Like me, do you feel weak and in need of God’s grace today?
I wanted to share a reflection on the theme of weakness. Weak or strong? If you had to pick one of those words to describe yourself, which one would it be? I think most of us would probably say ‘weak.’ But the good news is that God is looking for weak people. When I was praying about this topic, what God spoke to my heart was that we need a fresh revelation of the grace of God. Understanding the grace of God has been the most profound revelation I’ve had in my Christian walk. We need to realize that we CANNOT live the Christian life, at least not by our own power!
We live in a performance oriented success driven society, today our culture is self-focussed (perhaps more so than in previous generations), individualistic and independent. In our culture many of us spend the first 20+ years of our life learning how to be independent and rely on ourselves. In this age of “Do It Yourself,” we seem to value the strong individuals – those people who have the natural stamina and willpower to set their minds to any goal and see it through to accomplishment. We are surrounded by messages, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. The “Strengths Movement” has spread its own gospel: that you only have to determine your areas of strength to be successful in life. And in this day of Facebook and Twitter we are bombarded with self-help news feeds stating ‘you can do it’. Don’t let anyone stop you. And from facebook and twitter it looks like everyone has it all together, often because people ‘facebook’ their perfect life, and their online life is the edited, polished version. You see the lovely pictures of someone finishing a marathon, or someone’s holiday or family, but what you don’t see the stress and the mess and the toddler having a meltdown which is the reality of life. And so we live in this success oriented society.
Of course there is a place for identify the spiritual and motivational gifts that individuals have. We as the body of Christ are different parts – one is the eyes, another is the hands, another is the feet. But even in our areas of strength we are weak without God. We can’t walk with our eyes and we can’t see with our feet. And even in marriage God puts people together who complement one another. My husband and I have different strengths and weaknesses. He is a details person who does things beautifully but sometimes it can take a long time for him to get things done, whereas I get things done quickly. Take doing the grocery shopping for example, Tim will write a detailed shopping list, and while he is pouring over the recipe books studying what meals we could have and what ingredients we require, I’m at the checkout! So neither way of doing things is better or worse than the other, just different. He’s a very patient person, whereas I am…… growing in patience.
And so God’s purposes cannot be achieved in our own strength. We need to be caught by the countercultural message of Christ, which is a way of living life by HIS strength and by HIS grace, which cuts across our own natural mindsets and abilities. Jesus said ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19). Jesus modeled for us a life of depending on the Father. “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” (John 14:11). The secret of His strength was not so secret after all. He yielded to God and we have to do likewise.
One definition of grace that I like is “His enabling power,” for it is the power of Christ Himself that indwells us and enables us to live by a means beyond our own. We are being called to learn how to be “not strong” in ourselves, in order to access the Holy Spirit’s amazing power on a daily, moment-by-moment basis so that we can be world changers, cracked vessels of hope (as our minister spoke about this morning) that will completely transform us and the world around us!
We have been called to a standard of living that is so beyond our own natural ability to achieve it, that it is unmanageable – in our own strength, that is. Love your enemies. Don’t harbour resentment or bitterness against anyone, walk in purity. lay down your life for others. Die to yourself. This way of life is entirely impossible … in our own strength.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 it says, ‘My grace is enough for you for My strength and power are made perfect and show themselves most effective in your weakness’. I’m in a season of my life where it is really busy. My current role is Director of Domestic Affairs – I have three young children and it is lovely, sometimes exhausting but lovely. I can feel weak at times and I need the strength of God. We are not created to live in our own strength. Earlier this week we decided to go on an overnight excursion and we stayed in a rustic cabin in the wop wops. And I’m not really a rustic girl but it would have been fine, except that it poured with rain. So we had three small children corralled in a small damp cabin for two days. Character building is one way of describing it. We are tenting at the same place in January with another family, and there will be seven children under eight. We’ve nicknamed it ‘Camp Chaos’. There are much tougher scenarios that people face, but still, we will need God’s grace to ensure it is an enjoyable family ‘holiday’.
Understand that personal weakness does not mean weak character or sin. We are called to try to overcome the sin that is in our lives with God’s strength, pursuing holiness and righteous living. God is looking for a people who have come to the place where they have lost confidence in their flesh to accomplish the work of the Spirit. Only when we embrace the weakness of ourselves apart from Christ can we become “graced” to accomplish things for the true advancing of God’s Kingdom.
However, so often we deal with our weakness according to our human wisdom. We hide them, often out of a fear of being known, a fear that if people really find out what we are like that we will be judged or not accepted. We try to make it stronger with human means. We may try to live or cope with it by our own resources. And sometimes the church has chastised people who openly admit their weaknesses and struggles. But It is always really refreshing when people are open about their weaknesses rather than hiding them behind a mask. It says in the word ‘Do not boast in your strengths, but in your weaknesses’. I really felt that God was saying that If we will talk more openly about our failures in order to help others, the Lord will be able to more openly display our victories. And that’s why meeting with others in real life is more authentic than having virtual online relationships. Church camp may be the ideal opportunity to make ourselves more known to one another.
And I sensed that God was also saying that we don’t need to feel ashamed about our weaknesses. In the accepting of where we are weak God make ways of strength. God’s unlimited power rests upon those who discern their weaknesses. Being weak does not mean you have failed. Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, as painful as they are. We have to decide not to dwell any longer on our insecurity and feelings of unworthiness . New Zealand seems to have a sense of inferiority as a nation. But instead we can choose to dwell on the Son and His greatness which can be revealed through us. He delights in using the weak, the foolish and the small to confound the strong, the wise in this world. We can look at the Lord and His greatness that He will demonstrate through us. For God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (I Cor 1:27). I think I might be an example of that.
And the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. God’s strength is Limitless. Isaiah 41 says ‘Have you not heard, the everlasting God, he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Jesus declares that “Without Me you can accomplish nothing!” (John 15:5). It is only when we see ourselves as weak that we can be made strong in the Lord. Gideon in the Bible was weak, weak enough to become strong in the Lord. Samson was strong, too strong to really be everything God wanted him to be. His greatest feat was the strength that came out of his weakness. So says Paul, “I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me, therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecution, distress for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” We look at our lives and we wonder, “Can God use us in our weakness?” We can rejoice and be encouraged that yes He can. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.