From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Nine, Day Four
Most of us are so familiar with the title "Christ" that we tend to consider it part of Jesus' personal name. But what exactly does it mean? Like "Messiah," "Christ" means the "anointed one." The phrase "anointed one" refers to someone who has been set apart for a special mission.
That was how the first Christians thought about Jesus. As Israel's Messiah, he was the greatest of all kings, the one called and empowered to destroy God's enemies and extend his kingdom throughout the earth. His mission was to put an end to our deepest troubles — to rebellion, sin, and death. When we pray to Jesus Christ, we are praying to the Messiah, the Anointed One, whose mission involves calling the world back to God through the power of his love.
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
Praying the Name
There was given me a thorn in my 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." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians12: 7-10
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philipp ians 3:13-14
Reflect On: 2 Corinthians12:7-12; Philippians 3:7-14.
Praise God: For revealing his power in human weakness.
Offer Thanks: That God has called you heavenward.
Confess: Any tendency to rely on your own strength.
Ask God: To encourage you to keep running the race.
If you had to choose one word to sum up your Christian life, what would it be? Joy? Grace? Love? Peace? Power? Much as I am tempted to claim one of these for my own, I have to be honest. The word that most captures me is "weakness," though I didn't always think so. My favorite childhood song, in fact, went like this: "Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you." As with most people, however, reality eventually intruded on my fantasy.
Over the years, Christ has graciously revealed my need of him, not once but many times. Through painful experience I have begun to realize that I am not strong enough to stay spiritually afloat for even a second should God withdraw his sustaining hand. The powers and the principalities are too much for me, to say nothing of my flesh. Left alone, my sinful reactions to life would destroy me. But thank God I have not been left alone. He has held me up, above the raging waters and the roaring seas. He has loved me when I could not love myself, preserved me when I could not preserve myself.
Not long ago, after enduring a time of difficulty, I joined my voice with others singing a familiar Easter hymn. As the congregation belted out the lyrics, the joy I felt was palpable:
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!
Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love, Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Easter, of course, is the great celebration of Christ's victory. It recognizes that Jesus, God's "Anointed One," finished the job he came to do. Like him, we are called to finish well by reproducing the pattern of his life until it is time for us to leave this world.
As we sang the Easter hymn, I suddenly found myself thinking about my own funeral, wishing I could be there to preach at it, though I am no preacher. I had a picture of myself standing jubilant in front of family and friends, a smile spreading wide across my face, one arm raised in victory. I had done it — remained faithful to the end! Though I had nearly fainted on the way, I had managed to cross the finish line. I had won the race. And if I could do it, they could too. God alone had carried me across, and he would carry them as well. I wanted to shout out the words of St. Paul, telling them how my weakness had been Christ's opportunity.
Of course, I know that such a celebration is premature. But I look forward to it in hope. And as I do, I cry out to God for grace, reminding him that my weakness forms the perfect backdrop for his strength. And as I pray, I remind myself once again that I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.