Scriptures That Gave Me Strength In My Weakness
March 1, 1997 Issue
by Billy Orten

Most of you know of my recent four and a half months in the Willis-Knighten Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I waited on the critical list for a new heart. The doctors warned my family that my chances of survival were very slim. "You do realize, Mrs. Orten," Dr. Futrell would end his consultations, "that Mr. Orten is very, very ill." Your prayers moved God to give me a new heart and new life, and I sincerely thank you for lifting me up before His throne.

Words are inadequate to describe the strength and comfort that the Word of God has given me during my sickness and the long, arduous journey of rehabilitation, which is still in progress. The word of God is the foundation of our faith (Romans 10:17). I emphasize this: God keeps His promises; He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). We must know His promises. Then when trials come, we can ask for His help, and he will not fail us. Our lack of knowledge of His word prevents us from receiving the many blessings promised. If we hide God's promises in our heart, they will be with us to comfort and strengthen during precariously difficult times.

I can personally speak to you of this need. For weeks I could not speak. I could not write. I could not hold a Bible to read. I could not communicate to anyone in any way except to nod or shake my head; therefore, my only entrance into the word of God was through the verses I had already committed to memory. These scriptures in my mind were all I had of God, and they eased me through pain and difficulties and indignities I could never have imagined.

Our prayers are made much more effective by our knowledge of God's promises written in His Word. The Apostle James reminds us, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 3:16). For example, in verses 17 and 18, we read about Elijah's praying that God would not permit rain to fall on the land of Israel for three years and six months. What gave Elijah the confidence to pray such a prayer? Elijah knew that God had previously promised in His word that it would not rain if Israel forsook Him.

Elijah, believing the Word, knew God would keep His promise. Read this incident in Deuteronomy 28:23-24, "The heavens over your head will be turned to bronze, and the earth under you shall become like iron. The Lord will change the rain of the land to powder and dust; from the heavens it shall come down on you until you are destroyed." This was God's promise to Israel if the nation forsook Him and worshipped false gods. Israel had indeed left God's ways and was caught up in Baal worship, so Elijah knew God would keep His promise of judgments and turn the heavens to bronze, the earth to iron, and the rain to powder and dust. Many centuries later, the Lord's brother, James tells us Elijah was a man just as we are. He prayed the promises of God, and so can we. The power of God is mighty in us through His Word. It is through prayer that the promises in His Word are given to us. Paul's prayer for the Ephesians was "that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding great-ness of His power toward us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19).

I would like to share some promises that sustained me when my own strength failed. The promise which I claimed over and over again is recorded in II Corinthians 12:9-10. There Paul tells us about his thorn in the flesh which, he says, he had pleaded with the Lord to remove from him. Instead, Christ answered Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul continues, "Most gladly therefore, will I rather boast of my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Paul tells us that he gains Christ's strength the most when he himself is at his weakest.

Brethren, I shall never forget the evening my lungs were shutting down. I was smothering, gasping for breath, struggling. A tube was inserted down my throat, choking me. I fought the ventilator until my hands had to be tied. As I lay there, gulping for air, overcome with panic, I said II Corinthians 12:8-10 over and over in my mind until a peace and calmness came to me that I shall never forget. I could stop struggling, relax, and let the machine breathe for me. That this time when my own strength was completely gone, God's strength became perfect in my weakness. I went on the ventilator September 23. During the months following, there were many other pains and afflictions in which God's strength came to me, enabling me to endure.

The writings of David hold both wisdom and encouragement. Psalms 73:26 spoke to me, "My strength and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my rock forever." Human strength falters, but God's strength never fails. Another verse from David that supplied strength in my weakness is Psalms 55:22, "Cast thy burden on the Lord and He will sustain thee. He shall never permit the righteous to be shaken." David guarantees that God will bear both "thee" and "thy burden." What a glorious promise to my weak and afflicted soul! God will not suffer the righteous to be shaken, so we are always as safe as if we were already in heaven.

The Lord spoke to Israel just before they crossed the Jordan River into the land He had promised them, and His message is recorded in the book of Joshua, chapter one. In verse five, God says, "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you." In verse nine God continues, "Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." While I knew this promise for us in Hebrews 13:5, "Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you."' I can personally affirm that this promise is a powerful source of strength to a person whose own human strength completely fails. Sometimes we have to get to the end of our own resources before we turn to claim God's power.

Jesus Himself taught His disciples, "Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14). I claimed this promise many times in my struggle to live. Some may feel, though, that this verse applies only to the apostles. Please consider I John 5:14-15, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him." With a promise as bold as that, no wonder the Apostle Paul urges in Hebrews 4:12, "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Sometimes, quite sadly, our feelings of unworthiness prevent our asking for the help we so desperately need. Paul recalls times when he was abased, and hungry, and suffering need. He shares his enabling power:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). There can be no sickness nor trial nor affliction which we cannot face with Christ to strengthen us. Even death loses its terror when Jesus is the power in our life.

Living by faith is thrilling. What a joy to know that whether I live or die, Christ is with me and I need have no fear. To borrow Paul's words in Philippians 3:13, "I count not myself to have apprehended" spiritual maturity, but I am certainly reaching forth with all my "heart, soul, mind, and strength" in this new life God has given me.


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