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If God is on our side...


The world system operates on conventional wisdom. We've categorized this street smart sense into phraseology that we can store away for use at a time of challenge. You know---beauty is only skin deep, cleanliness is next to godliness, the bigger they are the harder they fall, two wrongs don't make a right, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, when the going gets tough the tough get going, no man is an island, better late than never, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones, a picture is worth a thousand words, and hundreds more. One of my favorites has been a rallying point for our weird political year---there's strength in numbers. I can't tell you how many times in thirty five years of pastoral leadership someone would give me the church version of the there's strength in numbers threat. You know, "let me tell you what people are saying". It was a way of saying there's strength in numbers in a more off-handed way.

Some political analysts have reasoned that the evangelical vote in the 2016 election was so divided---especially between the spiritual establishment leadership and the voters in the pew---because of fears about apparent declines in the religious landscape of the nation. In previous modern elections evangelicals had a place at the table in campaigns and could dictate party platforms, cabinet selections, and other elements of government policy. If the number of Christians in the American population is actually declining, the there's strength in numbers thing may also signal a decisive shift in how the nation operates. If what researchers are predicting is true, white Christian America is trending downward and those in the Christian ranks may actually be a minority in the nation in a few short years.

Then, again, the there's strength in numbers principle isn't really a Christian worldview precept. In Scripture God's people were usually a remnant nation, a small, ill-equipped army of shepherds, priests, and artisans. They were usually out-manned by trained military strategists leading vast armies of seasoned soldiers. They were successful in occupying and defending the Promised Land because God gave them strength and promised to be with them. That he gave them strength was celebrated throughout the text of the Old Testament, the defining factor is Israel's history.

God's provision for his people is affirmed in the New Testament as well. The early church existed in a Greek culture, under the dominion of a Roman emperor, his governors, and his military might. They ruled the world. In Israel the Jewish religious system guided daily life, persecuted the first believers, and kept them sequestered in small groups who initially met in secret. They were always outnumbered. Even so, they were also bold and aggressive because God gave them strength. The gift of strength is attested in many New Testament references---

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the

preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was

kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic

writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the

eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory

forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Romans 16:25-27, ESV

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in

heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may

grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and

grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is

the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that

surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Ephesians 6:10, ESV

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13, ESV

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all

endurance and patience with joy

Colossians 1:11, ESV

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1:12, ESV

And, there are many more. Several are reminders of the power that attends our faith in Christ, the power that strengthens his people for life---

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7, ESV

Because we have been given this strength from God we are not intimidated by declining numbers or where we fit into the greater American quilt, as they say. it is a reminder that---

We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who

have faith and preserve their souls.

Hebrews 10:39, ESV

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31, ESV

All I want for Christmas is to remember that there's not always strength in numbers and if God is on our side, who can be against us?


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