The Throne of Grace: A Meditation on Hebrews 4:16

In a recent post we considered the value of scripture meditation. One goal of meditation is to slow down and prayerfully consider key words in order to draw out riches from the text. Let’s try this together in Hebrews 4, with a focus on verse 16:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (ESV)

  • With confidence draw near: Come with boldness, openly; Come without hesitation, doubts, or fears. God is calling us to the privilege of a personal relationship. He is calling us to come without pretense or hiding, yet with absolute assurance that He will receive us.
  • Throne of grace: First, we are approaching a throne: God is a holy, sovereign King. We are not His equal. He is our almighty creator who has all power and dominion. Secondly, the throne is described as being of the essence of grace: God is benevolent and loving. He does not treat us as we deserve. He grants favor, approval, and provision.
  • That we may receive: To take in hand. He is calling us to come expectantly; without fear of rejection or leaving His presence empty handed.
  • Mercy to help: Benefits that result from compassion. God does not just pity us and send us on our way. From his great compassion we will receive assistance, divine aid, relief and safety.
  • In time of need: Literally in season or timely. The verse is not simply calling us to run to God when in affliction (although certainly we should). But here is a call to continually draw near to God and He will ensure you lack nothing; you will have all that you need, often before you realize you need it.

I was encouraged by one of our church members who shared how they were walking through feelings of condemnation over a recent struggle. Yet God used this passage to remind them that He understood their battle and that they did not have to be afraid to seek Him in the midst of their discouragement; that in His presence they would not find further condemnation, but rather the help they needed.

Of course the foundation of these precious promises is the active, ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ as our advocate. Verses 14-15 teach us that we can only take hold of the hope in verse 16 if Christ has first taken hold of us. As John Gill once wrote:

To Christ the saints come for pardon and cleansing, for a justifying righteousness, for the acceptance of their persons, the presentation of their services, and for every supply of grace. From Him they may expect to receive mercy, since it is kept with him and is only dispensed through him.

So will you and I take God at his word and flee to Christ – through practices like worship, prayer, community, and scripture meditation – that we may boldly draw near to His throne and find the help we all so desperately need?

Delighting in God through Scripture Meditation

The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation – Thomas Watson (Puritan preacher and author, 1620-1686)

If you were honest, how would you describe your time in God’s word? A drudgery or a delight? A chore or a gift? The reality is many Christians find reading God’s word to be more of a duty than a relief. While knowing it is beneficial, we often relate to it as a necessity for spiritual growth rather than a gift of grace.

Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:2-3 (CSB)

1Peter 2:2-3 instructs us to take in God’s word, but not as a religious burden. Peter teaches that we should desire God’s word as a baby desires milk: earnestly, longingly, affectionately. And this will be possible, he says, if we have known the kindness of God through personal experience. This last statement is very helpful. While it’s possible for us to naturally grasp the benefits of Bible intake, we can not generate affection for God or His word in our hearts. Delight in God, is a gift from God.

This does not mean that we are without responsibility. Delight is NOT a passively acquired trait, which we receive apart from a habit of consistent reading. Rather as we travel paths ordained by God, in anticipation of meeting with Him, the gift of delight grows in us. One of those well traveled paths throughout church history is scripture meditation.

Meditation is modeled throughout the Bible (see Joshua 1:8, Psalm 143:5, Philippians 4:8) and is far different from the customs of eastern religions. Those practices aim to clear ones mind in order to find inner peace. On the contrary, Christian meditation is about filling your mind with God’s word, so that you might know Christ more deeply. Meditation in the Old Testament means to mutter or to muse; the implication is that we linger over the Bible through thoughtful deliberation and speak it to ourself.

