Posts Tagged ‘Weakness’

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“PERSUADED BY IMPERFECTION” – Feb. 17

February 17, 2016

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

She walked into the competition room with a face set in determination.  A faint smile graced her face in recognition of the judges patiently awaiting her arrival.  However, this polite acknowledgement faded the instant she found her mark, centered before the three seated personages, who were to witness her assault on the challenge before her.

She stood before a long table, which separated her from these strangers.  With head slightly downcast and her arms held rigidly at her side, she appeared to be using every ounce of will containing the urge to flee the room.  It was clear that the coming moment was to be more a personal confrontation of self than a speech competition.

She began to speak in a quiet, clear voice.  Her eyes lifting to make contact with each judge yet her brow remaining determinedly fixed forward.  She spoke smoothly through the memorized lines with the only movement being the slight rotation of her hands with fingers earnestly extending as if to dispel the building nervous anxiety.

And then, it happened.  The speaking stopped.  It sputtered to life again only to fall into an awkward quiet, allowing the room to fill with an oppressive silence.

She retreated into herself.  The seconds ticked on.  Her eyes closed.  The seconds ticked on.  Her lips whispered words already spoken.  The seconds ticked on.  Anxiety growing with the silence.  An anxiety easily observed  by a reddening complexion as it proceeded with each tick up her neck and over her ears.

Don’t run…the seconds ticked…find your place…the seconds ticked…you can do this!

Then, as if catching a rail at the last moment, the words began to flow.  Her reddened complexion receding with each remember line.  She finished with a slightly embarrassed smile, shook the judges’ hands, and quickly escaped the room.

I sat emotionally drained.  I had just witnessed something remarkable, but it has taken me a while to truly appreciate the accomplishment of this young lady.  As I contemplated what I had the privileged to observe, I realized that I had been thoroughly persuaded.  I was persuaded as much by the actions of this speaker as her words.

Her actions gave meaning to her persuasive speech, “how to overcome the fear of public speaking.”

I am still persuaded by this young speaker even though this NCFCA speech and debate competition is now more than a month in the past.  Tears well up as I remember this young lady who so boldly stood before me and triumphed over her fear.

She was not the best speaker that I judged that day.  She was not the most articulate or polished.  She was not smooth or natural.  She did not excel in a competition that placed her at the boundary of her natural gifts.

Yet, she was the most poignant speaker I heard.

She was effective because I could see the reality of her words in the practical accomplishment of overcoming a struggle.  She practiced what she preached.  I saw the raw reality in her overwhelming weakness.  Her weakness gave credence to her words.  That is what made her speech so persuasive.

We need more of that raw reality in the world.

There are so many people whose lives abound with insecurities and failures hidden behind carefully manicured personas of perfection.  I consider the associations of my life and see very little raw reality of weakness.  I scroll through Facebook but see few facing fears, standing amidst failure, or admitting to weakness.

I know that it is there because it exists in my life.

I don’t have it all together but you will never learn that from Facebook.  I battle doubt.  I clash with consistency.  My hope continues to find residency in my 401k account.  I am frustrated by a faith that feels incapable of moving a mole hill.

The longer I live, the more I realize  the weakness of my existence.  The raw reality of my life is that weakness exists even in my strengths.  I know this same raw reality exists in every Christian.

No one is the person they want to be.
Yet, is that the reality that we regularly see?

PreachThis young lady reminded me that the raw reality of weakness combined with Truth is the most persuasive when they are in unison.  We deprive our message of a powerful impact when we pretend to be perfect.

My weakness is testimony to the power of Christ in my life.  Through all my disobedience, failures, and faithlessness, I am still standing as a child of God through the sufficiency of His grace.  His power is demonstrated in my inability to obtain righteousness through my own strength.  I am far from self-righteous perfect.  I am consistently humbled in my weaknesses,I believe, for the expressed purpose of keeping me from being conceited.

Why should I then live behind a false illusion of perfection, depriving my testimony of the practical demonstration of the power of Christ to overwhelm my weakness?

It is why I can be content in confessing my weakness.
My weakness gives credence to the power of God’s word.

As Christians, we have always been called to live in the strength of God’s power; not our own strength.  We have been called to love God and our neighbor from the raw reality of our faith’s current condition.  Love forced through a false reality will tend to appear phony.

The world has enough phony Christians pretending to be perfect, while really living in pride.

