This article was written by Rev. Rodney Miersma and published in the May 1, 1982 issue of the Standard Bearer.
A word of explanation concerning the title of this article is first in order. All the articles in this section of the Standard Bearer are under the theme "The Strength of Youth," referring to the spiritual strength of the young people in the church of Christ. However, we can also speak of physical strength, referring not only to the body of the young man as he flexes his muscles, but also to the beauty of the young woman, and to one’s keen mind and particular talents and abilities. It is this physical strength of youth that is referred to in the title of this article with the express purpose of addressing the young people with the question, “Does your physical strength stand in the way of your spiritual strength? Is it a stepping stone or a stumbling block? Asset or liability?” Paradoxical as it may sound, it is nevertheless true that often our strength is our weakness.
What is meant by this? This, that as one in youth begins to become aware of his physical strength, or the development of a beautiful body, as well as becoming aware of one’s abilities or talents, he will begin to glory in them, boast in them, and trust in them, all of which leads away from God who is the giver of all these virtues and to whose praise they must be used. Thus, for the youth these physical assets or virtues become all too often spiritual liabilities. This need not be, but is very often the case due to the old man of sin within each of us.
Let me try to illustrate for a moment. Is it not true that often the young man will trust in his physical strength and mental acumen without seeking the Lord to direct these gifts in the proper way? Is it not true that often the young woman uses her physical beauty as the only means to direct the attention of the young man to her as if this were the only thing that mattered? Inward, spiritual virtue is disregarded, as well as prayer, for they are of no benefit to the one that trusts in herself. Young people go forth as if they have the answers to all the problems of the world. Parents, teachers, ministers, and the civil authorities are all behind the times, with little understanding of the age of today and its needs.
Dear Christian youth, what we must always remember is that the strength of youth is in the Lord. As soon as one glories and trusts in his own strengths (physical, mental) he becomes weak spiritually. One must always seek the Lord for his Spirit.
An example from scripture is Samson. His strength was of the Lord. Often we make the mistake of ascribing the strength of Samson to some natural and inherent power, as if in a magical way it flowed forth from his long, uncut hair. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The reservoir of his strength was not within himself, but it was of God. This is the testimony of scripture itself, for he is listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Thus, the phrase “through faith” turns us to the origin and reason of his strength, God himself.
You see, Samson was a Nazarite. Such a one was separated unto God, was God’s peculiar possession, and was devoted and consecrated to God. This was manifested by certain outward signs, the abstinence from strong drink and not cutting one’s hair. Often a third sign was added, the refraining from touching a dead body. In this way the outward visible signs pointed to an inward spiritual consecration.
As such, Samson is a living picture of Israel to Israel. He is a visible testimony that his strength lies in consecration to God. As long as Israel consecrates herself to God she is invincible. Walking in obedience she puts to flight armies that are much larger than her army.
But Israel was sinning grievously and Samson is called to be a living testimony to remind Israel that she is a precious, chosen possession, called to a life of separation from the world and consecration to God.
This same Samson speaks to us today, to the church and to the youth of the church. You and I are called to be Nazarites, to live a life of separation from the wicked and consecration of love to God. In Samson we see the central truth of scripture: our strength, and our only strength, lies in fellowship and union with our covenant God in Christ by faith.
However, not only does the positive side of Samson’s life speak to us, but also the negative. Believing Israel, and also the church as manifested today, condemns herself for she sees in Samson her own sins. Samson is a warning to us, and especially to the young who think that they are strong in their own way. In separation from God, Samson was very weak. His strength lay in consecration to God; his weakness was separation from God.
Look at his life. His spiritual weakness was in his alliances with heathen women. That was his sin, union with the wicked and alliance with the profane. That was also Israel’s sin. She was called to consecration, but time and time again she separated herself from God, made friends with the unholy, and perpetrated all the abominations that displeased the holy God. In such a condition of alienation from God, Israel, like Samson, was absolutely powerless, a prey to every foe, a byword among all nations, and the butt of the jokes of men.
Beloved youth, if you want to know just how powerless you are when you desecrate your calling to be holy, when you separate from God and amalgamate with the world, take a peek at Samson after his capture by the Philistines. We must go to the prison house and as we peer inside we see Samson going round and round at the grinding wheel. Here we see a blinded, impotent man performing the hardest and lowest of labors performed by slaves of the lowest degree. A horrifying picture! Such are we apart from God; slaves of sin.
Youth, where is your strength? As members of the church you must know that the church must live in the consciousness that her only strength lies in her fellowship with God. We cannot remain strong when we separate ourselves from God’s word and the pure preaching of that Word, nor when we live the life of the world. Only when near to God who is infinitely far from the world of wickedness are we mighty to overcome.
This is God’s word to the youth and to all his saints, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). Samson did. Out of the depths of his soul we hear him cry, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray Thee, and strengthen me. . . .” “Remember me,” the same cry as the penitent thief on the cross. This is the cry of the child of God as he sees himself a sinner, by nature apart from God, weak and helpless.
What have we learned from this? We see that we are not to trust in our own strength, but to live near to God in blessed covenant fellowship and communion. Therein resides the true, real strength of youth. Zechariah, the prophet, put it this way: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” With this in mind may we ever sing the words of the Psalmist as they have been put to verse in Psalter number 87 stanza 2:
Not human strength or mighty hosts,
Not charging steeds or warlike boasts
Can save from overthrow;
But God will save from death and shame
All those who fear and trust His name,
And they no want shall know.