And what the prophet Isaiah is saying in this passage is that even those who are in the prime of their life; the very picture of health and vitality – even they stumble and fall. Even they grow tired and weary. There are no supermen, whether you’re talking about physical strength, or emotional strength, or spiritual strength. Even the strongest among us will eventually falter; even the healthiest will stumble and need to be lifted up. And if that’s the case, then how much more do the rest of us need to acknowledge our need of God’s grace. In the Scriptures, we see that even God’s greatest saints needed his grace and strength. For example, the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians that,
"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation . . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength." – Philippians 3:13
"Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints . . . I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ." – Philemon 1:7, 20
If even Paul needed to be renewed and encouraged in order to fulfill his calling, then surely we do as well. No matter what God has called us to do, whether it’s great or small; whether our deeds are publicly recognized or known only to Him, we cannot do it apart from a continuous, ongoing infusion of his strength and power. As Christ taught us in John chapter fifteen:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." – John 15:5
It’s really that simple. If we are drawing our strength from Christ, we can do anything. If not, we can do nothing .Now, perhaps things are going fairly well for you right now, and you’re not aware of any particular weariness or stress. That’s wonderful. But I assure you that storms will come. And it’s far better to develop the habit of relying on God in times of peace and prosperity, than to find yourself suddenly in need of His strength, and have no idea how to receive it.
The second point I’d like to make is that the source of the renewal and the refreshing we need is God. Listen closely, because this is key. Not God plus, but God alone. His grace is absolutely sufficient. Nothing else is necessary. As Paul tells us this in his second letter to the Corinthians:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’" – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
The problem was that Paul had a painful physical affliction of some kind. It was making him weary and discouraged. It was interfering with his ministry. And so Paul looked at his situation and determined that what he needed, in order to be refreshed, was to have his suffering brought to an end. He needed to feel better. Most of us in his situation would feel the same way. The obvious solution would be to remove the so-called "thorn". But God told him that was not necessary. All he really needed was God’s presence and power working in his life. And in order to prove it, God promised to strengthen, and encourage, and renew Paul spiritually without relieving his suffering, without making any change in his circumstances.