The weakest link
I was recently reading in a children’s bible story book and came across a simple but profound picture.
It asked the question, “What is God’s launchpad in your life?” It then had a picture of a rocket. But instead of the words, ‘strengths, skills or characteristics,’ it went on to explain how God uses our WEAKNESSES in order to show His strength.
It struck me that I try and hide my weaknesses from others and maybe even from God.
What about you?
In our world of Instagram, Facebook and twitter we don’t parade our failings. We filter our photos and only put the best of ourselves out there for others to see, don’t we? We sanitise our lives.
Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, knew the secret of strength through weakness. Complimented once by a friend on the impact of the mission, Hudson answered, “It seemed to me that God looked over the whole world to find a man who was weak enough to do His work, and when He at last found me, He said, ‘He is weak enough—he’ll do.’ All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.”
All God’s giants have been weak men and women.
I want to encourage you today to do something a bit unusual. I want you to start to identify and even USE and exploit your weaknesses for God.
Many management gurus and self-help authors have written countless books and articles designed to help people locate and maximise their strengths. This is useful but it’s not the whole story. You see God doesn’t start with our strength.
Like that rocket picture I mentioned earlier, God starts with our weaknesses. In God’s kingdom our weakness is what qualifies us to be in His story.
Let’s have a look at arguably one of the most famous passages in the Bible connected to weakness. It’s from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 from the writing of Paul. I am working from the AMP version which is the one with all the crazy brackets everywhere.
7 Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; 9 but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. 10 So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].
Paul mentions a number of great purposes for his weaknesses.
- To help him get revelation (v7) Which one of you needs wisdom for a situation right now? Is it financial, family, friends, health, the past, the present or the future. God promises to give us revelation doesn’t He? Daniel 2:22 New Living Translation says this of God.
“He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light.”
What deep and hidden things are eluding you right now?
What battles are you coming up against?
Stop trying to be strong about them and give God your weakness in them.
He is the answer. Not us. Our weakness helps us get revelation!
- “To keep him from becoming conceited” (verse 7). No-one loves a show off. Conceit is an ugly thing isn’t it? It’s fine to be confident… but not in our own abilities and powers. Each of us need again today to thank God that anything we have and anything we are is not because we have worked hard for it… although that might have been part of the journey… it’s all about what God has put in to us. I Chronicles 29:14 in The Message version says “ Everything comes from you; all we’re doing is giving back what we’ve been given from your generous hand. “
Recognising that, allows God to be strong.
Years ago I did my first talk at a youth event. I was so nervous I was physically sick. I cried. I tried to learn the talk by heart. I had written it on postcards to help me. I paced up and down to try and learn it. When I went on stage I was so nervous I dropped them all but none of them were numbered! So, when I picked them up I couldn’t remember what I was saying. I got through it as best as I could, but I was sweating and uncomfortable. I came off stage afterwards and fell into the arms of Joy Clark my mentor at the time.
“Please never make me do that again!!” I wailed.
“I have some bad news for you babes.’ She said.
“You were really good and I am sure you are meant to be a speaker.”
“What? I can’t put myself through that again, ever.”
But I did and I have.
God is so kind to us. He won’t let us repeatedly fail. He will strengthen us and put good and godly people around us who will lead us and teach us. But he won’t ever want us to get conceited and think it’s all about us.
- That “[Christ’s] power shows itself most effectively in weakness” (verse 9). When have you felt at your most weak? Maybe it was when you were facing that operation, or when you husband walked out, or when you lost that friendship? Did God leave you to it? No of course not. He has proved himself strong to you since. He has shown you his love for you. Even today it is not an accident that that you are here in your room reading this. You may have even gone on to do something amazing because of your pain. I have found in my own life that my pain has given me the authority to speak into situations and into people’s lives that I would never had had the courage to speak into before.
Our weakness and our pain qualifies us to be effective for Christ.
- “So that the power of Christ may rest upon and dwell on him. (verse 9). Someone once gave me a picture of a dove resting on me. She spoke about the spirit being like a dove. Now that dove is not going to stay if I make sudden, or jerky movements. In order for the power of Christ to rest on us, we need to check in with Him about our movements. Some of us are in a tearing hurry to get lots of things done. We are living exhausted lives. (If you are there is a good book for you ‘The rest of your life.” (see the resources page on this website to get your copy)
What do people meet when they meet you? Do they meet your stress and anxiety and busyness or do they meet your friend, Jesus? Perhaps today you need to still yourself and enable God to dwell in you in fullness.
I met a lovely lady called Rosie last week when I was speaking at a women’s retreat. One day Rosie went for a spa day with some friends. They all had a facial. The other ladies all came out of theirs and looked for Rosie but she was nowhere to be found. The lady giving her a facial told her “I can’t take my hands off your face.” She was touching her face, but there was power radiating from it! The lady asked her why. Rosie was able to share with her all about the power of Jesus.
Another lady I know who is a missionary called Heidi was bought a massage. When she arrived, it was a reiki one and she didn’t want to go through with it. But the Lord told her to stay and that he was with her. The masseuse came out from the back and screamed the place down. She could see a massive angel next to Heidi! Heidi led her to the Lord. Who is on you? Who is with you? Your weakness allows God to work.
- For when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]. (verse 10). I love how upside down the kingdom of God is! We are so limited in what we can make. We can only make what our ingredients allow. If I have yeast and flour and salt, I can make bread. I can’t make steak and chips. But God can anything from its opposite. God doesn’t need to create using ingredients that make sense. He can make light from darkness, life from death, hope from despair.
Even though this weakness of Paul’s – and we aren’t sure what it was – was called “a messenger of Satan,” Satan doesn’t get to win anything from it.
Some of the more popular theories of the thorn’s interpretation include temptation, a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, and a speech disability. Some even say that the thorn refers to a person, such as Alexander the coppersmith, who did Paul “a great deal of harm” (2 Timothy 4:14). No one can say for sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but it was a source of real pain in the apostle’s life.
The point is that we all have something secret and painful to deal with – a fear, a disability, something from the past, an enemy… Our enemy the devil wants to bring us down with that thorn. He reminds us of us doesn’t he? We get that voice in our heads… You will never be free of that issue! You will always have a weight problem. You will always struggle with pain in that knew. You will never get on with your sister.
But that might not be true.
God overrules. Wherever our weaknesses come from, they have a God-given purpose. They are able to be used in God’s ingredients book for our good and his glory. He doesn’t always remove difficulty but he provides comfort and strength for us to cope with it.
What is your goal for the next year?
Perhaps you could ask God to help you with your weaknesses. Maybe we could stop complaining (to God and to people) about the things we are not good at. And, look for ways to turn our weaknesses into ways that can be used for God and others.
God has ordained that, through genetics or life-experience, we are limited, broken, weak. Paul asked that God would take his weakness away (verse 8), but God said no. I find this interesting.
I remember praying that God would take away my burdens and he just gave me a stronger back. Perhaps for some of you, you need to change your prayers today… perhaps we should stop praying against the weaknesses we struggle with and accept those things as God’s design for our humility and his story.
John Piper said, “This year, don’t focus too much on finding your strengths. Give attention to identifying and exploiting your weaknesses. God has not given them to you in vain. Identify them. Accept them. Exploit them. Magnify the power of Christ with them. Don’t waste your weaknesses.”
Years ago there was a TV game show called “the weakest link” If you lost, the presenter said “You are the weakest link, goodbye!”
God says the opposite, “You are the weakest link, hello. Welcome. I know exactly where I can use you. You are mine.”