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Christ’s Strength Through Our Weakness

by David A. DePra


For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or that he hears of me.  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.  (II Cor. 12:6-10)

     The principle of, “strength through weakness,” found in this passage is not a religious position we take, or merely a fact to which we agree.  It is a condition to which we are brought -- by God in our relationship with Him if we would walk with Jesus Christ. 


     We could say this another way:  “Strength through weakness,” is the TRUTH being manifested in and through human beings who are rightly related to Christ by faith.  If you and I walk with Jesus Christ, “strength through weakness,” is the ONLY POSSIBLE outcome. 

     There are many places in scripture that teach this same Truth.  One of them is found in Genesis:

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.  (Gen. 2:25)

     This is Adam BEFORE the sin.  It is a description of God’s original design and intent for humanity – it is the way that God originally MADE man.  He was NAKED – he had no life, indeed, no resources at all in himself.  But he was NOT ashamed, that is, he was not conscious of his utter barrenness.  Why?  Because Adam was one with God.  In other words, God’s original design for the Adam race was that we be completely naked of all life, light, and resource in ourselves – but to have all that we need in God Himself.  In short, God made man to be a dependent creature – and God said that it was GOOD – because if man was dependent upon God, then God would not only supply all that was needed for life – but God Himself would BE the very life of the Adam race.


     How many see that this is nothing more than, “strength through weakness.”  The Adam race was made to be naked – completely weak within itself.  But to the extent that a person is dependent upon Jesus Christ for his very life; for all strength – a person is strong.  But that person is not strong in himself.  Neither are they made strong by God.  No.  They remain forever weak.  But it is through that weakness that such a person puts faith in Christ and lives in HIS strength.


      It is unlikely that we are going to truly grasp what Paul is describing in this passage if we continue to think that he is talking about God GIVING him strength to overcome; about God MAKING him strong.  He is not.  Paul is just as weak all the way through.  Sure.  That is why he says, “When I AM weak….”  Paul is talking about abiding in Christ by faith -- and for the power of Christ to rest upon Him and work through Him.  That is much different.


     Note the distinction:  Most of us think that God gives us, "a power," to use.  No.  God gives us His Son -- and tells us to abide and rely in Him by faith.  As we do, Christ is the power of God THROUGH us. 


      This is a principle that governs all – we can even apply it to sin.  God does not give us some POWER and then tell us to use it to conquer sin.  No.  He gives us CHRIST.   Christ is the power of God.  Christ is the power of resurrection LIFE.  Thus, do we want to overcome sin?  Turning inward and, “working on sin,” is futile.  Rather, turn to Christ by faith and LOSE the life in which the sin is rooted.  Then the sin will gradually lose power because death has been swallowed up by His LIFE.


     This is a simple principle and yet one to which most of us are blinded.  Why do we think that despite all of our sincere efforts to overcome sins and habits that we continually FAIL?  Didn’t Christ die to set us free?  Sure.  So what is the problem?  It is often that we are trying to overcome sin -- all the while holding onto the SELF in which all sin is rooted.  We don’t know any better.  But if we would LOSE our lives into the hands of Christ, and find Him as our life, the Cross would undercut the flesh life in which sin is rooted, and we would learn to truly walk in newness of life. 


     Now, make no question, that even unbelievers can overcome some things with various programs -- 12 step programs, psychological techniques, and rehabilitation.  But at best, these things merely rearrange our natural life in a more agreeable fashion.  But through Christ, we are set free, not merely from the sin, but from the bondage to the old life in which they are rooted.  We are brought into – not merely a better condition – but into newness of life in Jesus. 


     If an alcoholic goes through a 12 step program and attains a certain amount of freedom from that addiction, he may spare himself and others many consequences.  But this will do nothing to save him, or to bring him into the true relationship that God has for us in Christ.


     So we see that we cannot overcome sin as an item unto itself to the disregard of losing the life in which those sins find their power.  Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, will use even those futile attempts to overcome sin for our good in His purpose.  He will allow us to TRY to do what we cannot do – overcome sin – so that we may see the Truth.


     And what is that Truth?  That there is no power in us -- not even some power given to us by God -- by which we can achieve victory.  Thus, rather than lose heart over our failure to overcome, we ought to realize that perhaps God is showing us the Truth about ourselves.  For only then will we be able to lose our lives and be free to put our entire faith in Christ.  Put faith in Him – and as Paul, rejoice in being weak, and in those things that prove we are, because this will ever more press us to abide in Him -- His strength will be in us for all.


