What Is So Great About Being Weak?

2 Corinthians 11:30 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

 

The Christian life offers many paradoxes, one of which is the paradox of weakness. The Bible tells us that being weak is actually a good thing. Ironically, we all want to be strong. We want to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally, and in virtually every other way. But if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit we are not. We struggle to keep things together on a daily basis. For the Christian, however, being weak is a good thing. Let me give you six reasons as to why weakness is not the bad thing we often think it to be.

 

  1. Being weak reminds us that we can’t take any of the credit. Remarkably, God chooses to use His people to accomplish His purposes. But anything of lasting value that is done in our lives only happens through God’s strength and power. Paul reminds some of his fellow believers of this reality in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Like the apostle Paul, when we are used of God, we can’t take any of the credit. We are just ordinary men and women, being used by a very gracious God.

 

  1. Being used of God also points the world to Christ. Obviously, this second reason compliments the first. God chooses to use His people to accomplish extraordinary things, not so they can take the credit, but so that God will gain the glory. God does this to point the world to Him. I am reminded of Acts 4:13, where we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John were not impressive by the world’s standards. They were just ordinary fishermen. But having “been with Jesus,” they were a force to be reckoned with and people could not help but notice these “common men.”

 

  1. Being weak makes us long for heaven where we will be given new bodies. The Bible tells us, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). You don’t have to be a Christian to know that slowly (sometimes not so slowly) your body is breaking down. The older you get, the weaker you get. Yet again, this is a good thing because it makes us long for something more. For the Christian, that “something more” will one day be granted to us in the form a new glorified body.

 

  1. Being weak keeps us from making our bodies an idol. This is a big temptation, especially in our modern world where health and wellness are a huge focus. Safe to say that for many people, their body is their god. They are so focused and consumed with taking care of their bodies that little else matters. And granted that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). As Christians, we want to invest ourselves in “the life to come” over and above everything else.

 

  1. Being weak helps us keep things in perspective. Yet again, this complements the previous point. Paul writes, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). There is infinite value and worth in knowing Christ while any value that the world offers is continually diminishing. The reason why we need to keep things in perspective is because we are constantly being told just the opposite. When we remember our own weakness, however, investing in this world and the “glories” that are offered is not such a temptation. I will never be a “mover and a shaker” in this world and I am glad for that. Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24). Jesus didn’t say it is impossible, but He did say it is hard. The reason is simple – strength and riches tempt us to keep investing in this world. Weakness, on the other hand, is a continual reminder to invest in the world to come.

 

  1. Being weak is a sign of our identifying with Christ. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Through His death on the cross, Christ humbled himself in the ultimate way. And now, Christ is inviting us to walk the Calvary road with Him by taking up our cross and following Him. In so doing, we are forsaking the way of the world, and embracing the way of weakness. The believer now lives “by faith in the Son of God” and daily relies upon His strength and not our own.

In summary, we can be content to be weak and satisfied to let Christ’s power flow through us. Turning once again to the apostle Paul, he writes, “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” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Weaknesses and everything else that Paul experienced were actually for the good because it forced Him to trust His Savior. Do you have that perspective today, in your own life?

 

Thus, the reason why weakness is a good thing for the Christian is because it compels us to turn to Christ. It forces us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). And it brings glory to God in extraordinary ways.

Training up the Next Generation of Christ-Followers

In my estimation, evangelical churches today are failing when it comes to training up the next generation of men and women. We are not mentoring and discipling younger Christians the way we should be. Discipleship happens in a number of different ways and contexts, but an important component of that is in person-to-person relationships. While giving some instructions to his young apprentice Titus, Paul makes it clear that older men and women must be willing to mentor and teach younger men and women (same gender). In other words, those with life experience and Christian maturity should desire to impart their wisdom to the next generation. And those who are young and lacking in maturity must demonstrate a submissive spirit and be willing to learn.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:1-4).

In some churches, these types of relationships are common and they are reaping the benefits. But I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that those churches are not the norm. I say that for three simple reasons. Older Christian men and women don’t feel like they have anything to offer the next generation. Secondly, the younger generation is too proud to admit they need godly counsel. Third, those in church leadership are not encouraging and facilitating Titus 2 mentoring relationships. Thus our churches lack depth and maturity – something that is essential for healthy and flourishing churches.

We need one another as Christians. As Paul Tripp has said before, God designed our spiritual growth to be a community project. We need the church and we need one another. The local church offers a way for older and wiser Christians to connect with younger, less mature Christians. It is also important to mention that age doesn’t matter when it comes to having Titus 2 relationships.  We all need a Paul (a mentor), a Silas or a Barnabas (an associate) and a Titus or Timothy (an apprentice) in our Christian walk. Even if you are younger (I’m around 30), God can still use you to mentor and disciple teens and young adults.

This brings up another important question. What about older believers who are new to faith? Is it all right to seek out someone younger, but more mature as a Christian? The answer is yes! It will take some humility, but both parties will be blessed from that type of relationship, as the Holy Spirit works in their lives.