So how do we meditate? The following steps are not a divinely inspired formula. But they are means adapted from Biblical principles and taught by many historical church sources:

  • Read a short passage multiple times and speak it loud enough for your ears to hear it. Emphasize different words and note the surrounding context.
  • Write the passage out. Define key phrases and consider their negative (or opposite state). Jot down questions or thoughts and rewrite the passage in your own words.
  • Memorize and sing the passage. Meditation can infer melody, as in Psalm 19:14. Use these tools to recall the passage throughout the day.
  • Pray the passage, through praises and requests. Seek personal application and pray it for others that come to mind. Consider texting them so that they know you are praying.

If you are trying scripture meditation for the first time, we would love to hear how it is going. Feel free to email us at info@agapepinson.com

5 Biblical Truths About Addiction

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:19

Let me say up front that I am not a medical or behavioral specialist. I am a pastor who has walked alongside families going through the dark shadows of all types of addiction, as well as a man who has experienced them in my own life. I am also a teacher who believes in God’s word to help us understand the world and all of the troubles therein. And so my goal here is to present some biblical truths that will help form a solid foundation for our understanding of various addiction issues.

Truth #1: We are physical and spiritual creatures.

God created mankind with a body, soul, and spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23). If we are to adequately address the problem of addiction, we must do so holistically – addressing both the physical and spiritual makeup of an individual.

Truth #2: Mankind was originally created in perfection.

As image bearers of God, man was able to think, reason, and act as He does. God’s declaration over creation was that it was very good (see Genesis 1:31). Mankind lived in perfect harmony with God, with their environment, with their physical bodies, and with their spiritual longings.

Truth #3: The perfect world fell into disarray and frustration.

Mankind came to love the creation more than their creator (see Romans 1:25). They rebelled against God and became arrogantly self-centric. The outcome was turmoil in every aspect of life.

Truth #4: The resulting turmoil collectively contributes to addictive behavior.

God’s good order fell rebelliously into chaos. Physical bodies are now susceptible to disorder and decay. Family and social environments become unhealthy, with patterns of negative learned behaviors moving quietly through generations. Human culture emphasizes indulgences and experiences of pleasure over morality. People abuse one another. Motivated by greed they prey upon the weak willed. Rejection and shame leaves many searching for comfort wherever it can be found. People do not love God or look to him.

Truth #5: In the Bible, addiction would most closely relate to the concept of idolatry.

Addiction is voluntary slavery. Addicts make choices. They are in control. They are committed to their way of managing life. Yet they are enslaved and out of control. They are overpowered by the world, their flesh, and the devil.
– Edward Welch

In this world of turmoil all of us have places we turn to for enjoyment and relief. Usual suspects might be food, coffee, hobbies, career, or entertainment. But sometimes we become dependent on these things as our source of hope. Idolatry is when our hearts long for created gifts rather than the creator God. The refreshment these idols are able to provide is only temporary, so we end up returning to them over and over again. And while all idols are harmful, some people end up attracted to intensely destructive behaviors or substances. Over time the idol becomes a master, enslaving those that continually seeks its help (see 2 Peter 2:19).

An addict – of any kind – is dependent on something in creation to satisfy their soul and protect them from the difficulties of this disordered world. Therefore any hope for total and lasting freedom from addiction must involve a heart change, in which a person’s dependence moves away from the creation and centers firmly on God the Father through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

Humility is the Avenue to Glory

During a recent Sunday morning message, we were challenged to consider whether or not we are truly treasuring Jesus. One of the questions we used as a test for our heart was this: Does my life consistently reflect a laying down of myself in order to follow the Spirit of Christ?

If Jesus is the highest treasure of our heart, then over time we will have an eager willingness to die to the desires and the parts of our character that are contradictory to His. And we will find ourselves on the trajectory of growing in humility, because Jesus came to earth as the righteous, victorious, humble King. Humility is in fact a command of the Christian life.

Clothe yourselves all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5

Without humility we have God’s opposition, no matter how right or just we may be in our argument. But with humility we are promised God’s grace, even if we have been wrong in the situation. God WILL rescue the guilty, IF they are humble (Job 22:29-30).

