Are You Weak Enough for God to Use You?

Posted by Pastor J.D. on April 13, 2015
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There aren’t many societies that praise weakness. Ours is no different. Whether you’re a pastor or a police officer, an on-the-go salesman or a stay-at-home mother, weakness is seen as a liability. Nobody wants to be weak. Strong is the name of the game.

Sadly, our obsession with strength blinds us to a key biblical truth: God uses the weak. It’s so pervasive that you’d be hard-pressed to find a book of the Bible that can’t be summarized this way. And yet despite being hard-wired into the very DNA of Scripture, we don’t really believe it. We still clamor after strength. But God doesn’t need our strength to deliver us. In fact, our strength is actually more of a liability than an asset.

I’ll go a step further: God is so single-minded in his preference for weakness, that when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. Case in point: the Bible’s most courageous coward, Gideon.

Just before heading into battle with the mighty Midianite army, Gideon hears from God: “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). So God gives Gideon a couple of tests, designed to trim the ranks.

Test 1 is to send all the fearful people home. It turns out that’s a decent number, and 22,000 of Gideon’s 32,000 leave. (I wonder if Gideon tried to sneak off with them?) Now, that might not have been a foolish decision. Fear is contagious, so 10,000 brave soldiers are better than three times that many if 70% of them are wimps.

But if Test 1 was designed to create a braver army, Test 2 was only designed to create a smaller and weaker one. God tells Gideon to have his men drink from a stream, and all of the men who “lap like dogs” (who does that?) are the ones that should stay. It’s an arbitrary test, but an effective one: only 300 men remain.

God was teaching Gideon what he wants to teach us today: when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. That doesn’t mean God delights in bringing us pain, or that every instance of weakness in our lives is caused directly by God. But periodically, God will step into our lives and reduce the size of our army, because he wants us to trust him—and that’s often the only way we will.

So when we hear a tragic diagnosis from our doctor…or when we suddenly find ourselves out of a job…or when our marriage is on the rocks…we should see those as our “army” being reduced. Those are moments of decision: will we rage against God, or lean into him like never before? We are so obsessed with grasping at strength that pain becomes something to avoid, not an opportunity to learn from. But what if dependence is more important than strength? If dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage.

I hate learning that lesson. I’m sure you do, too. But weakness forces us to throw ourselves in desperation before God, and that is the only place—and the only posture—in which we can learn the four words that transform our lives: God is always faithful. You and I may never know that God is all we need until he is literally all we have.

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). You see, if we brag on our strengths, people may look at us and think, “I wish I were more like that … but I can’t be.” But if we brag on our weaknesses, that makes people think, “Wow, I have access to the same power that guy does!” Christians aren’t people who boast about their superior morality; they are beggars telling a bunch of other beggars where to find bread.

Beware your strengths. They are far more dangerous to you than your weaknesses, because your strengths keep you from hoping in God’s mercy. And boast in your weaknesses. Boast when God lets you fail. Boast when God reduces the size of your army. God isn’t withholding good things from you. In fact, he’s offering you something priceless. As Hudson Taylor said, “God wants you to have something far better than riches and gold, and that is helpless dependence on him.

 

For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.

Pastor J.D.

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J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

16 responses to Are You Weak Enough for God to Use You?

  1. When my wife left me, and as a result, started raising my 3 and 5 year old sons by myself I hated that passage in James, “Consider it pure Joy when you face trials” (James 1) because I knew I couldn’t endure the pain and still raise my sons. I came to understand that, like Gideon, I could not do all that I had to do to keep my family going alone and work full time so I was able to keep a roof over our heads and pay the bills. I quickly learned I was not equipped to be the nurturer the guys needed so I had to depend upon God in so many ways or we were not going to make it. I had to learn to “take His yoke upon me, and learn from Him for He is gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11) where our Family would walk our lives with Him, together.There have been many more trials we went through and many laughs He shared with us during this time, but I came to hear the rest of that James 1 verse that now means so much more than just the counting it all joy. For He says that the testing of my faith develops perseverance, and that working through perseverance develops a faith that is mature and complete, and not lacking of anything. I learned that we were never alone, and that He will provide as He did for Gideon, and what Joy can come out of some of the worst trials that we face, if we cast His yoke upon us and walk with Him through our lives. Praise the Lord for what He does with us and for us.

  2. This made me think of J. I. Packer’s thoughtful little book on weakness. He said, “God does not allow us to stay with the idea that we are strong. O, we may have that idea. But the Lord is going to disabuse us of it one way or another and it will be good for us and give glory to Him when he does so.” (J. I. Packer). See his deeply personal video statement on weakness here, https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/weakness-is-the-way/

  3. Praise God. I found this blog post via http://www.challies.com. What a wonderful blog post and excellent sermon. So much of what you say resonates with me.

    “weakness forces us to throw ourselves in desperation before God, and that is the only place—and the only posture—in which we can learn the four words that transform our lives: God is always faithful.”

    My family and I are in the middle of a life changing health crisis. On Sunday, the same day you preached this message, we were at the hospital as our church family was listening to our prerecorded testimony, the theme of which was, God is faithful.

    I Peter 1:6,7 says that the trying of your faith will prove your faith genuine. We are finding that the trying of our faith has proven the OBJECT of our faith genuine. God is proving that he is everything he ever said he was.

    His strength is made perfect in weakness. Hallelujah.

  4. J.D thanks, this is truly a blessed read

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