Human Weakness; God’s Platform

In response to the apostle Paul’s prayer request to remove his piercing physical pain, the Lord Jesus says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This paradox might be difficult to understand for at least three reasons:

1. When we pray about our weaknesses, we usually ask and even plead with God to remove them and remove them as quickly as possible. We expect Him to answer our prayers of faith with a resounding yes. We might presume that God’s goal is to make us happy and to make us look good. So, it’s strange to us that God would say no and that He would offer what seems like a consolation prize – His grace. And that leads us to the second reason for our confusion over how Jesus responds to Paul.
2. Isn’t God’s grace just for our salvation? Yes, we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Salvation is not something we work for or earn in some way. It’s a free gift, graciously given to His enemies who quite frankly don’t deserve anything good from Him. After all, it’s God’s grace plus nothing equals salvation. But God’s grace doesn’t stop working when we are saved; it keeps on working, even when we are suffering. In the context of Paul’s anguish over his suffering, Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” No matter how much of it you use, His unmerited love and power never run out. What makes His grace enough for us when we are suffering? Jesus goes on to say, “For my power is made perfect in weakness.” Well, that clears it right up for us doesn’t it!? That leads us to the third reason for our confusion regarding this paradox.
3. It seems illogical to us that the power of Jesus could be made any more perfect than it already is – let alone be made perfect in our weakness. When Jesus says His “power is made perfect,” He doesn’t mean that His power is lacking in some way. He’s talking about how His power operates in those who are weak. To the degree that we rely on ourselves or on God determines how much grace will be operational in us. To put it another way, if we rely on our resources, fortitude, discipline, smarts, and grit, then God’s empowering grace will not be working in us. But if we fully accept our own inadequacies, humbly surrender ourselves to God and his purposes, and completely rely on Him, then the power of Christ will be fully operational in us. We do nothing except trust in Him to receive His empowering grace.
There would be no quick miraculous fix for Paul, but what Jesus had planned for Paul was to use his human weaknesses as a platform for demonstrating His surpassing power. And that’s why Paul would rather have God’s power at work in him than to have a perfect, pain-free existence. Suffering is awful, and Paul does not enjoy it. He experiences and feels its horror, and yet, he joyfully accepts it as part of God’s plan to showcase God’s power in him. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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.” Like the apostle Paul, when we rely on the resurrection power of Jesus Christ by faith, then others will not only hear the gospel of Jesus Christ but see it fully operational in us. When that happens, others have the opportunity to believe and receive the life-saving and life-transforming grace of God. And as God’s empowering grace extends to more and more people so that they too turn to the Lord and rely fully on Him, then more and more people join the innumerable multitude of all those who express thanks to the glory of God (Revelation 7:9-10). Human weakness is God’s platform for showing God’s power. So, help us God for your glory and our good! Amen!

False Advertising

Advertisers bombard us with images that depict beauty and power to entice us to buy their products. They enhance lighting, colors, and sounds to make their products more appealing to our eyes and ears. If the advertiser is successful, we will imagine how the product could make us happy and then develop a craving for it – even if we don’t need it! As a result, we set out on a quest to satisfy that craving.

The danger in this quest is that we may let others and our desires determine that the temporary things of this world are more valuable than the eternal God. Romans 1:25 tells us that many people exchange “the truth of God for a lie” and pursue created things rather than the Creator. The truth is that “[God] has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In other words, God has woven inside each of us a desire for something more – a craving to be part of something greater and more valuable than what we typically pursue. If we settle for something less than God, then our happiness will be temporary at best and our idolatry will separate us from God.

According to Isaiah 43:7, God created us with the innate longing to joyfully know and passionately declare His glory (i.e., His beauty, power, magnificence, and holiness). If we are going to see God for who He really is, then we need to look in the Bible for Jesus Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). We find Jesus throughout the whole Bible, but especially in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His value shines brilliantly when we look carefully at what He accomplished for us undeserving sinners in His sinless life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. Unlike those advertisers I mentioned earlier, there is no need for embellished stories about Jesus Christ. He is rich in grace, mercy, and love (Ephesians 1:7; 2:4).