I define Biblical humility this way: Lowering yourself in contrition to and dependence upon God, in order to make much of Him and to make the benefits of Christ available to others. Humility gives the throne of our life back to God in order that we might glorify Him. And humility leads us to sacrifice that we might share all the blessings of God’s Kingdom with others.

So what should humility look like for a Christ follower? The following 4 items are not intended as an exhaustive list of how those who treasure Jesus will live, but it is a start to get us thinking:

  • In humility, we will be generous with all of the resources that God gives us. (1 Timothy 6:17-18)
  • In humility, we will not repay evil for evil but will seek to bless even our enemies. (1 Peter 3:9)
  • In humility, we will not be critical but will bear with the faults and differences of others in grace. (Colossians 3:12-13)
  • In humility, we will not seek to win debates but to persuade others in love. (2 Corinthians 5:11)


Pride always wants to win the argument. But humility sees truth as a compass to give direction, not a hammer to destroy.

God’s word guarantees that if we try to exalt ourself, God will humble us. But if we humble ourself in the same way that Jesus did, then in his time and in his way God will exalt us. So may we be found following after Christ as our treasure, growing in his humble nature. After all it is a great paradox in Christianity, that it makes humility the avenue to glory (Easton 1897).

Honor Is Given, Not Earned

Image result for honorI once heard someone say that ‘respect is earned, but honor is given’. Indeed, throughout the bible, people are commanded to give honor to others, with no conditions included. Of these commands, probably most well-known to us is ‘Honor your father and your mother’, which is repeated several times in the Old and New Testaments (Deut 5:15, Mark 7:10). The bible also instructs honor for the elderly (Lev 19:32), those in the church (Rom 12:10), widows (1 Tim 5:3), pastors (1 Tim 5:17), government leaders (1 Pt 2:17), spouses (1 Pt 3:7), and most importantly Jesus Christ as Lord (1 Pt 3:15). I particularly love the passage in Romans, where Paul tells the church to ‘outdo one another in showing honor’ (ESV). What we have is essentially a command to have a friendly competition in the church, trying to one up each other in honoring people.

In a biblical sense, honor is not associated with an individual’s performance. We are not allowed to withhold honor because someone is not living up to our expectations. In fact, Peter covers all the bases by saying we should honor everyone (1 Pt 2:17). Surely, he understood that everyone would include those individuals who have not earned honor- those who have not been honorable people. Perhaps the elderly person has a checkered past, or the pastor has hurt your feelings, or the church member has criticized you, or your spouse is not encouraging, or the waiter spilled your drink, or the government leader is NOT the one you voted for. Yet, we are told to honor others without consideration of their behavior.

So, let’s pause for a moment and talk about what the bible is asking us to do when we are told to honor someone. In the New Testament, the word honor essentially means to treat someone as valuable. Now we must realize that we are pulled by our flesh and our culture to determine someone’s value by what they have done, specifically, what they have done for us. It is not difficult to think about honoring someone who has treated you well, provided you blessings, or enriched your life in some way. For some of us, it is rather easy to honor our parents, our spouse, our pastor, or our boss – because they are honorable people who treat us well. But that is not true for all the people in our lives. Whether it is someone close to us, or individuals encountered in our daily routine, we all interact with those who do not act in ways worthy of our esteem. But the bible calls us to step outside of our natural inclinations.  Through our words and our actions, we are to show people that they are valuable, often, despite their behavior.

But still some will ask, what makes people valuable if not their performance or contributions to society? What we glean from scripture is that the value of life, of EVERY LIFE, is rooted in this biblical passage from Genesis 1: ‘God created mankind in his own image’. What separates the human race from the rest of that creation is that we are the image bearers of God. This speaks not of our physical likeness but of our spiritual capability. All people are born with a unique ability to intimately know, serve, worship, and love God. And while our creator God is the only one worthy to receive glory and honor (Rev 4:11), He has chosen in His mercy to crown humans with a measure of the same (Psalm 8:5). Indeed, all of us have sinned and fallen short of that glory, which is ultimately why people hurt other people. But even then, God chose to send His son Jesus Christ to redeem His image bearers and perfect the glorious likeness of God in those who believe in Him. Consequently, all people have an inherent value, because it has been bestowed upon them by God. Every person belongs to Him. Every person is stamped with His image. Every person can walk in His likeness through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. To dishonor people, for any reason, is to dishonor their creator. Not every person will earn our respect, but every person is to be treated as valuable. And often giving someone honor is all it takes to encourage them to live in honorable ways.