If this is where your heart is, but you don’t know where to start, a simple place to begin is by praying. Ask the Lord to put someone in your life for you to mentor or for you to be mentored by. Sometimes finding a good match is the hardest part, but that is certainly not beyond the ability of the Creator God. So trust God in this whole process and then intentionally seek out Titus 2 relationships. Perhaps you already have someone in mind that would be a good fit.

I often remind our church of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the need to “make disciples.” There is no question that Titus 2 relationships are an important part of the disciple-making process. Let’s ensure that we are doing all we can to make this happen in our own lives and in our churches.

Having an Active Faith

We hear the word “faith” all the time. Someone will say, “He made a faith commitment”, or “My faith is really growing”, or “She’s a woman of faith”, etc. But sometimes I think we forget the basic meaning of the word. The Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). According to the author of Hebrews, faith involves trusting in something unseen. Of course, this goes against human nature. We tend to trust in the things that are most obvious and evident to us, which is what makes faith in a God who cannot be seen (1 Peter 1:8) a big step for many. Still, millions of people have made “professions of faith.” They have prayed to God (believing that He is real), repented of their sins and asked Jesus to come into their lives.  Sadly, for many, this is the extent of their faith. They trusted Jesus for that moment with the expectation that upon dying they will be rewarded with heaven and kept from hell.

When you truly trust Jesus as your Savior, it’s an active faith. We are trusting Him with our lives every day – not just some day in the future when we die and enter eternity. The follower of Jesus is required (yes, it’s not optional) to live by faith on a daily basis. God will ask things of you that could never possibly be done in your own strength. But remember what the Bible says – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God is looking forw men and women whose confidience is not found in their own abilities, but in His great power. As you step out in faith and trust Jesus, he will come through and show His strength and power. As Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Far too often, I think our vision of God is too small. We don’t readily believe that God is capable of doing great things in and through us. We don’t have an active faith that touches every aspect of our lives. If this is true for you, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. We can say, God “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). We can say, Jesus, give me faith for today and faith for tomorrow. We can say, I can’t overcome this particular sin in my life _________ , but by the power of your Spirit O God, I believe you will give me the victory. We can say, God, I don’t have the courage to share my Christian faith with my friend, but I believe you can help me overcome that fear. And the list goes on and on, but it all starts with believing God.

Friend, don’t settle for having a “profession of faith” that leaves you content to wear the “Christian label” but unwilling to truly “live” by faith. That is nothing more than dead Christianity at its finest. The genuine believer WILL have an active faith. Paul said “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). God doesn’t change the world through men and women who are unwilling to trust Him. No, he uses men and women who have great faith and confidence in Him. He uses men and women who, to quote from Galatians 2:20 again, Christ lives in and through. Are you willing to be that man or woman?

The Difference Between Mentoring and Discipleship

“What’s the difference between mentoring and discipleship?  They are closely related, but not exactly the same.  Both involve instruction based on a relationship.  But discipleship involves a call, a direct invitation from the teacher that borders on a command.  Jesus told the fishermen Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me,” and “at once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19-20).  Then he ran into their colleagues, James and John.  Again, “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and followed him” (4:21-22).  The same pattern was repeated with the rest of the Twelve.

The word disciple means “learner.”  In Jesus’ day, teachers roamed the ancient world recruiting bands of “learners” who then followed these masters and adopted their teaching.  Sometimes the disciples became masters themselves and developed their own followings.  But Jesus’ command to His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) is distinctive in that Jesus remains ‘the’ Master and ‘the’ Discipler.  He wants people who are recruited to the faith to remain His disciples and His learners.

Discipleship, as we know it today, tends to narrow its focus to the spiritual dimension.  Ideally, it should touch on every area of life – our personal life and lifestyle, our work, our relationships.  But discipleship always looks at these areas by asking the question, how do they relate to Christ?  How does following Christ affect my personal life, my work, my relationships, and so on?

Mentoring, at least when practiced by Christians, certainly ought to center everything on Christ.  But mentoring is less about instruction than it is about initiation – about bringing young men into maturity.  Whereas the word for disciple means learner, the word ‘protégé’ comes from a Latin word meaning “to protect.”  The mentor aims to protect his young charge as he crosses the frontier into manhood.

For my own part, I do not make a hard and fast distinction between discipleship and mentoring.  There is a great deal of overlap.  But I like the concept of mentoring because it focuses on relationships.  That is what we are missing in education today, whether we are talking about formal instruction in schools and universities, or informal instruction at home, in the church, and in the community.”

Excerpted from “As Iron Sharpens Iron” by Howard and William Hendricks (p. 182-183)

A Letter to My Daughters

Over the last month or so, Elizabeth and Anna have had to play second fiddle to their baby brother, John. This is nothing new as most older siblings (especially toddlers) have a hard time adjusting when the new baby comes home from the hospital. My parents can vouch for the fact that I had an especially hard time when I met my baby sister Denae for the first time. So on the occasion of their 2nd birthday, I thought I would write them a letter, to let them know how much I appreciate them.

