In Pursuit of Weakness

Psalm 86:1–2
    [1] Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me,
        for I am poor and needy.
    [2] Preserve my life, for I am godly;
        save your servant, who trusts in you-you are my God. 

No matter how counterintuitive it is to us, weakness is the way of godliness. In Psalm 86, King David expresses this as he cries out to God. He is poor and needy. He is godly. David doesn’t say, “I am poor and needy. But I need to be godly. So bring me out of my weakness into godliness.”

He acknowledges his weakness and asks, as a child of God, for deliverance. This is hard for us to grasp because we see weakness as a hurdle to overcome on the road to spiritual strength. That’s understandable. After all, can you imagine an athlete aiming to be physically weak?  Or a physics professor exulting in intellectual shortcomings before students? What about a salesperson boasting about blowing an account to a potential client? That’s absurd (or so we think).

But we’re not talking about physical strength, intellectual prowess, or the ability to close a deal. Those things may be powerful forms of currency in this world. But in God’s economy, the currency is weakness. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10,

[9] But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)

When we boast in our weakness, we find ultimate strength in the power of Christ. How do we do this in our everyday life? Four things…

Embrace Weakness
We’re all weak. David’s cry in Psalm 86, Paul’s request in 2 Corinthians 12, and our every day lives in a fallen world are testimonies to the reality that we can’t endure what we face on our own. Whether it’s unruly children, a stressful season at work, struggles in marriage, or failure to conquer a besetting sin, we are not sufficient in ourselves to stand against these things.

Denying your weakness in pursuit of your own strength is a vain attempt to short cut God’s plan for your spiritual growth. By acknowledging that you’re a poor and needy creature, you’re one step closer to experiencing the power of Christ’s grace.

Pursue Weakness
Paul says that he boasts all the more gladly in his weakness. Meaning, he doesn’t just acknowledge that he’s weak, he pursues those areas of weakness in his life as opportunities for the grace of Christ to be displayed.

What if your shortcomings as a parent drove you to prayerful reliance on Christ? What if your stressful career led you not to self-sufficient pursuit of power, but a confession to Christian brothers and sisters- “I am overwhelmed. I need help!” The World steps in here and says, “You can do it! Pull yourself up. You have the power within you!” Christ says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Be Holy
Don’t misunderstand. The pursuit of weakness is not the acceptance of sin or the rejection of strength. We fight for Christ-likeness. We long for spiritual strength. But we know that it doesn’t come from within. Bryan Chapell helpfully writes,

“We do not proclaim grace (or weakness) so that anyone will make light of sin or of our duty to resist it. We herald God’s amazing mercy in order to join with the Spirit in stirring up in his people such a love for God that, when the day of evil comes, they will gladly put on the full armor he provides. Then, despite the hardships and the pain God’s people may face in the battle, they will stand strong in the power of his might.” 

Live Humbly
All of this should make us incredibly humble. What strength do we have that hasn’t been given by Christ? Do we have any reason to boast in ourselves? Yet when we cry out with David, “I am poor and needy” or with Paul, “I will boast more gladly in my weakness”, our good and gracious God gives an unending reservoir of strength in Christ.

Want to dig deeper? Check out this great little book by J.I. Packer, Weakness is The Way: Life With Christ Our Strength.

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