The Perfection Of Weakness

 

 

There’s a misconception, a lie if you like, that is pervasive within modern Christian church culture.  At one time I was fully immersed in it; maybe you have been also.  It goes along these lines:  ‘’As Christians we are called to be strong, authoritative personalities who know what we’re about, face every challenge with courageous determination, and exercise spiritual authority with grit and fortitude.  We are the mighty conquering army of Christ, His champions.  We just need to believe it and walk this world demonstrating the authority with which He has crowned us.” Sounds like scriptural truth, and so it is, but it’s not the all-truth that the Holy Spirit came to lead us into (Jn. 16:13).

And so it was that Sunday after Sunday, and mid-week also, the message of this desirable Christian “persona” was preached, quoted, sung, encouraged and expected among the congregation.  Unquestioned. For to question it would appear to display doubt and unbelief, which in such an atmosphere would mark us as less than committed.  We would turn up for our regular infusion of positive attitude, often wounded, wrecked and ragged from just doing life in this world, receive our group power shot and leave quietly repeating the appropriate verses and phrases to ourselves, feeling uplifted, strong and ready to slay giants.

For a day or so.

By which time we needed another shot. And by which time instead of feeling strong, powerful and invincible, we were beginning to feel defeated, condemned and worthless, in fact anything but this Christian persona we were supposed to be living.

There’s another Christian persona promoted among some Christian church cultures that teaches believers they are weak, sinful, wicked beings, powerless to change anything in this world, who must daily strive for holiness to please a disapproving God who will hopefully one day whisk them away into Heaven where they will never have to think about the horrors of this world again.  Let’s be clear this persona is just as false and impossible to live up to as the first one I described.  Both are rooted in man-made religion. Both are anti-Christ.  Neither are the Kingdom of God.

You may have spent some time in one or both of these environments, or you may not identify at all with either of them. If you don’t you can thank God for sparing you.  But there are many who will read this and will know to either a small or a large degree exactly what I’m on about.

Many of us have heard countless sermons, sung myriads of songs, and read innumerable books telling us if we just believe we are the strong, bold leaders, warriors and life-bearers the Bible says we are, we will be walking as the overcomers God wants us to be.  We are told over and over again that boldness, strength, determination and persistence are the character traits God values and needs in His people.  And if you’re lacking in these, well you just don’t believe hard enough.  We need to surround ourselves with “strong” brothers and sisters.  We need to come to more meetings, sing more songs, hear more positive preaching, until we DO believe, right?  Simple.

Here’s the thing.  In decades of being immersed in various church cultures – mainstream, Pentecostal, charismatic and several varieties in between – I never once heard a sermon to explain this:

And He said to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”.  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Power is perfected in weakness?  Really?  Bear in mind this is Paul quoting Christ.  Who among us, in our church environments of spiritualised positive thinking, ever considered such a concept?  As we told our stories and sang our songs about how strong we are, imagining Jesus in the background smiling, nodding and approving, who knew we were merely boasting in the strength of our own flesh?

Paul continues:

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friends, if we are intent on continuing the journey out of Christian religious culture and pursuing the Kingdom of God, we need a far deeper revelation of what it means to be content with weakness, and to be strong only when we are weak!

Personally, I am finding as the Kingdom expands within me, I am more powerless, more weak, more dependent on the indwelling Life of Christ than ever before in over fifty years on this Christ following journey.   Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not speaking of a weakness which is victimhood, nor am I speaking of a weakness that is grounded in fear and intimidation or indecisiveness.  Kingdom living requires courage and deep commitment.  But I am speaking of a weakness that manifests as utter and complete dependence on Christ’s love, grace and faithfulness at a deeper level than many of us have ever known.  A weakness that knows nothing for certain except that He will get us through whatever we’re facing, because there is nothing left in us that can do so.

In my life I have known others to call me a ‘’strong woman’’.  Determination has been one of my chief personality traits, even as a very small child.  More often than not gritting my teeth and drawing on my resources of sheer dogged determination have propelled me forward where others fainted by the wayside.  But at this point of the journey I feel the strength of that life-long determination fading as it is crucified along with other strengths of personality that are a stumbling block to my relationship with Christ.

I feel emptied.

On every level of life at this present time I am confronted with several impossible situations that are utterly beyond my influence or any semblance of control, no matter what I do.  The reality that only Christ can change anything, from relationships, to health, to jobs, to finances, to politics, to weather, to weariness, to life and death situations, is more palpable by the hour.  But so is the reality of His faithfulness and His ability to keep me, no matter what.

This is not comfortable.  Pursuing the Kingdom is a costly venture.  We may as well start to deal with the fact that strength in the Kingdom is infinitely different to what the world (and often the church) calls strength.  We may as well start coming to terms with the truth that God actually chooses the weak over the strong (1 Cor. 1 27-29).

