On Power and Weakness

How do we reconcile our powerfulness with our knowledge that for the sake of his glory in the gospel, God works in weakness?

It’s a hard question, I can’t evade the evident fact that all the people who I have met, who have been encouraged and accepted into our Bible Colleges, are powerful people.

this is the thrust of what John Woodhouse, the college principle, was saying this morning in our chapel address.

Are we powerful people? It’s uncomfortable even to be thinking these thoughts and asking these questions…

We exercise power when we lead groups of people in Church. We are exercising incredible power when we preach, or when people come to us seeking opinions and answers on topics or questions that might affect matters of eternal consequence. We can’t pretend that isn’t something.

The College students I know (and the only ones I know well are people that I love dearly) are incredibly gifted people. They are above average by all the standards which the world uses to assess these things. They are articulate, capable of critical thinking, able to exercise sound judgement under pressure, able to motivate and lead others, they people of integrity. These are skills which would make them successful in any sphere.

And it’s right that these gifted people should be our servants, giving themselves to serve our Lord Jesus. He deserves no less, the Church which he purchased with his blood deserves no less.

But in what sense are they weak? How are these clay jars?

“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.” (2Cor 4:7 HCSB)

The problem is this:

Even if we gathered all the best and brightest people together from throughout history. They could not achieve as much in an eternity of effort as God did with three spoken words.

“Lazarus, Come Out!”

If we have mistakenly thought that through the corporate exercise of our strength in sending and comissioning these people to be our ministers in the Church we could achieve more than God can in his weakness, we are hindering the Gospel, we are wrong.

Not only that, it might be that God is actually less likely to work through these.

Can I go on?

I think that Paul went on, even though he was potentially a powerful man. He went on by resolving, with the Spirit’s help, to never be stronger than the Gospel that he preached. Our weakness is to correspond to the weakness of that message. We cannot be more powerful than the death of a broken man on a cross.

“For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh.” (2Cor 4:11 HCSB)

given over to death because of Jesus… the strong will be made weak because of Jesus. They will be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, because of Jesus.

But just as the consequence of Jesus’ weakness unto death, was the resurrection to overflowing life. (the resurrection was the consequence of his death, not in spite of it).
So will the life of Jesus be shown in our weak bodies for the life of others. As we are weakened God will make his Church strong.

If we are gifted people, our weakness is not called into question by the gifts that God has given us for his service, it will be called into question by the way in which we use them.

“Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth.” (2Cor 4:2 HCSB)

The power is in the treasure within. The treasure must be allowed to shine through the cracks in the clay jars.

If you are reading this and thinking, – ‘I’m not one of the gifted ones’ – I’m not so sure what shapes God’s gifts might take. If you are truly weak, I wonder how much more clearly God has put his treasure on display in you. I’m not being trite: the broken woman who wept at Jesus feet and anointed him was a much more eloquent testimony to the grace and power of God than Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Maybe weeping before Jesus is better than any number of perfect 3 point sermons…

If you are weak then you are strong

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4 thoughts on “On Power and Weakness

  1. "Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses" – that's something that I've come to believe more and more as life goes on. Qualities that we are taught are strengths without exception need to be dismantled and sanctified in order to bring glory to God in our use of them. Our perceived weaknesses are like cracks in our clay pots, cracks which the glorious treasure of Christ shines most easily through to others, as you've said. There really is no boasting possible for the Christian… there is no strength apart from Christ, and no weakness when found in him, but Christ is all in all. Let it be so!

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  2. Amen,
    thanks Anna. These are painful lessons to learn. I feel like I've taken a beating in the past few days as God reveals to me more of that arrogance in the belief that I have a right to these gifts. We've got to hold the truth of God's power in our weakness alongside the great knowledge of God's grace. Power in weakness – the grace of God, complementary truths. Without the knowledge of the grace of God I would feel crushed by my weakness. Without the knowledge of God's power through weakness, I would mistakenly glory in what I believe to be my strength.

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