Direct Your Heart

 I am sure that you have heard of the catchphrase, “Fake it ‘til you make it”. This saying came up during a dinner conversation I was having with some friends recently. We were discussing the common battle we face as Christians: A championship cage-match between doing what we know we should do vs doing what we feel we should do. The decision may be to choose forgiveness or choose wrath, spread a juicy bit of gossip or keep information to ourselves, deceive to get our way or confess a harsh truth, access a tempting website or turn off the media device, do good to our spouse or return the cold shoulder in kind. There are countless battlefields upon which this war may be fought, but it is ever present. Will I act out of my feelings or from something much more solid?

Of course, as followers of Christ – we know the right answer. We don’t follow our heart – we lead our hearts. Like a leaf falling from a tree at the mercy of the wind, our emotions are subject to any number of factors that we have no real control over: our stress level, the circumstances of the day, the actions of someone else, even the weather outside. Feelings are not a sure guide because they are too susceptible to influence. Our decision-making needs to be impacted by principles, not by how much coffee we had that day. 

So eventually someone at our table said it. It was all on our minds anyway: “Well, you just have to Fake it ‘til you make it”. Honestly, I really dislike that phrase. Even though it is used widely in faith-circles, I do not believe it accurately communicates the strategy of a Christ-follower.

People do not seem to agree about the origins of the ‘fake it’ phrase, although it is often associated with the 12 steps of AA. The idea behind it is that if a person acts out a positive behavior long enough, they will eventually learn to enjoy it. The initial behavior may seem forced, but as the individual experiences the benefits, their happiness becomes real and the new behavior continues. In psychology, this is known as a positive feedback loop. Now, while I would not deny that there can be value in the study of the human psyche, we must never confuse the concepts of man with the design of God. Trust in behavior modification is a crumbling path. Sure-footing is found only in placing our confidence in gospel empowered change.

How does the bible instruct us in this battle between knowing and feeling? Proverbs 23:19 says ‘Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way’. So here we have teaching from the bible that backs up what was mentioned earlier: we should lead our hearts. Specifically, we are to lead them ‘in the way’. In its early days, Christianity was referred to as the way; probably based upon the well-known statement by Jesus in John 14:6, ‘I AM the way and the truth and the life…’. So, looking at this Proverb from a New Testament perspective, we should direct our hearts to Jesus and His way of life. And we do that by hearing God’s word, and applying what we hear through obedience.

So how does the biblical principle of directing our hearts differ from the fake it until we make it philosophy? First, the bible does not call us to pretense. We obey Christ because we love Christ (John 14:15). In the midst of obedience, we may rightly confess that we are going against our natural inclinations. Yet we obey in recognition of God’s authority over us and His majestic love for us. Secondly, the bible promises God will work within us creating a newness of desires. ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…and move you to follow my decrees’, Ezekiel 36:26-27. God has not left us alone to hope that continual behavior modification will spark new habits that we eventually enjoy. Rather His promise is to dwell with us, implementing change at the heart level. As we do the word, even against our feelings, we have the hope that God is empowering our very ability to obey and growing our love for Him. And finally, we have the confidence that God is able to bring about good from every act of obedience (2 Thess 1:11), and make our works effective and fruitful. So no, we do not fake it in hopes to make it. Instead, with our eyes trained on God we strive to direct our hearts through obedience – in full trust that Christ is able to make all things new in and around us.

