The Care and Feeding of the New Heart: God’s Shear Strength
Devoid of a regular diet of God’s True Truth offered in love, exhortation, edification, encouragement, and admonition, “marathoners and soldiers for Christ” will come to the race… to the battle… under-prepared, ill-equipped, and weakened for the task at hand: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1).
Check this out, Beloved: God’s Word—inspired in Scriptures and incarnate in Christ—does not mince words when it comes to how “running the good race” is meant for Scripture-devouring, mature, sold-out, repentant, and serving disciples:
“I have a lot more to say about this [Christ as our Advocate], but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong” (Hebrews 5:11-14, The Message)
Ouch! Now, this admonishment and encouragement both stings and heals the reader of Hebrews—which is a pastoral letter to all those in the early church who are suffering for the faith, dazed, fragmented, and bewildered. E.g., Everyone. Including you and me today.
The author is, at the same time, desperately devoted to the care and feeding of the Body of Christ in any way possible, while exhibiting the most admirable pastoral courage, leadership, and tough love by essentially saying, “I understand how difficult the times are for you. I’m very sorry for your pain. But there is a solution within your own heart that you’re not taking full advantage of, Beloved: The wisdom of sanctified suffering. Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Spirit’s counsel within to help grow you up—not to simply survive the blows, but to grow more and more into Christ through them! Stop acting like spiritual babies, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Listen up and learn by faith… Godly wisdom is the antidote for worldly sorrow and the platform for serving others.”
So, Where Does Our Strength Come From… Really?
“The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15:2)
There Are Only Two Kinds of Strength: My Sheer Strength or God’s Shear Strength. The difference is huge!
The name of the drop-dead-vertical-to-overhanging, 300-foot frozen pillar of ice was “The Terminator”. A foreboding namesake, eh? As I looked up the ice climb before getting started on the first lead, I was totally prepared for a great climb as well as the worst case scenario because I relied on shear strength… not sheer strength.
My Sheer Strength?
All I could bring to the party on this daunting ice climb was my climbing technique, my tight and sharp crampons on my boots, the solid ice tools in my hands, a strong helmet on my head, my well-placed ice screws for fall protection, my worn but closely inspected and safe rope, and the experienced and belayer-buddie below who would catch my fall by stopping the rope.
You see most of these features of my own ice and rock climbing ability and technique were based on my own SHEER STRENGTH, and not the SHEAR STRENGTH of FAITH as I relied solely on providence, the unchangeable nature of the mechanics of my trade, the principles of natural order, the steadfast nature of my climbing partner, and a live or die faith in all these combined.
Any success in climbing “The Terminator” was NOT in my ability to enlist my own puny power to pull myself up the climb or be sloppy about where I placed my anchors in the advent of a fall. That would be suicide. And that would be relying on sheer strength.
As I ascended the climb I rested on the largest muscles of my legs, not my arms. As I approached the crux moves to get over the over-hanging ice bulge now 200 feet off the ground, I placed two ice screws deep in the ice to protect a possible fall. As I began the hardest move over the overhanging bulge, I lost my right crampon hold on some brittle ice while my left hand tool placement broke loose a large chunk of ice above me. “Heads up!” is all I time to shout. As I fell about 25 feet into mid-air and swung back into the icy wall, I knew my belayer-buddie Steve was closely watching my every move.
I was shaken, hanging in the air, but perfectly safe and ready for another shot at it! I had given the two ice screws a pretty good jolt from the fall but the anchor held tight by its shear strength—placed deep in and close to the ice it wasn’t going anywhere.
The Blessings and Mechanics of Shear Strength
You see, the ice screw anchors that caught the weight of my fall—plus the added stress of distance and velocity—were not only sunk deep in the ice below me but were tied-off with a nylon strap close to the ice. Did you get that? “…close to the ice…”: The ability of the ice screw to sustain the stress of the fall was directly proportionate to the proximity of weight bearing point to the five foot thick wall of solid ice I was climbing on! That’s what shear strength is all about: Staying close to the anchor, trusting that the principles you’re hanging your life on are rock solid and sound—before, during, and after the fall!
Remember, dear friends, it’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN a fall, a trial, a wound… sin’s unavoidable impact… occurs.
“The protection was bomber, Steve. It would-a held a truck, man!” I called to my belayer below. Translated: That was a pretty good fall, but the ice screw protection was deep, well-placed, totally secure and capable of holding the weight of a truck.
Under stress, the system held up. Had the climb gone perfectly, I never would have tested the system. Of the hundreds of rock, snow, and ice climbs I’ve done, most went well. Of the few climbs that didn’t, the system, the anchor, the substance of the ice or rock, the shear strength… saved my life—many times. I was rarely at risk because I rarely relied solely on MY OWN SHEER STRENGTH!
How about you? Does your ability to simply take another breath… have another heartbeat… brave the complex elements of making the best of another day… rest solely on your own SHEER STRENGTH? If so, I know how tiring and discouraging… and impossible… it can be: by the Spirit come to Jesus. If not, praise God Jesus in the Spirit is giving you rest from the burden and offering you His immovable shear strength.
Our ability to live radically for Christ in faith… to really “hang it out for Christ”… always involves love with none in return and/or love at levels unknown before… It involves risks, a high cost, trust, alienation, transparency, sacrifice, and even utterly dying to self. BUT… but, by faith, through grace and repentance, we have been made new creations and now rest in God’s unchanging and indefatigable character and promises… As our SHEAR STRENGTH:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…” (2 Timothy 2:1)
So when, not if, you fall you better make darned sure you know what your tied into, friends. If you’re relying your own sheer strength you’ll not likely fare well. Maybe you’ll get another chance to “check the protection”, maybe not.
Is your work and personal life journey based on your own SHEER STRENGTH or the Triune God’s own SHEAR STRENGTH? The answer to this question is crucial to your well-being in every area of your life!