The world needs more Christians willing to live in the raw reality of humble weakness – demonstrating the sufficiency and power of God’s amazing grace.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for my weaknesses.  Forgive me for my pride; for trying to portray an illusion that I am stronger than I really am.  Help me to be real with those who are in my life.  Help me to acknowledge your grace in all that I do.  May we all become a people who glorify you through our weakness.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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QUOTE (Henry van Dyke) – April 10

April 10, 2014

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933), a modernist who pu...

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and lonliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thougts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ~ Henry van Dyke

In honor of Henry Van Dyke, an American Presbyterian clergyman and author, who died on this day in 1933.

Resources:
April 10 – Today in Christian History
Henry Van Dyke>Quotes

 

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“PERFECTING WEAKNESS” – Jan 13

January 14, 2014

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”” 2 Corinthians 12:9

ncfcaMy son recently competed at the NCFCA Idaho Open Tournament.  I have come to anticipate being blessed by these competitions and once again I was not disappointed.

I had the privilege of watching the crisp intellect of youth being prepared for Kingdom service as teenagers hone their debating skills.

I was entertained by the creativity of students who take familiar tales and re-imagine them into something fresh and engaging.  I wait in anticipation to see how this creativity will display the glory of God to an unbelieving generation.

I was delighted by all the speeches that persuaded and informed me.  I know there will be a day when these students’  love of God will be as effectively communicated for a reward far beyond a temporal medal.

However, I was moved to tears by the students competing in apologetics.  I had to hide my eyes as emotions welled within them when a gaggle of teenagers noisily passed me on their way to a speech round.  They thoughtlessly carried these inexpensive boxes of plastic and cardboard as they chattered excitedly with one another.  I love those boxes.  Actually, I love the treasure contained within each and every one of those boxes.  It is a treasure that exceeds the value of all the diamonds within De Beer’s vaults.  These boxes contain the hours of time spent before open Bibles and theological books.  It contains the months of the Spirit of God leading, guiding, and teaching my younger brothers and sisters in Christ.

These boxes hold the notes of answers to 106 apologetic questions.  They contain the word of God applied to many of the difficult objections posed by those who oppose our faith.  Those boxes are sheaths to swords that are as real as any ever wielded by William Wallace and these students are learning how to rightly handle the word of God.  It is a wonderful thing to watch.

I love to watch it all.  I am always filled with optimism in how the Lord will use this generation.  They have so many strengths and talents.  Surely, God has raised them up for great things.  The future seemed bright as I guided our mini-Van away from the tournament into the tunnel through the late night darkness that the headlights created.

I was reminded within the midst of my admiration of the skills and talents of those students of the mysterious balance between the use of our gift and and the recognition of our utter weakness.  God uses those who have learned to live in human weakness to accomplish spiritual greatness despite our abundance or lack of talent.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Charles H. Spurgeon learned that lesson.  C.H. Spurgeon was an amazingly gifted orator.  You are not called the “prince of preachers” without being a good speaker.  Yet, this is what had to say about weakness:

The way to grow strong in Christ is to become weak in yourself. God pours no power into man’s heart till man’s power is all poured out. The Christian’s life is one of daily dependence on the grace and strength of God.

Spurgeon could have won many speech competitions but that was not what made him strong in Christ.  He became weak in himself.  Therefore, I prayed for all those gifted competitors who walked across the stage to accept awards at the NCFCA Idaho Open.  I praised God that they won. I prayed that He would protect them from the pride and over-confidence in their relative strengths that applause can bring. I prayed that God would reveal to them the weaknesses that are within them.  I prayed that God would lovingly wash their weakness over them so that they would know that only His grace is sufficient for them.  I prayed that their accomplishment, combined with the knowledge of their weakness would drive them to their knees in prayers of thanksgiving and acknowledgment that true power comes only in a life lived in humble weakness for Christ alone.

John Knox knew the lesson of weakness.  He was a small and feeble man, who ran from the room the first time he was asked to preach in public.  His experience as a slave in a French galley, chained to a bench with six other men pulling a fifty-foot-long oar, left him with a weak and broken body for the rest of his life.  Yet, John Knox knew that his strength did not come from his natural abilities.  God’s power was made perfect in John Knox’s weakness as it drove him to his knees in prayer.  The weakness of John Knox made him such a man of prayer that Mary, Queen of Scotland said,

I  fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.