Not Religion


     People try and try to harness the power of God.  They think that the mere fact that Christ dwells in them by the Holy Spirit means that they should immediately be able to conquer most anything.  Experience proves it doesn’t work that way.  Why?


     Well, we are beginning to see:  It is not because Christ is not strong enough.  Neither is it because we are not strong enough.  It is because we are not WEAK enough.  Thus, we continue to try to overcome through the means of the flesh – only we call it, “the power of the Spirit.”  But it is NOT.  It is US – blinded into thinking it is by the Spirit of God that we are overcoming.  We have yet to be broken. 


     But again, what we need to see here is this:  To BE weak is not a matter of taking a religious position before God.  It is easy to think that if we need to be weak that we can simply agree with the fact and that will do it.  No.  As sincere as that might be, it isn’t the Truth.  No.  Neither can you do anything to MAKE YOURSELF weak – not being able to make yourself weak is a part of the weakness that we need to realize about ourselves!  God alone knows how to utterly and completely break the strength of our religious flesh and of personal agenda.  For Paul, it took, “a thorn in the flesh.”  For us, it will be the same – perhaps another form than the one God had for Paul, but it will be whatever drives a stake through our flesh and makes us completely unable to function in our own strength.  Then we will BE weak.  And we will be able to put our faith in Christ.


     What CAN we do?  Get on the altar of Romans 12:1-2.  Ask God to do whatever it takes to bring you into the reality of these things – into the reality of Christ.  That is surrender.  We CAN do that.  We CANNOT do anything else.


      This kind of surrender, of course, is nothing more than the work of the Cross.  When we take our place in the death of Christ, we are agreeing with God that natural man is to be ruled out and crucified.  Nothing of our natural makeup must drive our Christian life.  But no person is able to simply decide to do this – we cannot crucify ourselves.  Rather, we have to pick up the Cross God brings and ask Him – by faith – to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring us into the fullness of Christ.  Well, what it WILL take is that we be made weak in ourselves.  Only then we will be able to functionally put our faith in Christ and live in His strength.


The Ways of God


     As noted earlier, most Christian people have been blinded to the Truth that rather than GIVE us power, that Christ is to BE the power.  Sure.  Neither do many of us see that Christ is to BE our life – we still think in terms of Christ giving us life.  There are yet others who think that Jesus Christ came to bring out some latent strength, greatness, or life, that we have naturally in Adam.  Frankly, I think that all of these are the same error – a blindness to the Cross, and consequently, a blindness to Christ Himself.  Christ is the power of God – the Christ who dwells within us. 


     But frankly, how many of us have ever experienced Him in that way?  Not many of us.  Why?  Same answer as before:  We are not weak enough.  We cannot expect Christ to be the power of God in and through us unless our natural religious power is under the Cross.  Life requires death in God’s way.  Always.


     Of course, much of the blindness on these matters comes back to not seeing that Christianity is CHRIST IN US.  (Col. 1:27)  We are joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him.  (I Cor. 6:17)  See this basic Truth and we would see that the power remains fully in HIM, and never in us – even though we are joined to Him.  Be blinded to this Truth and you will be blinded to the fact that Christ is our life, our Truth, our sanctification, our power, and all else to us.  We will still think that these are THINGS that God gives us because of Christ.  No.  God does not give us THINGS.  He gives us His Son IN WHOM are all things.


His Strength through Weakness


     Note that Christ is not my strength merely because I am weak.  No.  Yes, I must be weak – but out of my weakness I must nevertheless abide by faith in Christ.  There are plenty of Christians around who are weak failures but who do not abide in Christ by faith.  It is only if we embrace our weakness by faith and embrace Him as our strength that we are walking in His life.


     Now, practically speaking, what this will mean for the saint is that we will be absolutely helpless before the Lord in all things.  But not only that – we will rejoice in the fact.  We will know that we can DO NOTHING – and we will rejoice because our faith is fully in HIM for all things.


     There are two levels upon which we will discover we are helpless.  First, we will, as noted, be able to do nothing without God.  But second, we will realize that there is nothing in us that can move God.  Christians easily confess that without God we are nothing.  But have we realized that WITH God we are likewise nothing?  Sure.  We are naked and unashamed, or ought to be.  We are nothing – we have no strength to do anything, and no strength to get God to do anything.  But our full reliance is upon Him through Christ for all.  In short, even as a born again believer we are NOTHING – but have our faith in He who is everything.  That is the Truth.


