Sunday, 1 January 2012

Strength in weakness

Are you weak? Do you feel weak? Do you know that you are weak? Are you wondering how you will ever cope with everything this year?

Here is a wonderful promise for the new year. It comes from none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God:

Jesus says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What is your weakness? Is it a physical weakness? An illness? A fear? A burden? A besetting sin?

The apostle Paul also had a particular weakness. We do not know what exactly this was. He called it a "thorn in the flesh". Maybe this was the same thing you have. But even if not, it does not matter. Jesus has the answer to all our weaknesses, whatever they may be.

Paul says he prayed three times to the Lord that this thorn in his flesh would depart from him. His prayer was answered, but not in the way he was hoping for. God did not take away whatever it was that Paul was struggling with. But his prayer was still answered...

Jesus answered Paul's prayer by telling him two wonderful truths:

1) "My grace is sufficient for thee."
2) "My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Jesus' grace is sufficient for everybody. No matter what your weakness is, how difficult your struggle, how hard your trial, how great your sin - Jesus' grace is enough. Look to Jesus. Come to Jesus. Cry out to Jesus for help. He is merciful and gracious. If you have fallen down and feel like you have lost it all, there is hope. Jesus's grace is sufficient.

Someone has defined grace as "God's Riches At Christ's Expense". I think this is a great definition. Grace is God's unmerited favour towards us, which came to us through Christ and His death on the cross. As sinners, all that we deserve from God is His just punishment. But because Jesus suffered this punishment for all those who believe on Him, there remains no more punishment for God's children - only grace. The grace that comes through Christ is all-sufficient and more than enough for every situation. Songwriter Chris Tomlin states it as follows in one of his songs:

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You're my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You're the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

This first truth that Christ's grace is sufficient is wonderful and you will find it to be true if you know Jesus as your personal Saviour. Remember:

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace.
And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.
(Jerry Bridges)

But the second truth is also very important...

Christ's strength is made perfect in weakness. The truth is that you will never know and experience Christ's strength until you recognise your own weakness and sinfulness. If you think you have it all together and do not need any help, if you think you are not such a bad sinner, then you will not know the grace or the strength of Christ. Jesus Himself said in Mark 2:17,

They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Will you admit your weakness and sinfulness to God? He already knows everything about you. There is nothing you can hide from Him. Jesus Christ did not come to condemn sinners, but to call them to repentance and save them. If you will turn away from your sins and place your faith in Christ as your Saviour, He will not turn you away. His all-sufficient grace is available for you today.

As I look forward to this year and the years ahead, I realise that I am attempting great things. My path to serve God in a foreign country so far has not been easy and it will not get any easier. I have not yet even properly left my home to live and work in another culture. I have not yet given serious effort to learning the language of the Indians, let alone given serious thought to the great responsibility of translating God's word for them. And, to be honest, I don't think I am the best person for the job. I know my own weaknesses and struggles. I know I am just a sinner, saved by grace. But I do believe God is calling me to serve Him in Mexico. And if God accomplishes anything good through my life, then it will be all His work through me - His strength in my weakness. All the glory goes to Him.

Jesus says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness."

What was Paul's conclusion about his "thorn in the flesh" after receiving this promise from the Lord? This is what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10:

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Paul recognised that his weaknesses ("infirmities") were actually something to glory in, to take pleasure in and to be most glad about. Not for the weaknesses as such, but because it was though his weaknesses and struggles that He saw his need for Christ and Christ showed His all-sufficient power and grace to meet his every circumstance.

May God also use our weaknesses in 2012 to remind us of our need for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we will run to Him and find Him to be our all-sufficient Saviour.

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