Sunday, November 11, 2012

We Remain Weak

It’s been awhile, I know.  Sometimes living life takes precedence over writing about it, I guess that’s the best way I can think of to explain it.  A season of quiet, but that doesn’t mean my thoughts haven’t been brewing or that God hasn’t been working.  In fact, I think it has been in times of quiet that He speaks the most to my heart. I was able to get away for our church’s annual women’s retreat last weekend and wow did God meet me!  There is something so special about times to slow down and draw near to God and other women, a chance to rest our souls at His feet and fellowship with focus over several days as opposed to the snippets we get in “real life”.  And if there had been no profound message to hear from a speaker, God would have used the mountains and the time away alone to refresh my spirit and speak volumes to my heart… but the message WAS profound, and I just have to share what God spoke to my heart.

Our pastor’s wife shared on a passage from 2 Corinthians, 4:5 – 5:21 to be exact.  I’m going to go ahead and quote the whole passage here to make it easy for youJ.  I encourage you to take a minute and pray right now before you read this, asking God to soften your heart to HIS message to you through the Word…

2 Corinthians 4:5–5:21 (NLT)“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.  So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

New Bodies
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.  God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.  So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

We Are God’s Ambassadors
Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.  Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

This passage has SO much in it.  I won’t regurgitate my whole weekend of notes for you, but I will share the main points God challenged my heart with.  I think many of us have read this passage, or portions of it, multiple times before.  But I love how God reveals new wisdom to us through the same scriptures, time and time again.  His Word never gets old or ineffective, amen?!  It is living and active!  Our speaker titled the weekend, “True Treasure in Common Clay”.  One of my favorite scriptures from this passage is 4:7 (NIV)-  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  I have rejoiced in this truth so many times in my life, that I am weak to reveal His strength, that God put His light and power in this weak, cracked pot on purpose so that it would be obvious that it’s HIM who’s doing a mighty work in me, not me being great by putting in enough effort.  But God pulled back a new layer for me last weekend.  Sara (our speaker) said something that the Holy Spirit burned into my heart and I haven’t forgotten it since.  She said, “we REMAIN weak, HE is forever strong”.  At first hearing, I think that statement can make us uncomfortable.  “Wait a minute,” we think, “isn’t He making me stronger, better in this whole sanctification (growing more into His likeness as we move towards heaven) process?”  She gave us these two equations to explain the point:
  1. God’s power + my weakness= my power
  2. God’s power + my weakness= God’s power
Sara pointed out that many of us see Jesus as an energy drink, which would be the first equation.  “just gotta drink a little more Jesus and I’ll be stronger for my tasks, better, less weak”.  But do you hear the self focus in that statement?  We have this agenda, these areas that we want to be stronger in, and so we’re asking God to fill us up for OUR purposes.  Scripture tells us something different, it’s not about us!  These cracked pots (that’s us who have been redeemed and reconciled to a Holy God ONLY by his grace, which comes through Jesus alone) will stay cracked, will remain weak, so that HIS strength, HIS power can be revealed.  We will not ever arrive in this life, and any growth and increased strength we have will not ever be because we’ve become less weak, it will only be because we’ve drawn nearer to the God who fills us, fixing our eyes on Him, abiding in Him, allowing His light to shine ever brighter through those cracks.

Friends, this was big for me.  Sometimes I find myself so frustrated and confused about why I’m still struggling with certain things, why I’m not seeing the growth I long to see, why I’m still so weak.  Can any of you relate?  But when we ask ourselves why we want to be stronger, I think we have to get really honest about why.  Could it be our reputation with others?  Our desire to do better for those we love in our own effort?  Maybe it’s a desire for proof that we really are new creations?  But here’s the promise, we ARE new creations, “the old has gone, the new has come!”  We have been forgiven, reconciled to God, adopted into His Kingdom, it is finished if we have put our faith in Christ!  And this, not because of anything righteous in us.  God’s power, HIS strength, has been put inside of us for HIS glory and our blessing.  We remain weak because He wants us to depend on Him, He wants the world to see the power of the Gospel , man’s need for Him, in our lives and know the changes they see, the joy in all circumstances, it’s not because we’re extra cool and strong and great, but because HE is.  And when we stumble and struggle and suffer, we cling to Him, fixing our gaze on the only one who can carry us through this life, so that others will see their need too.

What does this mean for us?  Does it mean we stop moving forward, stop putting forth effort? No, because if we did, we’d be ignoring the call to “live” for Him, to “walk” by faith, to “abide” in Him. These are action words. But it’s WHAT we’re living for and WHERE we’re walking (or running) to that we need to look at.

John 15:4-5 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.””
This  passage makes it clear that fruit doesn’t come from our effort, but from abiding in Him.  And it’s always evident that, apart from the Vine, a branch can’t produce any fruit. The questions I think we have to ask ourselves are,
  1. Where does strength come from?  My efforts to do better or more dependence on Him in my weakness?
  2. Whose strength is it?  Does more growth equal less weakness, or do we remain weak by design so His strength can be revealed?
  3. For what purpose do I want to be strong, my own agenda or His purposes?
  4. Can I really be content, “rejoice” in my weakness, because “His power is made perfect” in my weakness?
Father, thank you, with flat-on-my-face gratitude, for saving me by your amazing love and grace!  There is nothing in me that is worthy of your love, but You gave it anyway, at a price I can’t fathom.  Thank you for putting your glorious light in this cracked pot, this weak clay vessel.  As I remain weak, I cling, ever tighter, to your strength!  I offer my life to you Father, be glorified as you display Your strength in my weakness.  Make me more like you Father, not for me, but for You!  Amen


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