Weakness vs. Strength

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Welcome to Meditation Moments, and a sincere “God bless you!” I do trust you will be a wonderful blessing to others today. You will be if you look to the Lord.

We’re reading this morning a wonderful passage of Scripture. I think it’s one of the most wonderful in the book of Isaiah. It’s in the fortieth chapter and begins with the twenty-eighth verse:

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as the eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” God’s Word says here that “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”

Now on turning to 2 Corinthians the twelfth chapter and the tenth verse, you’d be very puzzled by a strange statement that’s similar to this one that I just read you. It’s about the apostle Paul, the great scholar, the talented writer, the outstanding Christian apostle, something that he says of himself. He says, “When I’m weak, then I’m strong.” Now if you’ll note to whom Paul is writing, it may help us to find the answer to so strange a statement, because Paul wrote these words to the Greeks. The Greeks exalted perfection of the physical body above everything else, not only through their national races and games, but they made it also the basis of ancient Greek art and sculpture.

They had absolutely no use for a weakling, and they had given the impression that they believed that Paul had some kind of weakness, and Paul gives us also that impression. We don’t know what it was; no one has ever known. There’s been much conjecturing. We know from what Paul writes elsewhere that they attributed other weaknesses to him and scorned the man that had been stoned, whipped, or imprisoned. This did not at all constitute their ideas of strength. Also, Paul’s manner of organizing, sustaining the church, was to them contrary to all human logic.

They didn’t understand that God frequently works contrary to human logic and natural expectations. That God has His own way of doing things quite contrary to our ideas, for He says in His Word, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

The Greeks inferred also that Paul was not an orator, that his speech was contemptible.43 The greatest ambition of a Greek was to be an orator. Now the lack of the gift of oratory was just simply weakness to them, and they reasoned man’s way about it. For God’s way has always been that it’s the Spirit in the speech, not the oratorical power, that counts. Paul said it is “according to the power that worketh in you,” so this that the Greeks called weakness, God calls strength (Ephesians 3:20). Truly an asset!

How many times we can prove that we’ve heard some humble speaker not gifted in oratory, not learned in man’s wisdom nor trained in man’s colleges, but so filled with the Spirit of God that he literally swept an audience along on the tide of his earnestness, and the power of God manifested through him.—A man so humble, so emptied of self, so weak in himself that God had a chance to work through him. Thus his very weakness became his strength. When he was weak, then he was strong, just as Paul says: “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

The Word of God says, “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Then the Lord comes and supplements such weakness with His strength. When they are the weakest in themselves they become strong in the Lord in their dependence on Him. So what the Greeks in ignorance of spiritual things would have called weakness becomes strength. “To them that have no might he increaseth strength.” That’s Isaiah 40:29.

When we are so sure of our own strength, so confident of our own powers, the Lord leaves us to walk alone in the strength we are so sure of. I’m reminded of my daughter when she was a little tot just learning to walk. She was naturally very impulsive, with much initiative, and she insisted on trying to walk by herself rather than let me hold her hand and guide her. She really couldn’t walk alone, but with her independent spirit, she’d pull away and over and over again she’d launch out by herself, falling, bumping, bruising, until always that child—well, nearly always—she bore the marks of her declaration of independence on the end of her little nose.

How many of our lives bear the marks of our independence, the wanting to lean on our own strength, until sometimes broken, defeated, disappointed, we learn our lesson. What a pity that we should depend upon the human when we can have the divine, that we should draw only upon natural resources when we can have all of heaven’s resources at our command. How strange it is that we should insist in walking in our own strength, depending on our own wisdom, when we can have the power of Almighty God!

All His riches link with our life. And the wonder of it is, the Lord wants to be our ally; He longs to strengthen and comfort and supply. He longs to give His strength to us. But if we insist in walking by ourselves in our own strength, just as I’ve said, He’ll leave us to stumble around till we find how little strength we really have in ourselves. He’ll just walk off a stage of our lives and leave us to ourselves, until the foundations of our pride and confidence in human strength has been shaken and we at last come to the realization that our human strength is only weakness.

May I say that what’s true of individuals is certainly true of nations: relying on human endeavor, on all sorts of ammunitions, munitions, and our new atomic bombs, and all of this. If we are going to rely on those things instead of upon God and upon His strength, then we’re going to be left without the help of our great ally, our mighty God.

Moses was weak and stammering, but he became the greatest lawgiver the world ever knew. The disciples were unknown and mostly unlearned men.44 But oh, those weak men and their influence is felt to this very day, because they realized their weakness and put no confidence in the flesh.

Such things are a blow at man’s pride, man’s idea of strength. We know that. God has little use for pageantry and all of this preparation and arms. I know that sounds like a pacifist, and I don’t mean that. I believe that we are to do all we can, just as Jesus told them to roll away the stone, but He did the raising of Lazarus.45 But beyond all that, we must look to God for the strength.

We must take into account God’s power, because He pours contempt on military strategy when He’s ignored, often giving the victory to the minority. Dearly beloved, just let us look to God very definitely and search our hearts to see if we really are depending on Him or if we are looking to Him in such a way as we should, not leaning upon our own strength. He’s saying, “My strength for your weakness is My provision for you.” So the humble, the meek, the weak can thus become strong, and your testimony will be, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Remember, all of God’s spiritual giants were weak men who became great strong men by God’s power. God says, “I will dwell in the humble and contrite heart,” while the world puts its confidence in the arm of the flesh.46 You put your confidence in the Lord alone, because He counts all those things weak things. Not to the strong is the battle, He says.47 All these things are in God’s sight the weak things, but the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.48 So ask for His wisdom and His strength. God will give it to you.49

Let’s bow our heads in a word of prayer again. Father, we pray that Thou wilt help us to be humble and contrite in spirit, with no confidence in the flesh, as Thy Word says.50 Grant to lead us into the path that will keep us childlike in faith, continually conscious of our own weakness, so that we can diligently seek and depend utterly upon Thy strength.

Oh, I love this old song that depicts this very thought this morning.

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come.
Into the joy and light of Thy throne,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious light to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

William T. Sleeper, 1887

So out of our weakness we come to His strength, because when we’re weak, then He is strong. Let’s remember that God is still on the throne and prayer changes things.