Friday, July 17, 2009

Strength in Weakness

One of the most counter-intuitive teachings of Christianity is that we find our strength in weakness. We come to Jesus with all our warts, and he accepts us just like that. He knows it all anyway. Ironically, I can believe that as long as I feel pretty good about myself, but if I fail, the voice of theological reason is often drowned out by another voice yelling, "LOSER!"

A couple of years ago, I read a biography of George Mueller, who is most famous for running an orphanage and trusting entirely in God's daily provision for the children. He forfeited his family fortune in order to live by faith. As a result, his life consisted of one miracle after another. Mueller and his wife never doubted that God would provide. And God always did.

After feeling like a really lousy Christian in comparison, I focused on the reason for Mueller's spiritual victory: It was not at all a "Christian" disposition--it was the opposite. Before his conversion, Mueller was a sinner in every sense of the word. So he was never under the delusion that he had any natural goodness that could please God. Just like he trusted God to prove materially, he trusted him to provide spiritually. Only the God who set the standard could enable him to meet it. And few people met the Gospel standard like George Mueller.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, sinners have found ways of covering up. After the fall, Adam and Eve picked fig leaves to cover themselves, and hid from God. When God sought them out, Adam explained: "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." (Genesis 3:10) God recognized their need to be covered up and clothed them in the skin of an innocent animal.

In the same way, God will cover our nakedness with his innocent Son, Jesus Christ. When we come out from from hiding and stop denying our sin, God will clothe us with the righteousness of Jesus. Paul says in Romans 7:18: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not." By specifying "in my flesh," Paul is saying that he has no power to be good, but the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set him free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) His goodness is derivative--a gift from God that comes through faith.

The more we realize our utter inadequacy, like George Mueller did, the more victorious our spiritual lives will be. Self-sufficiency creates a barrier between us and God, but God's "power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) God is not looking for people who think they have it all together. He's looking for the broken, the sinful, the poor--so he can patch them up, purify them, and fill them with his heavenly treasure.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27: "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."

So the next time that inner voice calls me a loser, I'll just reply: "Thanks for the reminder!"

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