Summary: God perfects His strength in us through our weaknesses and reminds us to put no hope in our abilities.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in Hollywood started preaching the gospel? Just imagine how much easier and exciting it would be! Or what if someone donated a billion dollars to the church? Just imagine all the good we could do: we could build a family life center, have a brand new building with all the latest technology, hire a full-time staff for every age group, get our own jet for missions, put in a Starbucks at all the entrances, and be the most attractive church in the state! Or wouldn’t it be wonderful if God gave us super-human powers so that we never get tired or cranky or sick? That way we could minister and preach for hours on end without ever stopping! Or we could learn and read and keep learning until we know so much that we never have to struggle with truth anymore. Wouldn’t that be great?
I’m stretching it, but these wishes aren’t too far off base from what’s often wished by well-meaning Christians. The trouble is that none of these desires cause us to depend on God or give Him alone glory. “God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise” (I Cor. 1:27). As far as the world is concerned self-reliance and control over your own life is the pinnacle of achievement. To be free to do what you want and to be in charge of your own comforts is the main goal. This is why there’s such a hunger for money, power, and fame. But faith is the opposite of these things. Our money comes from Him and it’s spent to His glory. In fact, we value Him far more than the “rubbish” our money buys. Our power is the power He gives us to live and to accomplish His will. Our fame is only what we find in Him: we decrease and He increases. But how do we keep this in mind?
Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Proverbs 30:7-9).
Agur knows that too much contentment will cause him to forget about God. Too little necessity could cause him to abandon the Lord. So he asks to be kept between the two points—don’t give me too much that I forget, and don’t give me too little that I give up. This fits right in with what Jesus commands: Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself (Matthew 6:25-34).
The idea is that (1) we don’t strive for the things that we know God will provide, and (2) we accept the limitations and weaknesses God imposes on us knowing that they cause us to keep seeking Him and that He receives glory for it. Our strength and assurance isn’t in our flesh but in our God. I want to give you two specific examples from the Scripture. One comes from the life of Paul and the other comes from the Israelites in the Old Testament. Let’s look first at Paul’s weakness:
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, [who was] caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (II Cor. 12:2, 4).
He gives his account of being caught up into heaven and taught by Christ! Now, what pride he could have taken in his experience; Christ Himself has taught Paul and even brought him into heaven to do it. Apparently Paul’s done something special, right? Apparently he’s a super-saint: