Why Does God Let Me Stay So Weak?

Weak

I hate weakness. I don’t like being weak. And I have so many weaknesses as a husband, father, and pastor. I want to have it all together. I want to be a strong leader, a loving husband, a wise father. But I’m so weak. I fail so often. Why?

Why does God let us stay so weak at times? Why is it so hard to put sin to death? Why do we struggle and fail so much? Why are we so often weak in our faith?

The apostle Paul knew about weakness. And he didn’t like weakness in himself – at least not initially. Paul had some kind of “thorn given him in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” that harassed him. Some believe the “thorn” was Jewish persecution; many believe it was a physical ailment or disease that affected his eyesight. They believe this since he dictated his letters, and he said it was because of a “bodily ailment” he had originally preached the gospel to the Galatians (GA 4.13). He also said the Galatians would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him (4:15). Also when he was rebuked for calling the high priest a “white-washed wall” Paul said he didn’t know he was the high priest. Yet Paul was a Pharisee who would certainly have recognized the high priest if he could see him.

Whatever his affliction, Paul struggled with it. He didn’t like being weak. He sought the Lord on three occasions about it and finally God gave him some insight into why he didn’t remove Paul’s weakness.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 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 CO 12:7-10

As Paul sought the Lord about his “thorn” God showed him some things.

First, it was to keep Paul from conceit and pride, having received great revelations from God. Knowledge puffs up. When we have strong gifts or incredible talent it’s easy to become proud. When we have some serious success it’s easy to forget that all our gifts and success is from God. How many gifted teachers of God’s word have succumbed to pride and fallen into sin. How easy it is for us to judge others out of our strengths. How easy it is for parents whose children are doing well to look down on those whose children are struggling or rebelling. So weakness humbles us. Failure keeps us from becoming conceited. And since pride comes before a fall, weakness can keep us from stumbling.

The second reason God let Paul stay weak was to make Paul rely on Christ’s grace – “My grace is sufficient for you.” Pride leads us to rely on ourselves; weakness drives us to our knees to seek God’s grace. Strength can lead to self-sufficiency. Weakness makes us depend on Christ. Weakness sends us to the throne of grace for mercy and grace in time of need.

The third reason God kept Paul weak was to reveal Christ’s power through him – “my power is made perfect in weakness.” The more we realize our weakness, then when anything good happens through us, we know it is the power of Christ, not us. When we have tried again and again to conquer a sin, become aware of our own weakness in the battle, then finally conquer it, we know it was by Jesus’ grace and power. Then Jesus receives the glory. We won’t think we did it by our own willpower but by Jesus’ grace.

Paul got to the place where he was content with weakness! He could be content with insults, hardships and persecutions. And even with calamities! Because he knew that all these things would reveal how weak he was, and the power of Christ would shine through him.

To be content with weakness doesn’t mean we give up trying to put sin to death. It doesn’t mean we quit trying to bear fruit for God. But it means that when we fail, when we realize how weak we are, we won’t despair but turn to Christ and ask him to give us HIS power. HIS strength. HIS wisdom. HIS grace.

Do you feel weak? Confess your weakness to Jesus. (He won’t be surprised). Confess your sins. Confess your failures as mom or dad. Tell him how much you need his grace not to get angry. Tell him you need his grace to love that brother who it’s so hard to love. Ask him to give you the grace to rejoice in your pain and be content in your trial.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 PE 5:6-7

The Lord Of Hosts Who Conquers Through Pots Of Clay

Years ago, miserable in my slavery to sin, I cried out, “God please change me.” I didn’t ask him to save me, I just knew I needed help. Little did I know magnitude of my request. I asked God to kill me. To crucify me. To nail me to the cross with Jesus, who would then take up residence in me and begin to wield his power through me. The Lord of hosts who conquers through pots of clay.  And I knew nothing of his love for me.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

“I have been crucified with Christ.” If Jesus has saved you, you’re one with him. Organically joined to him. When he died, you died. This is decisive, life-altering, final. We’re no longer under sin’s thumb. We’re dead to it. We may not feel dead to it but we are.  It’s shackles are broken. We can walk away from it, even as it screams, “Get back here!” It’s someone that we used to know.

