He gives strength to the weary, and strengthens the powerless. Isaiah's words in the old testament reading come at the end of a chapter that reminds us that God is all powerful, he is greater than anything we could imagine, having created the world and the heavens. Isaiah also reminds us that men who have become powerful rulers and great princes have found that their power was not as great as they thought. Like plants the empires and kingdoms based on man's power seem to grow and thrive, but like plants they wither and die. Although we are as insignificant as the grasshopper Isaiah tells us that if we keep our hope in God then we will find our strength renewed. Nations have risen and fallen trusting in the abilities of their earthly leaders, but if our hope is truly in God then we are part of a Kingdom that will never wither away, the Kingdom of God.
In the Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus is surrounded by the sick and by those possessed by demons. He heals the sick, including Peter's mother in law, and casts out demons. It must have been very demanding on his time and energy. Once news of his healing power spread, we are told the whole town came crowding round the door. As Christians we have a duty to help people where we can, bringing God's perspective to troubled situations and speaking up against injustice. There are times when for us the troubles of worldly life sap our energy and we grow tired and stumble. As we look around, seeing the news and hearing of the suffering and pain of so many people caused largely by man's inhumanity to man we can be easily overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and our resolve to act as Christians is severely tested. Jesus in this situation left the house long before dawn, to find a place of peace and solitude in order to pray. By remaining God centred he could be sustained by that unfathomable power which came from his heavenly father. By continuing to hold our hope in God, taking time aside for prayer and study of His word, we will find our own witness will become more effective. Rather than relying on our own energy and abilities, which are bound to fail or run out in difficult circumstances, we need to be tuned into the Holy Spirit, God's renewing energy.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of his call to preach the Gospel of Christ. He speaks of becoming a Jew in order to reach the Jews, understanding their laws and the intricacies of their social customs and traditions. Then he goes on to say that in reaching the gentiles he was able to step aside from the Jewish laws, although without breaking with the teachings of Jesus, in order to understand their thinking. The gospel of Christ was not at odds with either way of life and so Paul learned to appreciate their perspectives and use them in introducing and focussing their attention on Christ's message. Paul tells us, 'I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost.' In the same way we must be careful in spreading the message of God's kingdom among the people that surround us. We must be sensitive to their perspectives and try to understand their viewpoints. If Paul had said to the Jews or the gentiles, 'your way of life is wrong, this is how you should be living', he would have met with little success. But by living among them and showing through his words and by his deeds that it was possible to live for Jesus within their own culture he won many souls for Kingdom of God.
When he cast out demons Jesus would not let them speak because they knew who he was. It was important to him that people hear what he had to say, and see what he was able to do in God's name. His ministry of healing was real, his way of life a true example to those around him, but he knew that as soon as his identity was revealed he would become the centre of controversy and argument as was proved by the occurrences in Jerusalem following Palm Sunday. The crowds that flocked to the home of Simon and Andrew came because they heard of someone who was able to heal and renew. They were shown the possibilities of how lives could be changed for the better.
So in our own faith and witness, strengthened by our hope in God, we pray that through our words and deeds, and the extent to which the two agree, others may be encouraged in their own faith journey and look to the life and example of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when we feel that the pressures of our human existence are becoming overwhelming we should take time to pray and be renewed in his Holy Spirit.