How to succeed by being weak

Christians are sometimes ashamed of their weaknesses, because the world will not — cannot — admit them. So we hide them, to our detriment. They are not to be flaunted, nor given rein, but they are to be confessed and delivered up to Christ, so that his power may work in them and through them.

The words of the apostle Paul about his weaknesses are not strange to us. But weakness is affirmed for the Lord Jesus as well.

“For indeed he was crucified by reason of weakness, but he lives because of God’s power. For we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power toward you” 2 Corinthians 13.4.

The third edition of Bauer suggests that Jesus was crucified because of “his vulnerability as a human being.” So here weakness seems to refer generally to “the frailty to which all human flesh is heir.” “The flesh is weak,” Jesus said, and this fact requires all the more attention and prayer. It is not a truth to cause surrender.

Murray J. Harris believes that Jesus’ weakness refers to his “nonretaliation or nonaggressiveness before men” as well as the weakness “of obedience to God” (EBC 10: 402). Such obedience apparently limited his response to evil’s powers and oppression, as it does our own response today.

Human weakness shows itself in individual manners. Some are weak in knowledge, conscience, faith, or body. In the body of Christ, human weakness is a motive for patience and demonstration of love.

Jesus became one of us, so therefore he assumed our weakened state. He gave up the glory and power of Deity. When we was crucified because of his weakened state, it was God the Father who raised him up. He did not raise himself up.

Paul wrote that we are weak in him. We do not seek recourse in the worldly ways of power. We do not respond according to the expectations of man. It takes two to fight, they say, and we refuse to engage others on the world’s terms.

To be weak in Christ is to acknowledge that our warfare and weapons belong to a different order.

“For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” 2 Corinthians 10.3-5.

While the world looks for megachurches and slick pastors with slick words, for megaproductions with smoke and mirrors, for multiple campuses with the latest technology, the saints of God develop love, joy, hope, and peace among themselves and proclaim a Christ who took on their weak condition.

Paul finishes the verse above by saying, “we will live together with him, because of God’s power toward you.” Paul has been writing about his conduct among the Corinthians. They are his converts. He has proclaimed Christ to them in a surprising way, not at all like the flattering philosophers or impressive orators they know so well. He has thrown them for a loop. And he insists on continuing this same conduct — with an exception. If their obedience is not made complete, 2 Corinthians 10.6, then they will see a demonstration of God’s power coming in their direction.

God’s power is saving power. The demonstration of his power in our weakness is not for our good only, but for the fulfillment of his objective toward the world, to save it.

Recognizing the weakness of many, the saint who seeks to reach others becomes like the weak. “To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some” 1 Corinthians 9.22. Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness, Hebrews 4.15, and we also are able to do the same with the weak in order to save them.

So in such weakness we glory, 2 Corinthians 12.7-10, because God’s power becomes evident and finds space to save and work. In this perspective we can move from shame to boasting in the Lord — if we have indeed surrendered our weakness to him rather than let it smother the willingness of the spirit.

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