John Knox probably would never have won a speech competition but he was greatly used by God.  Therefore, I praised God for all those competitors who did not win.  I praised God that they did not walk across that stage to accept an award.  I prayed that they would not be lost to despondency but rather the revelation of their weakness would humble them and drive them to a life of prayer and reliance upon their Lord and not their talents and strengths.  I thanked God for afflicting their self-esteem, revealing their utter and complete need for a Savior.  I prayed that their failures would reveal sin in their hearts and that our Lord would remind them that His grace is more sufficient than any trophy or medal, that  He does not need the strength of a debate or speech champion, and that His power will still be made complete in the weakness of a competitor who never won a round.  I prayed that all those who lost would know the power of God being perfected within them in whatever manner that God chooses to reveal their weaknesses to them.  I prayed that their defeats in speech and debate would be used to prefect their hearts in Christ.

I thanked God for my own weaknesses.  I praised Him for how I have been humbled from my altars of pride and self-worship.  I worshiped Him for my fears and afflictions because they have driven me to call upon my God and Savior for comfort and support.  I praised him for my victories and accomplishments because I know that they were only of Him.  I savored the flavor of my failures because they enable me to whole heartedly proclaim from experience,

“My God’s grace is sufficient for me.”

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for using the weak.  We are all weak before you.  Thank you for showing us our weakness.  Thank you for using the weak to glorify your name.  Father, help me to live in humility.  Forgive me of my pride and my confidence in my own ability.  Forgive me for not coming to you in prayer and relying upon your strength.  Your grace is sufficient for me.  Lord, perfect your power in me by keeping me weak.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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A FUTURE IN GOOD AND CAPABLE HANDS

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“POWERFUL WEAKNESS” – July 9

July 10, 2013

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain
Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain (Photo credit: Let Ideas Compete)

“One more hill to go,” was the mantra that reverberated through my mind on the descent.  We were on the tail-end of a 30 mile, “out-n-back,” ride composed of a series of rather steep, rolling hills.  I have been making this ride all season in training for the “Four Summit Challenge” at the end of this month.

I swept up the base of this remaining obstacle as gravity turned from a pleasant companion to an uninvited burden.  I responded by dropping a gear and immediately felt the pressure migrating back into my thighs.  I dropped another gear and pushed into the pedals, working to keep my pedal cadence high, trying to transfer as much speed up the hill as I could.  The road soaked up energy as I had to drop into the middle chainring.  I was not even halfway up the hill and my legs had already made their emergency call for oxygen and my lungs were struggling to meet the demand.

“One more hill . . . One more hill . . . ”  I was at that point where I either had to drop another gear or stand and charge to the top.  My mind said, “This is the last hill,  why not!”   but my legs had a list of reasons as to why not.  The victor of this mini-debate was declared as my legs popped me out of the saddle and started the strange little pedal dance of a cyclist desperate to get a climb’s summit.  I quickly crested the hill but the damage was done.  I was gasping for air as I circled around, waiting for the other riders.

“Oh mama, that hurt.”

Giro d'Italia 1991

Giro d’Italia 1991 (Photo credit: ta_do)

After we gathered ourselves, a fellow rider paid me the nice compliment, “You are much strong than even at the beginning of the year.”  I guess all of the riding and climbing has started to pay some dividends.  I had just charged up a hill that I have had to crawl up in the past.  However, I was not feeling like I thought I would feel when I was a “strong(er) climber.”  That ride wasn’t any easier than the first time I had tried it.  In fact, that last little hill had put the hurt on me just like it had always done.

This experience reminded of the quote from three time Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond:

“It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

I have a tendency to think that strength will make things easier.  Whereas, strength does make things easier it also leads to doing harder things.  My little training course has not become easier because my increasing strength has allowed me to go over it faster, which makes it harder.  That is the way strength works.

Strength has to be challenged.  Strength has to be forced to the point that it is once again relatively weak.  Any amount of strength that I have gained this season will begin to deteriorate the moment that I start making my training course easier.  I will be at my strongest only when I am pushing myself to weakness.

My strength begins to ebb when I never experience weakness.

Many have a tendency to think that once they become spiritually stronger then following Christ will be easier.  I have followed Christ for more than thirty years and I can attest to the fact that following Christ has not become easier.  What I thought was hard thirty years ago is no longer as challenging.  However, I still have enough challenges in my spiritual walk that my weaknesses are a constant reminder.