 

The God of Every Season

For most families, the summer season carries with it a certain mystique. Summer is a time often filled with big events such as family cookouts, vacations, and frequent visits to someone’s pool (if you are lucky). It is a season where normal days feel rather special, especially for our kids. The days are longer, and responsibilities are often lighter. Late evening homework sessions might give way to pick-up basketball games or backyard campouts with friends. It is a time full of highlights and mountain top moments, that often stand out to us even years later. Many of us are blessed to be able to take a few days to go somewhere special, out of the way, and relax from our normal routine. The beaches along the coast, a cabin in the woods, or a tent next to a lake might serve as a special setting for our families to make new memories. At least for me, it is quite easy to sense God’s presence in those moments. Walking on a beautiful shoreline, watching the sun drop below the water line, listening to the powerful waves crash into the sand and the squeals of joy from my kids – I am so very mindful of my creator. If only – I could just live in that moment. If only – the season where even normal feels special, could last year round. But, we all know it doesn’t. August comes, and with it comes the return to routine and the mad scramble to get ready for it. There are registration forms to be filled, school supplies to be purchased, and schedules to be set. Soon the days will be shorter, and busier, and normal will begin to feel….well, normal. And sometimes in the midst of this flurry of activity, we discover that it is not quite as easy to sense God’s presence as it was when those waves were crashing in our ears.

The writer of Ecclesiastes, most likely King Solomon, knew this dynamic very well. In his observance of life ‘under the sun’, Solomon noted that God has planned our time in such a way that every occasion has a proper season (Ecc 3:1). Activities start and then eventually they end; and new activities start. This is life on the earth, as it has been from the beginning. And moreover, God has designed this life so that when properly viewed ‘everything is beautiful in its time’ (Ecc 3:11). Every activity, with its beginning and its end, is planned by God to be lovely for His people. What I enjoy about this truth is that first we have a confirmation that God intends us to find beauty in the long days of summer. When I sense God among the carefree minutes of a sunset beach walk, it is a beautiful moment just as he designed. That day is beyond any doubt, a day that the Lord has made. But second, we have encouragement that God does not disappear with the return of our routine. If we do not sense His presence in the chaos that often accompanies responsibility, it is only because we have lost sight. With God, everything is beautiful in its time. God is Lord over the day filled with obligations and busyness, and He is as near to us then as He is in our most lighthearted moments. And that, I believe, is the key: It is His nearness, that gives life its beauty, no matter the activity. He is the God of every season.

Jesus Christ, God’s son, came into the world to undo the work of evil. He declared that He came so that those who believe upon His saving work, in faith, may have life and have it exceedingly (John 10:10). Oh how I love that description! I know that it is not possible to remain on the beach forever (I have tried). Eventually the summer season must end. But I have a savior who has come to give me life, exceedingly. A savior who is able to draw me near to God the Father (Hebrews 7:25), whether the moment at hand is chaotic or relaxed; whether the day is long or short; God the Father has made everything beautiful in its time. And God the Son has made a way for me to experience that beauty continually. So as the summer begins to draw to a close, and this season of life prepares to give way to something new, let us NOT lose heart; let us not lose the beauty of today. I urge you to ponder Jesus and seek him in faith. He is near! And He is able to make the most normal of days, special. So may you and your family experience the mystique of life with Christ, no matter the season.

I love you all in Christ


David 

Finding Refreshment in Small Changes

 Hello Church
 
Yesterday some of the McConnell children decided to rearrange their rooms. Mostly on their own, they spent the afternoon moving around furniture, posters, baskets, and toys. They threw out some clutter, and put new items on their shelves. When I got home from work they practically knocked me down at the door, so excited to show me what they had done. Of course I’ve seen their rooms every day for the past year that we have lived in this home, but I will say that the difference was tangible. The biggest change was the enthusiasm level of the kids for their little bit of space in the house. What was boring the day before, now seemed to be revived. Of course many of us adults have experienced this phenomenon. It’s the same furniture, and same material – yet everything feels somewhat new just by moving it around! It is really quite stunning how refreshment and energy can come from a simple, new arrangement.
 