Pursuing Christ and His Kingdom will cost you everything that is strong in your flesh and you will be left feeling powerless, vulnerable and fragile. You will be required to surrender all the natural talents and attributes that you have relied upon, including all that is so admired by the world.  But in exchange you will connect with the unmatched power of Christ’s endless Life within you and discover it is the strongest, safest, most trustworthy thing you can ever depend upon. And depend upon it you will.

Was this what Jesus was teaching us when He said “apart from Me you can do nothing”? (Jn. 15:5) Can it really be that He meant it…..literally? He Himself often repeated that He could do nothing on His own initiative. Absolute dependence on the Father was His life secret, hidden in plain sight (Jn. 5:19; 5:30; 8:28).   Absolute dependence on Christ is to be ours, as the Spirit transforms the Bride ever more deeply into His perfect image.  This is what it means to be found “leaning on her Beloved’’.

The perfection of weakness.  It’s the way to the strength we have so long pretended to own.  It’s the way of the Kingdom.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2018. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.



Categories: Life in Christ, The Bride of Christ, The Kingdom, Words of Grace and Truth

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16 replies

  1. Dear Cheryl, what a joy to see that again the Lord is speaking to us about the same thing. I tHank you for writing and Him for confirmation of what He is speaking to the Body.

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  2. Cheryl…

    Wow…and yes and amen are all I can say. Sharing this with others who will find your words a blessed confirmation.

    Thank you!

    Nanette (Houston, TX)

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  3. Hi sister…youre speaking to me today..and just in time..I can only say what the Spirit led me to say and on my heart..Yes..I have thought a lot of the same things..A Warrior?..and walk in my destiny?..I had learned dependence on God..and went to the worldly church and experienced the things youre speaking of..no negative talk ..and certainly not sick..
    I am where you are on this journey…and I love Sparks teaching which the Lord opened up to me in 2015..so grateful..and I love Paul..as he does..and many in the church and world do not…and it is toughness..sadly..Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword..
    thank you so much for this teaching today..
    Sandy

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  4. Of course you would know that Paul ‘had’ a thorn in the flesh which he described as a messenger of Satan which came after he had great revelations. I much prefer your 1 Corinthians reference, verse 27. Sounds like you’ve been reading the wrong books. I’ve get a few on this subject, mainly from America.

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  5. Cheryl,

    This past Sunday, one week after another debilitating bout with vertigo, followed by a day of such tiredness my whole body ached; two days after my in-law’s were here and I spent the morning at the local Veteran’s Hospital so my father-in-law could have the tests and pre-op work for his October 10th surgery to remove a tumor from his colon; one day after releasing cathartic tears pent up from emotions regarding, well, lots of things; that day (Sunday) as I sat on the table on our back patio hours before my oldest daughter’s baby shower where I would need to socialize and smile, I told the Lord, “I accept my weakness. I have nothing in me. I am dependent on You for all things.” The dependency never ends, though our mentality about it is quite fickle. After returning home from the shower, my youngest daughter learned that her husband’s grandma, who had had a stroke five days earlier was dying, which she did then in her sleep that night.

    It is relentless. Nary a rest between phone calls or needs that go above and beyond my ability to handle it. As you shared, I, too, have been known as a strong woman, or at the very least a woman with a strong personality. The Lord continues to use the circumstances that surround and close in around me to break me of my self, to empty me of my flesh, in whatever capacity that had ever been used. There is no way out, every door is closed but the Throne Room, the path’s I once wore down are washed out by His blood. This has been a consistent way for the last 11 years. I have battled against it, presuming I did something wrong and that’s why I could no longer manipulate or control ANYTHING. But in the last 2 years, He has made it quite plain to me that it is His hand, and I submit to it with more ease today than I ever did before, rebel that I was.

    It is hard to describe to one who has not been on this particular path of being emptied. The flesh despises this sort of thing. But the spirit is willing. And all this emptying and breaking is not the end result, it is His resurrection life within that comes through in the midst of it. This does not deny the hardships or trials or suffering’s, no! But as Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered, so do we.

    The things which we face, either by our own choices or others’ or simply because we live in this world, is not God’s disapproval of us, or punishing us, no! He is a kind and merciful and loving Father, and He will use anything and everything which is allowed to touch our lives for our benefit and His glory. Cheryl, I can say with 100% honesty that I am beyond grateful for all that has been allowed to touch my life in these past 11 years to get me to a place where I can know that about God – He is kind, merciful and loving whatever circumstance we are in.

    I’ve said enough.

    Thank you for writing this post.

    Much love,
    Becky

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Cheryl. Many times this past year I have found myself feeling and knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do except lean on my Beloved. His Word has once again given encouragement and enlightenment and the courage to stop trying to fix in my own strength.

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