Happy Birthday Anna and Elizabeth!

It’s so hard to believe you girls are two years old today. The past two years have flown by and now you are big girls. Your Mom and I are so proud of you and thank God every day for you. I can’t begin to describe all the things you have taught me. When you were born, I didn’t know much of anything about parenting and being a Dad, but somehow, we got through it – thanks be to God!

One of the surprises for me is how much fun it is being a Dad. Sure, you can be demanding and can stretch my patience level, but overall, you girls are a delight.  Please forgive me for all the ways I have failed you as a father. For all the times I have been angry with you when I should have been more patient, I apologize. Being a father has shown me (even more so than before) what a dirty rotten sinner I am. I am grateful for a heavenly Father who, through His Son, forgives me and cleanses me. Remember that while your earthly father will let you down, your Father in heaven will never leave you nor forsake you. Trust Him with your life.

Your Mother and I pray for both of you every day. Our prayer is that you would one day become women of faith who love and serve God wholeheartedly. We don’t pray that you would have “safe” and “comfortable” lives so much as we pray that you would follow God’s will wherever that takes you. Following Jesus is costly we know that your lives might not match up to the world’s standard of success.

I look forward to all the special times we will have together. Other parents have warned us that you will grow up all too quickly. Before we know it, you will be grown up and having kids of your own. Ok, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

I do realize that this letter will be hard for you to understand, but maybe you will come back to it later and it will be meaningful to you. Please know that I love you very much and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you.

Daddy

Catching Men

“And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10-11)

Every time I read this verse, it always hits me hard. Here you have a total identity transformation. Simon Peter, James and John (and the other disciples) left everything to follow Jesus. It’s not that they would never fish again, it’s just that their new business was the Master’s business. And the Master’s men were in the business of catching men.

So how do you go about catching men? Obviously, salvation is totally a work of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), but God still uses us (His people) to reach others as we faithfully proclaim the gospel. When God graciously grants salvation, a remarkable transformation takes place. As Paul tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away;  behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When God catches a man or woman, they inherit a new identity. The focus of their past life (whatever it was) will not be the focus of their future life. Now, a new agenda will govern their lives. In short, that agenda is other people. This is where “catching men” comes into play.

Before he left them, Jesus reminded his disciples of this. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus ends Matthew’s gospel.

To summarize, the disciples were to make more disciples. The Master’s men were to catch other men and women, baptize them, and teach them the whole counsel of God. This is pretty simple, especially when it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Even today, our mission remains the same. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are in the business of making more disciples. Modern day Christianity often tries to take a simple thing and make it complicated. The so-called “church growth” experts will give you 100 different ways to build a church. But Jesus only taught us one way. He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). How? One disciple at a time.

Are you helping other Christian’s follow Jesus?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)

In the Great Commission, we find our marching orders. The mission of the church is to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who…..you get the point. Jesus did not simply say this to the apostles. He did not simply say this to pastors and church leaders. He gave these instructions to all Christians for all time – to go and make disciples. One way to personalize this would be to ask – are you helping other Christians follow Jesus? This is a simple but important question.

Next Sunday in church, take a look at the people sitting next to you in the pew. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ and you are responsible and accountable to them. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Our desire for “one another” should be that we are more in love with Jesus this week than we were last week. More in love with Jesus this month than we were last month. And more in love with Jesus in 2012 than in 2011. As we grow in our love for Jesus, it always translates into “love and good works” and we delight to see the increase of this in other Christians.

It is truly remarkable how much influence we have on one another – both for good and for bad. Someone who is pursuing hard after God can fuel the fire in the hearts of those around him. Unfortunately, it works the other way as well. A Christian who is stagnant and not diligently pursuing God can tame the fire in the heart of a fellow believer. Even something like spreading gossip can have a destructive impact on a fellow believer and actually hinder their walk with the Lord. So ask yourself; what kind of influence I am having on the Christian’s around me? Do they see someone who is growing more in love with Christ? Or I am I being a tool of Satan and spreading negative influence?

Question: if we are responsible and accountable to one another in the Body of Christ, what do we do when we see a brother or sister who is stagnant in their walk with the Lord? Most of the time we do nothing and this is tragic. But if we truly care for them and love them, then we need to check in from time to time and even challenge them. Ask – how is your walk with the Lord? Are you staying in the Word? Are you killing the sin in your life? I realize this is hard because we live in such a privatized world where we never feel the right to challenge anyone else. But at the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I did my best to help the Christians around me to follow Jesus and sometimes that involves challenging them in their walk with God.

Friend, are you helping other Christian’s follow Jesus? What’s great is that as you help them to follow Jesus, they can help other people follow Jesus. Disciples making disciples. This was the Master’s plan all along. It is true that sometimes this process does not move along as fast as ‘we’ would like, but the plan has work marvelously for 2000 years, so why change it? Just do your best to help others follow Jesus and then trust “the Lord of the harvest” (Luke 10:2) to do His good work.