Friday, April 3, 2015

My Strength is Made Perfect

    Well, I'm just getting around to finishing my post from 2 Cor. 12. I've had a hard time coming back to finish this post, but for some reason I feel in the mood tonight. Why would God give me this mood at eleven at night, I don't know, but it's here!

    We already addressed the first part of this amazing passage in v. 7-10, but here are the verses again, just so you can reread them. "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

    I have no intention of repeating what I already said, since you can simply read it here, but we have been thinking about the concept of God's sufficient grace. As a quick review, it is important to keep that idea in mind today as we look at the second part of v. 8, because the two parts work together.

    "For my strength is made perfect in weakness". What a thought! There are several aspects of this verse that are comforting to an incredible degree, and I'd like to look at at least some of them. Again, this verse is incredible precious to me, so pardon my extreme partiality!

    Think of what God through Paul just said. His strength, the power of an all-mighty Creator, is made perfect in me by what? My intellect? My superior moral compass? My tighter standards and rules? My theological understanding?

    It's made perfect in my weakness. Christ's strength shines in me the strongest when I am at my lowest, when I have no more I can give Him. When I am completely emptied of myself, God's power can be shown through me.

    That's amazing on two levels. One, how absolutely thoughtless of us to run dashing around trying to appear more spiritual and more perfect than our brothers and sisters in Christ when in reality, Christ's strength in us is dependent not on our perfection, but on our dependence. Only when we realize that we need a crutch and that we can't walk on our own does the idea of Christ carrying us seem so sweet.

    There's a second beautiful aspect to the verse, and that is this: never, never are you too weak, too downtrodden, or too forgotten to be used by God. Never! When we are at our weakest, God can show His strongest through me.

    That said, that should make us think of something. If we want Christ's strength to reside in us constantly, doesn't that necessitate us remaining constantly in a state of utter dependence on God? If in my weakness Christ is strong, then shouldn't I remain forever weak in myself so that I can become strong in Christ? Is that a logical chain of thought?

    See, it's not fun to be weak. It's not fun to look your fear in the face and say, "I can't face you on my own. I just don't have the strength." It's much funner to walk into temptation and spiritual hard times with the smug, self-confident swagger of a Super Bowl winning football team. It's much funner to walk into church as the guy with the answers. It's much funner to pick the toothpick out of someone else's eye than it is to pick the log out my own.

    But when I am weak, and I realize that weakness, that is when Christ can be strongest in me. That is when Christ is free to manifest Himself and his strength through me, and bring Himself glory in doing so. When I realize that I can't, that I'm not strong enough, I'm not big enough, I'm not tough enough to handle life on my own, that is when Christ can come in, and fill me with Himself.

    It is in our weakness that Christ shows His strength. It's in a nearly crying teenager kneeling in the dirt in Africa, it's in the shy teenage girl at VBS, it's in the lonely highschool student. When we are at our lowest ebb is when Christ is free to show His power, and demonstrate Himself through us. When we walk through life confident in myself, in what I can do and I can say, I do not realize my need for Jesus in my everyday life.

    But when a terrible thing happens, or even a commonplace hard thing comes crashing into your life, and you don't know where else to go, and you know that you have nothing left, that is where God takes the broken, shattered vessels, with nothing but a willingness to be used, that are our lives and He fills them with Himself, with His Spirit and His power, and He uses them as His instruments.

    My favorite quote by Eric Ludy is when He refers to Christs as "little lambs, with the faces of lions." Because of the raging power of God, Christ uses us, these broken, weak instruments as His body on earth. Not because we are the strong, but because we are the weak! And because of our weakness, Christ is all the more able to shine through us. In our weakness, Christ demonstrates His strength by giving us, the weak of this world, the power to mock all the powers of earth and hell!

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