Hey guys, I know its been a while. As mentioned in my last post, I am working on a book called “The Simplicity of Christ: (subtitle TBD)”. I also said I would be putting excerpts from the book into blog posts to provide a sneak peak.
So, here is a little tidbit from a section of the book on understanding mercy and grace. It is about how to view and deal with weakness. Enjoy!
As a younger man, I remember struggling with trying to be spiritual enough, faithful enough to my calling and a strong leader of my newly formed family. I would often get frustrated with myself and those around me when I felt like I was failing in one of those things.
One day, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “The reason for your problems is that you think you need to be strong.” This message, although counter-intuitive to the unrenewed parts of my mind, resonated deep within and brought sweet relief as God quieted me with His love.
One of the biggest lies that has infiltrated the human race is that the reason we fail is due to our weaknesses. If God’s grace is sufficient for us, then failure is not due to weakness but to not walking in His grace.
Please note that by “weakness” I am referring to an inability in our self to accomplish the will of God. I am not referring to sin, which needs to be forgiven and cleansed, or wounds, which need to be healed. I am simply referring to the human frailty which needs to be empowered by God.
We sometimes think God is standing there waiting for us to be strong before He will join us in our endeavors. But in reality, He meets us in our weakness. When we try to be strong in ourselves, we are actually rejecting the very grace we need in order to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
When our vision of who we are in Christ eclipses our vision of who He is in us, we can become strong in our own self and spirituality. This sets us up for burnout and frustration. Do not become discouraged when this happens, but just realize that God’s grace does not burn out. It is a good indicator that we need to stop what we are doing and cry out for the grace to help in time of need.
Many times, all we need is a change in perspective concerning our Father’s heart towards us to overcome this hangup about our weakness. When we know that He longs to bring us into the sufficiency of Christ for our weaknesses, we will not feel ashamed before Him. We will no longer think we need to be strong to find God. We will get excited about Him finding us in our weakness!
This, to me, is one of the most freeing truths I have ever learned in God. In the world, people demand strength from you. If you don’t measure up to certain standards, you become weak in the eyes of certain figures in life (parents, peers, coaches, bosses, spouses, etc). We then expect Father God to be feeling the same way about us when He sees us struggling in this vessel of clay. Not so! The Holy Spirit loves to meet us in our weakness!
But I think many believers are convinced that they need to be strong to reach God. How many times have you asked a fellow Christian how they are doing and they reply with telling you all of the areas they are falling short in and how they would have a much better relationship with God, if only they were stronger. “Well, you know how it is brother. I know I should be praying more and reading the Bible more, but I end up getting busy and not getting around to it. If only I would be more disciplined, and I know I ought to, then God would bless me….”
We often think God is waiting for us to be stronger so we can be fit to meet with Him, but He is longing to come connect with us in our weakness; something that is uncomfortable and foreign in the performance driven world. What if that hypothetical believer’s nauseating response in the last paragraph were instead reframed into a prayer like this: “Father, thank you that though I am not feeling like praying, you love me and want to meet with me. Thank you that I live by the faithfulness of Christ in me and His grace empowers me. Father, I am so grateful that I don’t have to measure up in my own strength, but you measure me up by your mercy and desire me just for me.”
Paul was a man who learned this well, pretty early in His walk with God. Here is the account of his lesson on strength and weakness:
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2. Cor. 12:7-10).
We take that whole thorn in the flesh thing and go crazy with it. Regardless of what it was, I think we miss the whole part about God saying, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God was not saying, “Paul, I’m not going to help you out with this one. Just suck it up” He was giving him the solution. It was His grace, not Paul’s strength, that would win that one. Paul had been getting some colossal revelations. He had become God’s man of power for the hour. But then came the thorn and it deflated any pride that may have gotten in there and caused Paul to boast in his own spirituality. He cried out to God for him to remove this thing that made him feel weak and helpless. But God instead, wanted to meet Paul in that place of weakness. He said, “Nope Paul, not going to remove the thorn. But how about I myself come rest on you instead? Does that sound sufficient? Bet that thorn won’t look so big then.” Paul was like, “Um, yeah… What a sweet deal. I think I am going to boast in this weakness instead.”
You see, if God has started to use us and do amazing things in our lives, as He had done in Paul, there can be a tendency to think that our own spirituality has had something to do with it. What can follow is a misguided trust in our own strength. But then, like Paul we might run into a wall that causes us to look back at the true source of strength.
We, like Paul, can also boast in the weak things that attract the power of Christ. This is not to mean that we are opposed to growing; it means that in whatever area we are currently weak in, we can view it as a gateway to the power of Christ.
Religious pride can be one of the most blinding things one can fall in. After all, we are not boasting in “worldly” things when we are religiously proud, we are boasting in what we have accomplished in God. But salvation is by grace through faith; not of ourselves, lest any man should boast, right?
Think about it, if our lack of strength is what is keeping us from God’s grace, then would it not be our strength that earns His grace? We read that God opposes the proud and gives His grace to the humble (see Jas. 4:6). Pride is at odds with the grace of God because it relies on human strength apart from God. To be humble is to simply be honest about our condition. Everyone needs grace. God wants to give it everyone. Only the humble receive it! When we have true humility, we then become open for a deluge of grace from above!
It is through receiving the gift of righteousness and the abundance of grace that we can reign in this life (see Rom. 5:17). What does that look like? Well, it means we can stand before the Father with the same right standing that Jesus Himself has. We then become the target for all of the grace that heaven has at its disposal. And in case you have not realized it, it takes an abundance of grace to match the challenges of this world.
Some of you might be thinking, “But I know I am weak! Why am I not experiencing the power of Christ then?” You might know you are weak, but the question is, what do you believe about the heart of God toward you when you are in that place? Do you think He is waiting for you to be strong and is disappointed in you? Ah, some of you just got it!