How great is the One, True God who is absolutely perfect in beauty and power and overflowing with infinite worth! He is the joy we have been looking for and the healing we so desperately need. What do you love and admire about Jesus Christ? Join us on Sunday mornings at 10:30 AM and Wednesday evenings at 6:30 PM as we dive into the Bible and pursue truly seeing and savoring our Savior.

Holy Week Meditation

During this Holy Week, we are reminded of the great lengths and depths God went to make our salvation from sin, self, Satan, and death possible. For those who give their lives to God by faith and repentance of sin, “there is no condemnation” (Romans 8:1). They are in Christ, joined together in relationship to Him and thereby fully acquitted of all sin. Furthermore, those who are in Christ have been saved into eternal life. As our Savior prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said to our Heavenly Father, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Salvation is more than an escape from the eternal torment of hell (which we all naturally deserve); salvation is eternal fellowship with the living God (which is an astounding gift of amazing grace). Jesus goes on to pray for all those who believe in Him through His Word, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, … so that the world may believe that you have sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23). In remembrance of Christ’s finished work on the cross, let us “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave [us]. Therefore, be imitators of God (in His character and conduct), as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:32-5:1). 

Fortress of Solitude

Superman had a Fortress of Solitude. It was an Arctic sanctuary that reminded him of his true identity and renewed his strength. After one of his epic battles that nearly killed him, he absorbed the energies of the Fortress for healing. 
And then there was Rocky Balboa. In Rocky IV, he decided to train for his boxing showdown with Russian fighter, Ivan Drago, in the Siberian wilderness. He chose that remote place so he could focus on preparing for the fight. And it paid off! He defeated the giant!
For us Christians, God is supposed to be our fortress of solitude – He must be that place for us! In His presence, we are reminded of who we are in Christ. In His presence, our soul strength in Christ is renewed. In His presence, we can focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and armor up for spiritual battles. In His presence, we get to know God more and more. When we intentionally wait for God alone in the silence, God is pleased to strengthen our souls with His power and steadfast love (Psalm 62). Is God your Fortress of Solitude?
Jesus Christ practiced the twin spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. On numerous occasions, God the Son withdrew from the hustle and bustle of life and ministry for a quiet time of prayer with God the Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:1-13; 5:16; 6:12; 9:28; 11:1; 21:37; 22:39-42). He was strengthened for ministry and obedience to God’s will – even death on the cross!
Making His holy habits and sacred rhythms our own is vitally important. This is the way to soul strength for the daily journey.

Encouragement from Pastor James

Manic Mondays can really get us down. We may start the new week with great expectations, believing and hoping that this is going to be a good week. But then life does its thing. The Christian band MercyMe captures it well with their lyrics from “Hurry Up and Wait”…
90 miles a minute
Life’s a circus and you’re in it
Too afraid to admit it
You’re spinning out of control
A new school year is here. Deadlines are looming. Problems need solutions. AVALANCHE AHEAD! As hectic as your mind and schedule can be, please slow down, turn off the electronics, and sit in the presence of God. A very busy, pressured King David revealed the secret to his ability to keep going in Psalm 27…
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple (referring to God’s presence). 
Let King David’s lyrics challenge you to hurry up and wait on the Lord. To wait on the Lord is not just a matter of timing; it’s a matter of meditating on His promises and trusting that He will fulfill His promises at just the right time. It’s relinquishing controlling worry and believing that God is all your soul really needs for daily strength and steadfast love (Psalm 62). 
Almighty God knows our human strength is brittle and fleeting. That’s why He says through the prophet Isaiah, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31). Give your life and schedule to the everlasting God. He cares for you. He loves you. He wants you to enjoy Him. He gives sustaining strength to those who trust in Him. We can do no better than having God in our hearts and lives!