Monday, December 21, 2009

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: "In God's Strength"

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 30 Num. 46
“In God’s Strength”
First Published: November 20, 1997

As we face the challenges of life that God puts before us all, individually and corporately, we are deeply in need of a sense of our own weakness and utter dependence upon the Lord. Now this may seem strange advice, for it is completely contrary to the spirit of the age in which we live. Self-help gurus and confidence men constantly tell us: “you can do it,” “awaken the giant from within,” “you can achieve anything you want to, be anything you want to, do anything you want to,” “you have the power.” But nothing could be further from the thought-world of the Bible.

It is precisely the New Testament teaching which points us to approaching all our responsibilities in a posture of dependence upon the grace of the Lord. For Paul (himself a paragon of self-discipline and self-mastery) has told us: “[The Lord] has 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. 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” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
C. H. Spurgeon beautifully captured the proper Biblical attitude when he wrote: “A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, ‘I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory,’ defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength, for “it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength which He Himself imparts.”
The good news is that this Biblical view is both realistic and encouraging. It is realistic, because the fact is we all face challenges and circumstances that are beyond our control (“our battle is not against flesh and blood . . .”). No amount of effort on our own part can change that, so the sooner we learn to rely on the Lord and serve in His strength the better off we will be. It is encouraging, because we may be acutely aware of our weakness and frailty: to the point that we wonder “what’s the use of doing anything at all?” But reliance upon God’s grace, far from reducing us to passivity, is the great dynamic of consecrated Christian activity! Again Spurgeon tells us: “Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.”
A Spiritual awareness of our weakness, then, is not designed to prompt us to inactivity or passivity in the fight of faith, but rather to make us conscious of our need of a divine supply of strength for the living of the Christian life. Our third question for church membership beautifully captures this Biblical balance when it asks: “Do you resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?” Such an endeavor can only be successful if we are aware of our inherent weakness and thus avail ourselves of His Almighty power and resources. May God help us to do so.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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