     This kind of helplessness to move God throws us completely at the mercy of His love and grace.  It means that He must decide.  It means that we are following Him, and not trying to get Him to follow us.  Do we realize that God has always had a plan and a purpose for us that HE had taken the initiative to execute?  I’m not so much talking about an outward purpose in our lives as much as I am talking about the inward spiritual purpose in Christ.  Or are we still trying to convince God and inform Him?  The silence of God in our lives is sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes answered on just this point.  God already is moving on our behalf – HE IS SHOWING US WE ARE WEAK AND NAKED.  But in our ignorance, we continue to try to impress the Lord; we continue to try to be strong.  And we don’t know the difference.


     The ways of God are not our ways.  The natural man cannot receive the things of God – they are folly to him.  The flesh wars against the Spirit.  What we think is normal is abnormal, and what we think is abnormal is normal in the eyes of God.  God’s NORMAL man is exactly what we read in Genesis:  A man who is NAKED and unashamed.  We usually think that normal is a man who is STRONG – even if we attribute that strength to that which is given by God.  No.  We will never be strong, not even because of Christ.  We will be WEAK because of Christ and His Cross.  But then the power of Christ can rest upon us – the Lord will then BE our strength.


False Strength


     As noted, God does not really MAKE us weak – He simply shows us the Truth:  We are weak.  In fact, we are spiritually dead.  Of course, the flesh can seem quite strong – which is a delusion.  Now, if we were talking about the earthly realm, I suppose we could say that our flesh is actually strong.  But in Christ we are talking about the spiritual, or heavenly realm.  Up against that, the flesh is not only weak – but any strength of the flesh is really a façade.


     There are many versions of false strength, based in the flesh.  These are all LIES. Perhaps the worst kind of all is the strength of religious flesh.  Conditions like self-righteousness are lies.  Likewise, people mistake great emotionalism for the power of the Spirit of God.   But regardless of the manifestation, man without Jesus Christ IS A LIE.  The only man who is a true man before the Lord is one who knows, rejoices in, and IS WEAK in himself – but has faith in Christ.  Again, naked and unashamed – a restoration in Christ back to God’s true relationship with man.


      God had brought Paul into the Truth – the Truth that exposed Paul as utterly weak.  But that same Truth revealed Jesus Christ – in whom Paul put his faith and reliance.  This meant the power of Christ rested upon, and lived within, the apostle Paul.  Do we want to be guided into all Truth?   To come into the fullness of Christ?  Then we have to come to where Paul was brought – we have to become naked and unashamed.  And we must STAY in that Truth.


Rejoicing in Infirmities


     No one could ever rejoice in their infirmities and weakness.  No one could ever find joy in suffering.  Not unless it was that IN those things, and THROUGH those conditions, that they found Christ.  I’m not talking about salvation.  I’m talking about coming into an inward realization and revelation of the living Christ through weakness.  It only follows that if weakness in ourselves is the key to Christ as our strength that we are here talking about a dimension of Christ as our life – we are talking about a real experiencing of Christ as our life – that is only found through this work of the Cross.


     The strength of the flesh carries blindness.  It may not be on purpose.  Indeed, we may not even be aware of it.  But to the extent that we are strong in ourselves, we are in darkness – that is because we are operating from out of the earthly.  It is only as God breaks the power of darkness and the flesh – exposes us as weak – that we can see Jesus.  Then we can put faith in Him.


     Thus, what we see is that we must LOSE our lives.  Then we will find Christ AS our life – and in doing so – find Him as our strength through our weakness.  As you can see, this is not merely a one-time act.  It is an eternal relationship that is ongoing in the Truth.


      Paul experienced firsthand what it meant to be weak in himself, yet strong in Christ.  Indeed, it said it is the doorway to so much that God has in His purpose:


But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:  That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;  If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  (Phil. 3:7-11)


     Paul said he lost everything about himself – including his self-righteousness before God – but note what he said was the result:  “for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”  He also said he suffered the loss of all things, “that I may win Christ and be found in Him.”  MY righteousness.  MY worth to God.  MY strength – even if I think God has given it to me.  MY….MY….I.   But Paul said, “Yet NOT I, but Christ.”  May God bring us by His grace into this same experience!  He desires that more than we desire to have it.

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