Walk down the halls of a junior high school, tune the TV to a presidential (or maybe not so “presidential”) debate, attend a sports competition of any level … you will not find strong evidence of the biblical truth of strength through weakness. Our culture (no matter the segment) does not value weakness. The messages which bombard us and our children every single day are at war with Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30…
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
To be obedient to Jesus’ invitation, to live a godly life which requires that we reject our own strength to be filled with His, we must choose to be counter-cultural. We must go against the grain of what we see and what others expect, and choose God’s wisdom instead. It’s hard. It’s not for the casual (lukewarm — Rev. 3:15-16) follower.
A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Yes, we are like the grass. We think our efforts of breathing and eating sustain us, but in truth, every breath we take is because He wills and gifts it; every bit of our daily bread is supplied by Him. His grace creates the conditions where we can believe it is the bread and air of this life that sustains us. Oh, that we would have eyes to see our daily provisions as gifts directly from Him; the very air we inhale as the very breath of God himself.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
These are the words of Jesus speaking the truth of our utter dependence on God. Every bit of ability and achievement we have in this life is because of Him. In Him we are strong and capable of, literally, anything. Apart from Him (in our own strength) we can “do nothing.”
The apostle Paul, the man responsible for writing 2/3 of the New Testament, has every reason to feel capable and powerful in what “he” did in Christ’s name. Yet in a letter to the church in Corinth, he penned these words…
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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 Corinthians 12:7-10
Delight? Delight in weaknesses? YES! This is Paul’s bold declaration of his dependence on God. This is John 15:5 in Paul’s own words. This is Paul saying, “Apart from Him I can do nothing.” And he goes one and two steps farther than just admitting that he can do nothing. He clearly understands and confesses that it is his weaknesses, his suffering for Christ’s sake, that provides the opportunity for God’s strength to make him able. It is his boasting in his own weakness that is the invitation and catalyst for the power of God to rest on him.
Oh, that we would be overcome with delight in our own weaknesses. Oh, that we would see the very same power that spoke creation into existence, come alive in our own lives … because we began rejoicing in our own weakness.
Oh, that we would do that, indeed. Yet the truth is, we attempt to carry the weight of this, and our, world on our own. We sling it over our shoulder because we believe Satan’s lie. Throughout this series we’ve repeatedly seen and heard God say our burdens are not ours to bear. “Give them all to me,” He says. “I’ll take your’s and you can take mine. My yoke is infinitely lighter than the one your hitched to. My burden is infinitely lighter than even a single one that you are attempting to carry on your own.” More often than any other promise in the Bible, God repeats this one to us:
I Am with you. I will never leave you.
You can trust Him. You can trust His promise. He walks with you … every single step. He wants every bit of the weight you are bearing. Don’t be a weightlifter.