This knowledge of weaknesses, rather than deficiencies to be scorn, actually is evidences of strengths being challenged.  It is at our weakest when we experience real strength.  Paul was given a thorn in his flesh to remind him of his weakness and the sufficiency of God’s grace.  Paul needed to remember his weakness so that the power of God could be perfected through him. Paul never laid back and rested in his strengths.  He never lived like following Christ was easy.  Paul went and did hard things.  He endured the hard things of insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

Relative to me, Paul was incredibly strong.  However, he was well aware of all his weaknesses through the challenges of doing difficult things for the glory of God.  It was by embracing his weaknesses that the power of the Spirit continued to give him the strength that he needed.

For when he was weak, then he was strong.

There are many who have taken the easy route.  They have become secure in their spiritual strengths.  They no longer push their strengths to the point of weakness.  Beware when you feel strong.  Beware when following Christ becomes easy and comfortable.  You should be concerned when your weaknesses are not before you.  The reality is that the strength that you have may just be ebbing away.  The power of Christ does not rest upon those who think  they are strong.  The power of Christ rests upon those who acknowledge their weaknesses and need of Christ.  The power of Christ rests upon those who feel their weakness.  The only way to feel your weakness is by doing hard things.

We are all at our strongest when we are at our weakest.  Let’s go do some hard things and be reminded of how weak we really are.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my weakness so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.  Father, keep me from seeking the easy route.  Push me to use the strengths that You have given me.  Challenge me so that I may know my weaknesses.  Sustain me through my weakness – your grace is sufficient for me O Lord.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“ASPIRING TO BE FRAGILE” – July 2

July 2, 2013

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  2 Corinthians 4:7

Flimsy, frail, fragile, feeble are all adjectives that should be avoided on a professional resume.  These are not personal traits that are typically exalted and espoused.  I don’t know of a motivational speaker who bears the mantle of encouraging the strong to throw aside their strength and embrace the joy of feebleness.  The New York Times best sellers list does not have authors advocating success through the power of weakness.  Our world works very hard to deny our weaknesses.  Numerous are the methods and programs that strive to identify our strengths and diminish our limitations.

There is a message being embraced by:

the child longing to be an adult;
the student learning from the master;
the athlete training;
the aged remembering their youth;

This message shuns the idea of being a flimsy, frail, fragile, and feeble clay jar. However, that is exactly what we are.  Our true identity emerges when:

illness steals our strength;
success slips our grasp;
intellect denies our aspirations;
age bars our activities.

When our true identity weighs down upon us, we are then able to see that we really are nothing in comparison to the surpassing power of God.  When we are powerless, the knowledge that God is everything has clarity.  When we are desperate, the love of God comes easily for those who are in Christ.

However, what about when we are strong?  What about when the accolades are accumulating?  What about when all you touch turns to gold?  What about when you are at the pinnacle?

I wonder if the strong and prosperous are not in the most danger when they are at their highest.

English: pots made of clay.

English: pots made of clay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They are in danger because it can be so easy to forget who they really are.  Success can cause us to believe in a false identity.  We can begin to believe that we are something in ourselves.  At the moment that I believe that I am something other than clay, then God is not everything.  Confidence in my abilities has an insidious way of blinding me to my real identity.  I know that there are many things that I am good at.  The danger arises when I begin to believe that all the strengths that I possess originate from personal qualities.  We step into a morass when we claim success as the result of all our hard work.

This denial of our true identity strikes directly at what we love.  Loving God with everything that we are flows easily out of an understanding that He is everything and we are but clay jars.  However, a love of self is the natural parasite of a self-confident attitude.  The self-confident have lost sight of God’s surpassing power the moment they swallow the myth of their own fame, no matter how small that fame might be.

A man shapes pottery as it turns on a wheel. (...

A man shapes pottery as it turns on a wheel. (Cappadocia, Turkey) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In that instant, we lose everything by believing the lie that we can do anything within ourselves.

Fortunately, we get everything and can do anything the instant that we attribute all that we are to the rightful Originator.  There is nothing that is impossible for the one who knows who they really are. The clay jar has surpassing power within it when it embraces what it really is; flimsy, frail, fragile, and feeble.

Therefore, let us aspire to be what we really are… fragile.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I fail in holding the right attitude in my heart.  You know how my heart loves to be made much of.  You know how I am so inclined to take credit for your work.  Father, remind me of how I am.  Thank you for all that You have given me.  Thank you for all that things that You have made me good at.  Thank you for the strengths that come from You through me.  Help me to keep the right attitude.  Help me to glorify You through all that you have given me.  Give me a heart that only wants You.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“REAL LOVE” – June 24

June 24, 2013

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have love you, you also are to love one another.”  John 13:34

I was recently going through some old papers and ran across a list of goals that I had written shortly after graduating from the University.  I was newly married, had a new career, and was on the cusp of the adventure called my life.

