God Turns Your Weakness into Strength
God Turns Your Weakness into Strength
The great Christian leader, John Stott, was speaking on one occasion at a university mission in Sydney, Australia. On the last night of the mission, as a result of an infection, he had virtually lost his voice.
Nevertheless, he was persuaded to speak. Waiting in the side room beforehand, he whispered a request that the words of the ‘thorn in the flesh’ verses from 2 Corinthians 12 be read to him. The conversation between Jesus and the apostle Paul came alive.
Stott (Paul): ‘I beg you to take it away from me.’
Jesus: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
Stott (Paul): ‘I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me… for when I am weak, then I am strong.’
When the time came to speak he croaked the gospel through the microphone in a monotone, utterly unable to modulate his voice or exert his personality in any way. But all the time he was crying to the Lord to perfect Christ’s power through his weakness.
He went back to Australia many times after that, and on every occasion somebody came up to him and said, ‘Do you remember that final service in the University Great Hall, when you had lost your voice? I came to Christ that night.’
As someone who is very aware of my own weaknesses, I find it encouraging that when I feel weak, I am not alone. As you put your faith in God he turns your weakness into strength.
Faith and oppositionPsalm 59:1-8
God is your strength in times of difficulty. Belief in God is not the recipe for an easy life. In fact, the reverse is the case. You are likely to face all kinds of opposition.
David’s life was under threat. Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. He finds himself surrounded by ‘enemies... mutineers... dirty tricks... hit men... desperadoes... they’re after me, determined to get me’ (vv.1–4, MSG).
Yet, in the midst of this, David prays, ‘Rescue me...’ (vv.1–2, MSG) and has total confidence that the Lord can and will deliver him (v.8). Later in the psalm, twice David calls on God: ‘O my Strength’ (vv.9,17).
He is able to say, ‘I did nothing to deserve this, God, crossed no one, wronged no one’ (v.4, MSG). David was not perfect (see, for example, 2 Samuel 11). However, sometimes you may face difficulties not because you are doing something wrong but because you are doing something right.
Cry out to God for help in times of personal difficulties. ‘Arise to help me; look on my plight’ (Psalm 59:4b). You can also cry out to God for help at times of international crisis. The very next sentence is a prayer for the nation (v.5a). At whatever level the opposition appears, ask the Lord for his deliverance, help and intervention.
O my Strength, help me to trust you in times of difficulty and opposition. Deliver us from those who oppose your plans.
Faith and emptinessJohn 6:25-59
Jesus taught about the centrality of faith. When asked, ‘“What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”’ (vv.28–29).
We are called, primarily, ‘believers’, not ‘achievers’. The way we achieve is by first believing.
Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life’ (v.35). When we are physically hungry we crave food. But as well as physical needs you have spiritual needs and a spiritual hunger. The bread Jesus is talking about is the Word made flesh, present with them as a friend. Jesus is offering us a personal, intimate, heart-to-heart relationship with him. It is the gift of his total person to each one of us.
Faith in Jesus fills the emptiness you experience and satisfies your spiritual hunger for purpose, permanence and pardon.
Physical bread is not enough. Material things alone do not satisfy. Money, homes, cars, success and even human relationships do not satisfy our desire for ultimate purpose in life.
The bread that does satisfy is the ‘bread of life’. This is not a commodity that Jesus supplies. He is the gift and the giver. The words, ‘I’ or ‘me’ appear thirty-five times in this discussion. ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (v.35).
It is easy, even once you have put your faith in Jesus, to get caught up either in material things or the trappings of religion. But it is actually only a relationship with Jesus that satisfies our spiritual hunger.
The expressions, ‘Believe in me’ (v.29), ‘Come to me’ (v.35), ‘Look to the Son’ (v.40), ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood’ (v.53 onwards) describe living in an intimately close relationship with Jesus.
We are all going to die. Death is the great unmentionable reality. Jesus says this life is not the end: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever... I will raise them up on the last day’ (vv.51,54).
Jesus promises to raise you up at the last day and that you will live for ever. You can have absolute assurance that your relationship with Jesus will outlast death.
There is both a present and a future dimension to this eternal life. They said, ‘From now on give us this bread’ (v.34). Jesus says it can be received immediately (v.35 onwards). Yet he also made clear that it will last for ever (vv.50–51).
Forgiveness is actually our greatest need. The atheist philosopher, Marghanita Laski, said, ‘What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have no one to forgive me.’ We all want to know that we are pardoned for all that we have done wrong.
Jesus said, ‘This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world’ (v.51). His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins. Every time you receive communion, you are reminded that Jesus gave his life so that you could be forgiven.
How do you receive this bread? Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth, whoever believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life’ (vv.47–48). While there is no separate account of Jesus’ institution of Holy Communion in John’s Gospel, here we see Jesus’ teaching on communion set in the context of faith.
Among other things, communion is a visible sign that helps us receive Christ by faith (vv.53–58). It reveals and nourishes the friendship Jesus wants to have with you. It is a gift of his love and a sign of his desire to dwell in you all the time.
Lord, thank you that through faith in you I have found a lasting purpose in my life, forgiveness for my sins and the promise of eternal life. Help me today to walk in a close, intimate relationship with you.
Faith and fallibilityJudges 10:1-11:40
As we read through the ongoing saga of the people of God sinning, crying out to the Lord and being rescued by Judges, we come across one of the most disturbing stories in the entire Bible.
Jephthah is described as a ‘mighty warrior’ (11:1). His mother was a prostitute (v.1). His half-brothers drove him away (v.2). He gathered a group of adventurers around him (v.3). He became a remarkable leader. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him (v.29), and he was used by God to secure victory over the Ammonites – ‘the Lord gave them into his hands’ (v.32).
However, there is an incident in his life that is almost unbearable to read. He made a vow to God that if God gave him victory, he would sacrifice whatever came out of the door of his house to meet him upon his return. It was his daughter, his only child. And, it appears, that is what he did (vv.29–40).
It is important to note that God never asked him to make this vow. Nor did he ask him to carry out the sacrifice. Indeed, it went against all the teaching of the Old Testament, which forbade child sacrifice. Jephthah never actually seeks God’s will in this situation. It seems to be his own pride that drives him to put his reputation above the life of his daughter. This shows the fallibility of even great people of faith.
In spite of his weakness, he is listed in the book of Hebrews as one of the heroes of faith whose weakness was turned into strength (Hebrews 11:32–34).
Lord, thank you for the way you use people of faith and turn our weakness into strength. Help me today to live a life of faith, trusting and believing in Jesus, who is ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35).
‘Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’
It doesn't matter what our backgrounds are, or other people's expectations of us, or even our perceptions of ourselves. What matters is how God sees us. EVERYONE is far more beautiful, loved and precious than we could ever know.
Verse of the Day
‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ (John 6:35)
John Stott adapted from, Michael P. Knowles (Ed), The Folly of Preaching (Eerdmans, 2007), pp. 137–138.
Marghanita Laski, quoted in John Stott, The Comtemporary Christian, (InterVarsity Press, 1995) p.48
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.