Rev. J.C. Campbell
WORKING IN MY WEAKNESS (July 2017)
Although I ended cancer treatment in April 2017, I am still very tired and limited in what I can accomplish as a full-time pastor and professional and in my many relationships with friends, relatives, and neighbors. My experience of weakness has been admittedly frustrating at times, but it has also been, by God’s good and gracious design, very beneficial for me and others. God is pleased to use our various kinds of weakness and limitations to remind us of important truths and refine our trust in him.
Weakness reminds us that our very life depends on God.
Weakness reminds us that our lives are but a vapor, that all flesh is like grass. We are reminded that God provides each and every breath to our lungs and beat of the heart. He has numbered our days (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16). He is the Creator who upholds all things, even our puny little magnificent lives, by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). We cannot take for granted even the mere fact of our lives. This reminder bears the fruit of gratitude and humility. Too often, when things are going well, we are tempted to forget how dependent we are upon God for anything and everything (Deuteronomy 6:10–12). Savings accounts, good salaries, ministry success, healthy bodies, or a charming personality can become the horses and chariots in which we put our trust (Psalm 20:7). When our weakness reminds us that we depend on God and his providence for life and breath, we find joy simply in knowing that we live by his good pleasure.
Weakness reminds us that God will give us new bodies.
Our aches and pains and inabilities point us to our future perfected body and soul. Feeling like you have one foot in the grave reminds you that you have one foot, already, in glory. Our longing for the resurrection is increased by weakness. As J.I. Packer writes, “Our new body . . . will match and perfectly express our perfected new heart, that is, our renewed moral and spiritual nature and character.” Our present weakness increases our yearning for the day when Christ gives us a new body that “will never deteriorate, but will keep its newness for all eternity.”
Romans 5:1–5 says those who have learned to rejoice in their sufferings will endure through trials, trusting God and growing in Christlikeness. That is because they look back to God’s reconciling mercy at the cross and forward to their full and final deliverance at Christ’s return.
Weakness reminds us that we deserve wrath, but receive grace.
All of creation, ourselves included, suffers corruption, pain, and weakness because of the sin of our first parents (Romans 8:18–21). And each of us individually has earned the just wrath of God for our own multitude of sins (Romans 3:23), let alone a little suffering in this life. We don’t deserve a weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), but a weight of wrath. Yet this world and our lives abound with so many good gifts from God. And we Christians have the best gift, Christ, who is our life and our eternal treasure. We have been spared God’s righteous wrath, redeemed, forgiven by God, reconciled to him, justified, adopted into his family. What mercy!
This reminder bears the fruit of sympathy and kindness.The weak, being reminded of God’s tender mercy and forbearance toward them, are assisted by the Spirit to better embody Ephesians 4:32–5:2: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
The Weak Will Conquer the World
All throughout the Bible, we see that God loves to draw attention to himself and grow the trust of his people by working despite and through their weaknesses and limitations. Consider barren Sarah and Rachel, bumbling Moses, Gideon’s small band, the young virgin Mary, and blue- collar Peter, among others. Jesus himself, the Lamb who was slain, ultimately demonstrates that it is meek sheep who conquer and win the world.
The great — and ironic — wisdom of the cross is that God chooses the foolish, weak, low, and despised to shame the strong and shut the mouths of the proud. God uses our weaknesses to remind us of important gospel truths and to refine our trust in him. So, for just a moment, try weakness.