I remember making that list.  I remember the reasons for making most of those goals.  Through the last couple decades, I have been successful in achieving most of them.  I find it interesting that the reality of now standing on the future side of that list does not match the anticipation felt when condensing dreams into goals and writing them on paper.

I have found that to be the universal case.  Reality has a hard time living up to my dreams.  My mind creates theater.  It does not create documentaries.

My mind creates a stylized version of reality, past or future, that can be mesmerizing.  My mind can direct a whole world of utter fantasy.  The mental special effects of this world can be so convincing that reality blurs with the make-believe.  I can become so enamored with the theater of my mind that I love it more than what is real.

The real is the present.  The real comes to us with all of its flaws and imperfections.  The real has uncertainty.  The real can hurt us and make us unhappy.  The real can disappoint.  Our minds often create elaborate sets to soften the stark documentary quality of the present.  However, the present is the only thing that is real.  Everything else is a dream or a fading memory.

The battle for the real has tangible consequences for how we love.

We all love much and in a variety of ways.

We can love our family as they are or

            We can love our family as we want them to be.

We can love being married or

            We can love what we thought marriage would be.

We can love our job or

            We can love what our job is when we get that promotion.

We can love where we are or

            We can love what we were.

We can love where we are or

            We can love what we will be.

We can love what we have or

            We can love what we will obtain.

We can love others where they are or

We can love them based on what they should have done or did not do.

Our love can easily slide from what is real to a theatrical concoction of our mind.

God loves me.  He does not love a future me or a past me.  He loves the present me.  He loved me before I loved Him.  His love is not conditioned upon me becoming the someone I long to be.  His love is for the real me; the present me.

In the same way, God has called us to love others.  We are to love real people.  We are not called to love a person who we hope someone will become.  We are not called to love someone who used to be someone else.  We are to love real people.  That means we are to love people as they are.  We are to love real people with all their faults and failures.  We are to love people with all of their blemishes and bandages.  We are to love people in their weaknesses and through their wanderings.

This does not mean that weaknesses are irrelevant.  Weaknesses are the touchstone of the real.  It is only in the dream where a weakness drives one away from another.  A weakness will destroy a dream.  Therefore, the love of the make-believe is fragile and can be easily crushed by the weaknesses of a real person.

However, a real person’s weakness can truly be conquered when we love that present person.  When we love the real person, we are drawn closer by their weaknesses.  The love of the real person becomes our motivation to strengthen them in their weaknesses.  We pick up their cry when they have disappointed, once again.  We lift them up when they have stumbled, once again.  The love of a real person does not have a limit since it does not rely upon the conditions of a dream.

“When in loving it is a duty to love the men we see, then is there no limit to the love; if the duty is fulfilled, the love must be limitless, that is, unchanged, however its object changes.”  Soren Kierkegarrd

This is the way that God loves us.  We are justified in Christ.  He has given us His Spirit to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh but the love that He gives us today does not depend upon what we hope to be.  God loves real people.

May we love like He has loved us.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to love others as you love me.  Forgive me for loving dreams.  Help me to love others where they are today.  Help others to love me where I am today.    Father, I want to have a limitless love for You and other people.  Fill me with the love that only can come from you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Reference: “Works of Love”, Soren Kierkegaard

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“GLORIOUSLY WEAK” – June 1

June 1, 2013

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Body buildingStrength!  Who does not want to be strong?  Who wants to be weak?  I have never known a person who strove to be a weakling.  My entire world has been dominated by the strong.

Athletics is a competition of strength.  Those who have the strength to generate the most power, speed, flexibility, balance, and agility will be the ones who win the competition.  I have never trained for an athletic event with the goal of getting weaker.

English: Albert Einstein. Français : Portrait ...Academics is a competition of intellectual strength.  Those who have the strength to manipulate complex problems, develop elaborate logic, and comprehend extensive treatises, are the ones who achieve the pinnacles of the ivory towers.  I have never studied with the intent to be weaker in a particular subject.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...Business is a competition of power.  Capitalism dictates that the strongest businesses will survive and prosper.  The business with the most capital, stronger market share, superior product, better price is the business that will prosper.  I don’t spend my work-week in the hope of making my company have a weaker balance sheet.