This morning I was contemplating how this could be helpful in our relationship with Jesus. The bible tells us to ‘not grow weary of doing good’ (Galatians 6:9), yet the very presence of the command tells us that it is possible to do just that. Christians who are maturing in faith will often find themselves in ruts along their path. In these times, doing what is good could seem like a chore. Perhaps we do it anyway, trying to push through; or perhaps we wake up one day and realize we have drifted away from where we started. Let me be clear, I believe that spiritual life comes from the Father and His Spirit living through us, because of faith in Jesus. So in a dry place, the critical task is to seek the living water of Christ (John 4:14). But when you recognize that your energy to even seek what is good is waning, allow me to encourage you that it may be time to seek refreshment through a new arrangement. A few small, simple changes may be exactly what you need to energize your walk with Christ. Maybe it is beginning something new, like getting up a bit earlier to meet with the Lord before the chaos of the day. Perhaps you just need a change of scenery for your bible study, or a new place to walk while you talk with God. It could be that you need to make a way to take a short daily retreat, try fasting a meal, or begin meeting with someone once a month for coffee and fellowship. Or maybe you need to try taking the last 15 minutes before bed to worship and pray with your spouse and children.
 
The point is – if you find yourself growing weary in your walk with Christ, consider how even the smallest of changes could refresh your journey. As a church, we aimed to do something new this year by joining together in a bible reading plan. We have not mentioned this in several weeks, but I hope those of you who began this work have not grown weary. But if you have, today is a great day to restart the process. I have fallen behind several times, but have pressed onward and found that God has spoken to me clearly on many occasions. Verses that I have read dozens of times, are jumping off the page at me with new revelation. So let’s keep moving forward in the word together, trusting God’s Spirit to grow us as a church.

I love you all in Christ

David

Setting the Pace for Our Children

Growing in the likeness of Jesus is the clearly defined will of God for the life of a Christian (see Romans 8:29). Our obedience to this will requires intentionality to join with God in His work of grace on our lives. We see negative examples throughout the New Testament of Christians who had apparently put aside their deliberate pursuit of Godliness. One such passage is Hebrews 5:11-12, where the first century Jewish-Christians are told, ‘…you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again’. Just like timely development is a sign of physical health, progress in Godliness is a sure marker of spiritual well-being in the Christian.

Of course, one of our great challenges is that the world we live in offers so many prospects for our attention to be diverted. While I firmly believe that setting aside time to just relax and enjoy God and your family is both good and beneficial, I do not think the bible commends giving ourselves over to large amounts of time spent on worthless pursuits. Jesus told the church through the Apostle Paul: ‘Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil’ Ephesians 5:16 In reality, the world is full of opportunities to engage in that which is unfruitful, pointless, and without lasting value. And for us to avoid falling into this pit we must continually examine how we use our time. In 2016, hours upon hours of entertainment is readily available to us at a moment’s notice. How often do we lose track of time on our favorite social media app, watching countless hours of our favorite videos, or ridding the world of the zombie apocalypse on our smart phone? None of those things are sinful in themselves, unless they pull us from the greatest pursuit of this life: Christ and His Kingdom. Our flesh desires to be entertained, and the culture is ready to satisfy that craving in countless ways. Yet all the while we run the risk of becoming people who have stopped trying to understand the word of God, and are failing to grow in his purposes for us.

Most of us know that any endeavor we wish to become good at, will require training. Even if we have a natural ability inside of us, we must still work to perfect it. And this is no different with growing in godliness. Paul mentored his young protégé Timothy, telling him to ‘Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness’ 1 Timothy 4:7. In the original language, the word Paul chose here is Gymnazo, which rightfully takes our mind to the word gymnasium; a place where you would put your efforts toward being in good physical condition. And Paul uses this word to urge Timothy to use the same physical and emotional force toward training for spiritual growth. And just like going to the gymnasium for a workout is hard, likewise it will be a challenge to discipline ourselves for the purpose of Christ-likeness. But by God’s grace this pursuit will bring long term results – even more beneficial than physical exercise.

