring. on the other side featured a “leadership community” teaching by john ortberg in which he envisioned spiritual growth in terms of the passage i’ve quoted above. pastor ortberg began by admitting that some Christians, especially in an environment like willow creek, truly soar in their faith. these people have a deep and abiding relationship with God, find it easy to invite others into the life of God and are constantly incarnating the faith in powerful ways. other people, he surmised, are running the race of faith and not growing weary. some of these folks are new to the faith and cannot get enough of Jesus’ teachings, others are people who find obedience to the sermon on the mount to be an absolute delight. however, ortberg confessed that there are still others who can barely find the strength to walk in faith. these are people who find it difficult to get out of bed every morning, are constantly afraid of the signs of despair that blight the horizon and can barely find the strength to persevere in the faith. ortberg’s admonition to this latter group was to neither fixate on those who soar or envy of those who run, but to simply keep walking.
today, after nine months of desperate struggle in the midst of a year that has been littered with death and surrendered few signs of life, i am finding it hard to walk. fortunately, much like dr. spencer, i realize that i am in the midst of a community that constantly dispenses sweet consolation, i am blessed with a pixie-like wife who will not let me collapse before the pernicious clouds on the horizon and have friends who do not consider it a burden to carry me along when the situation requires it.
this is not a cry for help but a commendation of a God who graciously empowers soarers, runners and walkers alike and a community that truly cares for its members. truly, i am blessed.