Relationships are built on strength.  Those who possess the strengths of love, compassion, patience, selflessness, and forgiveness will be the ones who have deep and meaningful relationships.  Deutsch: Georg Müller (1805–1898), Waisenvater...I don’t long for weak and meaningless relationships.

Faith is a matter of strength.  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak. (Romans 15:1)  There are those with stronger faith than others.  I don’t seek God in order for my faith to become weaker.

Our world is built on a pursuit and desire for strength.  I have never known a person who liked feeling inferior.  Our own feelings of inferiority are merely an acknowledgment that someone else has a strength that is superior to your own.  Our objection to being cast as inferior is a refusal to accept another person’s opinion of differing strengths.  We spend our lives making assessments of strength, both our own and others.

Usain Bolt

There may be the self-deprecating sorts who don’t think that they have any strength.  That is simply a lie polished in the center of their self-obsession.  Anything that we do well is a strength and everyone does something well in comparison to someone else.  I am incredibly fast in a foot race with a four-year old.  I am not so fast in a race against Usain Bolt.  I will destroy a toddler in a cage match but I will run for my life against Jon “Bones” Jones.

We all have strengths.

We all want to be stronger.

That is how our world works.

Here is the problem with this approach that we all live by, “God does not use the strong.”  This is insanely counter intuitive.  God does not use those who are strong and wise.  God does not use those people who are particularly skilled in the arena of their talents.  That just does not seem right.  I can give you a list of people who appear to be using their gifts and talents in ways that are very much being used by God.

Whether God uses us has nothing to do with human ability.  It has everything to do with our attitude.  I can do many things in my own strength:

I can love my wife in my own strength.
I can parent my kids in my own strength.
I can write this blog in my own strength.
I can go to work in my own strength.
I can even seek God in my own strength.

I can do all of those activities and many more by doing what I am good at.  What happens when one of those activities excels due to my efforts?  I want to take a bow.  I want to be acknowledged.  I want to boast in an acceptable Christian manner.

This is the insidious nature of strength.  Our greatest strengths can lead us into unknown bogs of futility.  We can think that we are doing such great work using our strengths when God has turned His back due to our pride.  Pride lies in wait for the first glimmer of a strength.  Pride will snatch a strength in its burgeoning infancy and fan itself into a flaming beast.

Those of extraordinary skills and talents are the most susceptible to stumble into pride.  However, we all need to be diligent in examining where we attribute our strengths.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eph. 6:10

What do you have that has not been given to you?  What strengths do you have that are not from God?  What talents or special acumen is not a result of the Creator’s hand?  Was not God’s sovereign plan guiding every opportunity that has gotten you to where you are?

Every strength that we possess is the result of a divine blessing from God.  Therefore, we have no accomplishment in which to take a bow for.  Honestly acknowledging the true source of our strength results in us boasting in the Lord.  He is the one who is due the credit.  He is the one due the acclaim.

Another aspect of strength that is good to remember is the fact that our strength is not that impressive.  Strength is relative.  Our accomplishments are meritorious only in comparison.  We can appear worthy of praise only in comparison to one another.  However, a boast in ourselves quickly appears rather silly in comparison to God.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????Most of us have examined the flexed bicep of a pre-pubescent boy.  We pat him on the head and praise him for how strong he is all the while smirking about the absurdity of his bony little arm.  We are much less than that scrawny little boy when we compare our strengths to God.  It seems so very foolish to make much of a strength when we consider the strengths of our Father in heaven.  The assessment of our greatest strength in comparison to God will result in us boasting in the Lord.

The reality is that we are weak.  We were made weak.  We will always be weak in comparison to God.  All the strength that we have is a gift and unfathomable strength resides in Christ.

The glory of God is best seen in our weakness.

We should revel in our weakness because that is when God is made much of.

Therefore, our weakness is glorious.

When we fully embrace the glorifying potential in the weakness of our strengths, then we really can be used by God.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me of the pride I have taken in my strength.  Forgive me for boasting in myself and not acknowledging all the blessings you have given me.  Forgive me for not humbling myself before your greatness.  Thank you for my weakness.  Thank you for creating me to need You.  Thank you for doing everything that my strength is so unable to accomplish.  Thank you for not giving me trials based on my strength  All my strength comes from You.  All that is good in my life comes through my weakness.  Lord, may you be glorified in my weakness.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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