When my wife and I teach parenting classes through Lifeline’s Families Count ministry, we continually remind the moms and dads that we, the parents, are setting the pace for our children when it comes to spiritual development. The environment that we create, is not only the one that our children are growing in now; but most likely the one that they will emulate in their own homes later in life. I believe it is critical for our own spiritual well-being to often lie down, turn off, and put away those empty pursuits which we find ourselves routinely succumbing to, and relying fully on the Holy Spirit to replace those with deliberate spiritual searches, that include goals for growth in Godliness. And in the process, we are giving an example for our children to follow by displaying the immeasurable value and beauty of Jesus, and the worthiness of the pursuit of His image.

The Blessing of Weakness

In our culture, we greatly admire strength. We celebrate, sometimes even idolize, the talents and skills in others. Our respect goes to those who can overcome difficult circumstances through sheer will-power. In business, we greatly value the self-made individuals who transformed their abilities into great achievement. When it comes to our entertainment, nothing sells better than a powerful hero who wins the day. And in today’s turbulent world, many seek security in the strength of their personal economy and environment.But there are at least two unfortunate by-products created by a fixation with strength. First, it can cause us to despise the weaknesses we see in ourselves or in others. Weakness is a quality of a person ‘regarded as a disadvantage or fault’. With so much admiration for capability, it stands to reason that we would try to hide our deficiencies out of shame. When faced with inability to overcome a problem or accomplish a task, many just remain silent because of the dread they feel when admitting they need help. In a world that so highly values self-reliance, we become adept at hiding our problems, our fears, our addictions, our temptations, and our sin. We reason that if people really knew of our inadequacies, perhaps we would be marginalized or rejected.

Secondly, an over focus on strength will lead us to place too much confidence in ourselves when it comes to setting and accomplishing goals or overcoming difficulties. The overly self-reliant are quick to assume that their plans are correct. And often when they find themselves in a season of despair they endeavor to overcome quietly in their own power, rather than reach out for help. Even in our churches we have developed statements of encouragement for those who are struggling that expose a subtle over-emphasis on self-reliance. We say things such as, ‘God will not give you more than YOU can handle’. Or ‘God only gives the greatest battles to his toughest soldiers’. And while we would not deny the well-meaning heart behind these sentiments (let’s be honest, we have all said them), the focus is still misplaced.

 The Bible teaches us that what human culture sees as wisdom, is actually quite foolish to God. Scripture often overturns social norms by presenting an entirely different way to view life. When it comes to how we navigate our weaknesses, this is what the Lord says in Jeremiah 17:5,7-8: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh…but blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water…It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit’. Most of us know what it is like to go through the heat that life can bring or live through a season of drought. And God uses this imagery to teach us that there is a way to order our days so that we can always flourish and be full of life. That way demands that we disregard the cultural pattern of relying on ourselves. Nothing good will come from placing trust in our own abilities. You will not bear fruit at all times by being confident in your ways, your wisdom, or your strength. Rather, a blessed life will be found when we realize our absolute dependence on God for everything.

The Apostle Paul came to realize this truth, and even wrote to the church in the city of Corinth that he had chosen to approach his weaknesses with gratefulness (2 Corinthians 12). Even in his day, this was a shift from the social norm of highlighting your strengths, and hiding your frailties! But Paul told the church that he had come to recognize that when he was weak, Jesus Christ would supply His power, His wisdom, through His Spirit, and the qualities of Christ were far greater, and far more satisfying than his own.

As moms and dads, husbands and wives, leaders and friends – we could do no greater service to one another than to live unashamed of weakness. Our legacy can be certain if we will decline fascination with our own competence; opting instead for a radical confidence in the power of God. May we celebrate our talents for what they are: gifts from above to be used for God’s glory and in service to other people. And may we be willing to speak of our weaknesses boldly, knowing that they are paths for God to deliver his power in unique and anointed ways.