August 2013

STRENGTH IN YOUR WEAKNESS

Bernard Thangasamy

Your greatest life messages and most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.

Apostle Paul says, “I am glad to boast about my weakness so that the power of Christ might work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weakness” (2Cor.12:9-10). At first this doesn’t make much sense. Doesn’t this world admire strength—physical strength, mental strength, financial strength, strength that comes from political and military power, etc.? Don’t we actually want to be free from our weaknesses, not being content with them? Why does the apostle want us to be content with our inborn weaknesses? He says he’s strong when he’s weak! He even boasts about his weakness. What are the merits of being weak?

Our weaknesses cause us to be dependent on God. Referring to his own physical weakness, a condition God refused to heal, Paul says, “I am quite happy about the thorn…, for when I am weak, then I am strong; the less I have, the more I depend on Him” (2Cor.12:10). Describing the extreme hardship they underwent in the province of Asia, he says they were crushed and overwhelmed beyond their ability to endure, but as a result, they stopped relying on themselves and learned to rely only upon God (2Cor.1:8-9). When King Jehoshaphat confessed helplessness before the invading army, the Lord promised to fight for Israel. Very often King David confessed his weakness and prayed. This earned him the title of a man after God’s own heart. Jesus was silent before those who humiliated Him, tortured Him and killed Him. He set aside His godliness and humbled Himself to the level of death on the cursed cross. But His Father invested in Him all power over heaven and earth (Php.2:5-11)!

Our weaknesses prevent us from being proud or arrogant. They keep us humble. Paul said of his ‘paradise’ experience, “So I would not get a big head, I was given a gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations” (2Cor.12:7). God often attaches a major weakness to a major strength to keep our egos in check. A limitation can act as a governor to keep us from going too fast and running ahead of God. This is why God limited the number of Gideon’s soldiers to 300 from 32000, so that Israel would know it was His power, not their military strength that saved them. As the prince of the most powerful nation in the world, Moses was proud and arrogant, capable of taking the law into his own hands, but God had to strip him of all his advantages and send him to tend sheep in the desert for 40 years, before he could be of use to Him. Jacob’s trust in the God of his ancestors did not find perfection until God dislocated his hip!

Our weaknesses encourage us to develop fellowship between believers. While strength breeds an independent spirit (‘I don’t need anyone’), our limitations show how much we need each other. No Christian is an island. The Bible attaches great importance to fellowship and exhorts believers to bear each other’s burdens, help, support and strengthen each other, and even confess to each other. How we grow in faith depends on what kind of fellowship we have. When we weave the weak strands of life together, a rope of great strength is created. A single piece of firewood doesn’t burn well. This unity becomes all the more important during times of opposition to evangelism, during persecution, when governments are not sympathetic to Christian cause, etc.

Our weaknesses increase our capacity for sympathy. When we are weak, we can be more sympathetic about others’ weaknesses, and tolerate others’ faults. We are far more likely to empathise with those who are in difficulties. It is my observation that persons who suffered extreme poverty during their childhood went on to develop compassionate hearts. Believers in Macedonia were very poor and a persecuted lot, but were generous when it came to giving. See 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others” (2Cor.1:4 NLT). Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the sick, the weak, and the marginalised. God wants us to do a Christ-like ministry on earth. It is by Jesus’ wounds we are healed.

Our weaknesses increase our ability for the ministry. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts. The things you are most embarrassed about, most ashamed of and most reluctant to share are the very tools God can use most powerfully to heal others. It was the terrible accident I was in and its consequences that led me to seek Him and serve Him.

The Bible tells us that all giants of faith, like Moses, Gideon, Abraham, David, Paul etc., had their weaknesses, but they managed to turn their weakness into strength. God takes your greatest weakness and transforms it, for His purpose and for His glory. He fights our battles for us, like in the case of Jehoshaphat and when the Israelite army was facing the formidable walls of Jericho, when we allow Him to do so! His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He does not look at us the way we look at our weaknesses. Don’t be concerned over your weakness; God doesn’t allow you to remain weak. He wants to strengthen you in your ministry/personal life and make you a strong witness for Him. “He gives power to the weary; and to him with no vigour, He increases strength. Even the young shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isa.40:29-31).

Is Paul trying to glorify weakness? No! He really exhorts believers to “be strong in the Lord and His mighty power” (Eph.6:10) and again he blesses the believers, “His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy” (Col.1.11 NLT). Writing to Timothy, he confessed it was God who gave him strength to undergo the numerous trials that befell him.

Paul asserts in Philippians 4:13 that he can do everything through Jesus who gives him strength. Jesus can do this to you too. Remember, “Your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s.”

Editorial: WHEN DOCTRINES DIVIDE - Jacob Ninan

DISTINCT DISCIPLES - J. N. Manokaran

ARE WE WISE OR FOOLISH? - Suresh Manoharan

"TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE - Peter S. C. Pothen

STRENGTH IN YOUR WEAKNESS - Bernard Thangasamy

HOW DO I FIGHT PORNOGRAPHY AND SEXUAL LUST? - Sandeep Poonen

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