It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. This doesn’t mean your personality is gone. But Jesus now expresses himself through you and your unique personality. Do you long to glorify God? That’s you. And it’s Christ, who came to do his Father’s will in you. Do you desire to serve others? It’s you, and it’s Christ, the Servant of God in you. Do you love others? That’s Christ who first loved you, loving through you.

We live “by faith in the Son of God” – by trusting Jesus moment by moment. By turning to him throughout the day for strength. By continually asking him for grace to love, forgive, and lay down our lives for others. Minute by minute, hour by hour, trusting.

And how do we know he’ll change us? His vast, deep, mysterious love for each one us. “Who loved ME and gave himself for ME.”  Jesus didn’t die for some vast, faceless crowd. He died for Bill and Courtney Marie and Alvin.

He has bound you to himself with cords of love. The power of his death and life is vibrating and burning in you. He’s living, breathing, and moving through you. Surely he’ll give you strength, wisdom and grace to get through what you’re going through. Surely he’ll crush sin beneath your feet.

As you go about another ordinary day, you’re no ordinary human being. The Lord of hosts is conquering and advancing his kingdom through you. As you make your kids lunch and sweep the hallway, and change that diaper. As you ride the train to work, and swing that hammer, and fill out that spreadsheet, Jesus sings God’s praise and gives thanks through you. Rejoices in you. Shows himself to others through you.

Oh it’s you alright.  But it’s Jesus.  The Lord of hosts, who conquers through pots of clay.

If You Want To Get To Me You’ll Have To Go Through…

When Jesus saved me, I was amazed, grateful and relieved that he would forgive my sins. But I could never have fathomed the depths of the relationship he had brought me into.

Believers aren’t simply forgiven – they are in union with God – one with him. Paul says we are “IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 1 Thessalonians 1:1

We are IN God the Father! When God saves us he joins us to himself. Makes us one with himself.  What security! What joy! It’s not like we are here and God is way up there somewhere. The almighty Creator of the universe has joined himself to us who are but specks of dust.

Being IN God means that nothing can get to us unless it first goes through him. Satan can’t touch you unless he goes through God. Satan had to ask God for permission to afflict Job. Each time God would say, “Okay you can go this far but no further. You can do this but you can’t do that.”

No affliction, no wicked person, no sickness – nothing can attack us without God’s permission because we are IN God the Father.

When I was 14, my dad was transferred to Pennsylvania. As a new kid in school, a couple bullies targeted me for some of their harassment. One day, as I stood in line to shoot baskets in gym class, I felt a sudden sharp pain on the back of my neck. One of the Junior High’s finest happened to be in line right behind me. Apparently he got bored, for he began to give me hard karate chops in the back of the neck. Each chop sent electrifying pain to my head – after about three or four chops my head was pounding. Suddenly another kid, named John, who was built like a football player stepped between me and the bully. Suddenly no more karate chops. For the bully to get to me he had to go through John. I’m still grateful to this day that John interposed and rescued me. Remember, if you are “in God” nothing can get to you unless it first goes through him.

We are also “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are one with the Lord of the universe. Jesus has ascended to heaven where he is enthroned on high as King of Kings and Lord of lords and we are one with him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1: 3

Every spiritual blessing there is is in Christ – and we who believe are in him, so we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places! Not only that but because we are in Christ nothing will ever be able to remove us from him.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

We are in Jesus – joined to him – one with him. The church is his body – he’s the head and we’re his hands and feet. We’re joined to him organically.

Jesus said to Saul: “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul didn’t think he had been persecuting Jesus. He’d been arresting Christians. Yet Jesus says Saul was doing it to him.

Every Christian will be persecuted at one time or another in some way. But don’t forget you’re in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever anyone does to you they do to Christ. Do you think he’ll take that lightly? Do you think he won’t protect you? How could God not take care of those who are one with him?

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, then you are IN God the Father and IN the Lord Jesus Christ! You can’t be any closer. Don’t forget you are in God. He’ll take care of you. He’ll protect you and provide for you.

IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there any better place to be?

