Summary: In our weakness we can always count on God to be our strength.
Strength in Weakness
There is a chorus we used to sing as kids that goes like this: - “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God cannot do.” You are probably familiar with it.
Of course when we sing it, do we really pay attention to the meaning of the words. Something to think about.
I thought this would be a fitting start to this morning’s message.
In the advance reading for today, you would have read the story of Gideon, who God called to defeat the Midianite army.
When God called him, his response was this, from Judges 6 - “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
God’s response was – “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”
You might remember the rest of the story with the fleece Gideon put out to get proof it was actually God speaking. Following that, God then pared down his rag tag group to 300 men to rout the Midianites.
As we can see in the life of Gideon, and many others throughout Scripture, God frequently calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Clear cut evidence of strength in weakness.
When we look at how God used Gideon we can perhaps learn that God can use us as well.
Gideon learned in short order that the “battle is the Lord’s”… the same message that David said to Goliath just before taking him out with a sling shot.
So … we can apply these following principles of weakness, taken from Gideon’s account, to us directly:
that God sees potential in every one of His own; that we are encouraged to ask God for clarification, when He challenges us; and when the Lord calls us He calls us to work to His plan, not ours … something we so readily forget. We will come back to these.
Having opened with that, I want to next deal Pauls take on strength in weakness, which we heard about in our Scripture reading.
Questions to consider then are these … what are the weaknesses Paul writes about? Second, what is the source of weaknesses; and third, what is the purpose of weakness.
First then, what are the weaknesses Paul writes about.
in verse 9 of our Scripture reading, here is what God had to say - "My power is made perfect in weakness" And Paul says, "I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses"? Then in verse 10 he says - "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses." That will make more sense in a minute.
In the end, he lists a number of annoying things such as insults, hardships, persecutions and so on. So, Paul is not talking about making bad choices. From that then we learn that weaknesses are not about bad behavior.
weaknesses are circumstances, situations and experiences that beset us and make us look weak; things we would probably get rid of on our own if we had the human ability. But we do not have the ability.
So the answer to the first question is that weaknesses are not sins but experiences and situations and circumstances that are hard to bear, that we can't remove on our own, because they are beyond our control. Yet they bring us down just the same.
So, what is the source of our weaknesses? Is it all God’s fault or Satan’s fault or both?
Well, consider Paul’s example of the thorn in his flesh. He describes it as a revelation of God’s glory … in short … to keep him from getting high on himself, so to speak.
It would have been easy for Paul because he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was highly educated and ranked high in society.
So Paul refers to this thorn in the side as a messenger of Satan. Based on that then, we know that some weaknesses are direct from Satan and his demons, as permitted by God.
But it is not that simple. Satan is not the only one at work here. Believe it or not, God is also at work. This thorn is not just the work of Satan to destroy. It is the work of God to save.
We know this because Paul describes the purpose for the thorn in terms of preventing pride.
Satan's whole design is to produce pride not prevent it. Satan wanted to make Paul miserable and turn him away from the faith. But God wanted to make Paul humble and turn him away from self-exaltation. So God appointed the thorn of Satan for the work of salvation.
Just like it was with Job—God permits Satan to afflict his righteous servants, and turns the affliction for his good purposes.