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Reunion

Jesus’ final word from the cross, following his Word of Triumph, was THE WORD OF REUNION

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Luke 23:46

“This was not a request but an announcement. He was going home.” (A.W. Pink)

Jesus had voluntarily gone to the cross. And now he voluntarily commits his spirit into his Father’s hands. No one took his life from him.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

“Father…”

God’s wrath has been satisfied and Jesus is now experiencing his Father’s fellowship again. Can you hear the joy in Jesus’ voice as he tenderly says, “Father”?  For three hours the Father had withdrawn his fellowship as he poured out his wrath on his Son. Now their fellowship is restored never to be broken again.

This is what heaven is – unbroken, perfect, eternal fellowship with our heavenly Father through Christ.  How Jesus must have looked forward to going home.  How we should look forward to going home to heaven.  Many of us spend so much time working for the things of this world, trying to improve our lot in this life, and trying to enjoy this world, that we spend little time thinking of our life to come. Yet Paul tells us to set our minds on things above, where Christ is.  Peter reminds us that we are strangers and exiles here, just passing through on the way to our real home, heaven.  Jesus looked forward to heaven.  He longed to be in his Father’s presence again.

I want Jesus’ example to inspire me to long more for heaven and think more about it.  And as I think on heaven, I also want to contemplate hell.  I want Jesus to give me a greater concern for unbelievers, because heaven and hell are real.  

How fearful for unbelievers when they die. Hebrews 10:31 says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “Instead of falling in the arms of love, they will fall into the hands of justice.” (Pink).  But for us who believe, although we cannot choose the time we go home, in the last hour of our lives, we can entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father.  When we who believe in Christ finally fall asleep, we will fall into the everlasting arms of love.

Let us long for heaven and our eternal fellowship with our God, and commit not only our spirits, but our very lives into his hands.

Happy Easter!

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Triumph

As we continue to contemplate Jesus’ words from the cross, today we look at his 6th word, THE WORD OF TRIUMPH.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

What was finished? The work his Father had given him to do. His mission. His earthly life of perfect obedience, his teaching, miracles, and ultimately his great work of redemption on the cross. His suffering the wrath of God in place of sinners, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring them to God.

The cross was the ultimate goal of Jesus’ life. The whole reason he came was to redeem sinners. Jesus came to die.

“It is finished” is not the cry of a helpless victim who has failed in his task. It is a victory cry. It is the cry of triumph. He has accomplished when he came for. All is complete!

He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Hebrews 7:27

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:12-14

Once for all – a single sacrifice – a single offering.

Jesus paid for sins once and for all – there is no more need for further sacrifices or payments. He satisfied divine justice forever. That’s why there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (RO 8:1). Jesus has paid for all our sins – he will never have to pay for them again. And neither will we who come to Jesus in faith. It is finished.

That’s why Paul could say to the Philippians: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6). Jesus will surely complete his work in us because he paid for our redemption from beginning to end. He not only purchased our justification, he purchased our sanctification. He purchased the inheritance that awaits us in heaven. It’s paid for – It is finished!

Jesus’ victory is complete. He has defeated sin. Now we must walk out that victory. We put sin to death, not because our sins aren’t paid for, but because we’ve been redeemed from them. We are no longer under obligation to sin. We’re no longer slaves of sin. We don’t have to sin. We can still be tempted, but we don’t have to give in.  By the power of the Spirit, we can walk in Christ’s victory.  And when we fail, if we confess our sins, he forgives them – because they’ve already been paid for!

Someday Jesus will banish sin from the earth. Then we’ll have no more temptations and won’t fall into sin any more. If Jesus hadn’t conquered sin, we’d have no chance to defeat it. But because he did, we can.

Jesus defeated Satan too. And someday Jesus will cast him and his demons into hell forever, never to tempt or afflict us again. And someday Jesus will return and create a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. And all who have come to Jesus will live forever in heaven free from disease, suffering and sadness. And all because Jesus finished his great work for us.

“It is finished!” Lord Jesus, what glorious words. Praise you that you endured to the end. Fill us with joy and gladness today. Strengthen us to persevere and finish the work you have given us to do, for your glory.