In the last two sermons at Legacy, we’ve heard a lot about the seemingly backwards culture Jesus brings about. If you want to be “great,” then you must become an unappreciated servant for those the world has forgotten. If you want to be satisfied, then stop thinking about yourself so much. If you want your needs met, then forget them, and seek to meet the needs of another. It’s beautiful, and the bedrock beneath it all is God’s faithful love and provision. He is the one who gives me value. He is the one who gives me all things.
The beauty of weakness has been brewing in my mind over the last couple of months, and I’d like to continue this theme of Jesus’s upside-down kingdom by saying:
It might not actually be your strengths that the church needs most desperately but rather your weaknesses.
In my experience, our weaknesses form who we are far more than our strengths do. We take our strengths for granted. But we have to fight tooth and nail to overcome our weaknesses. Our minds rarely spend time on our strengths, but we’re constantly fretting over our weaknesses. When you run a hilly course, you spend the vast majority of your time going slowly uphill, not downhill. It’s the incline that sticks out most in your mind. It’s the incline that does the actual training.
God Isn’t Intimidated by Weakness
As you trek through the Bible, one of the resounding themes that takes shape is that God does His most profound work right in the middle of our most glaring weaknesses. All it takes is looking at the Jerry Springer show of Jesus’s lineage to figure that out. We have people pawning off their wife to kings, stealing their brother’s entire life through deception, having sex with their own daughters, raping women and killing their husbands, and the list could continue even more graphically. It is through this chaos that God chose to bring Jesus into the world. That was not an accident.
Jesus came from a mess, and He came to rescue us right in the middle of our mess. What this storyline does more than anything is highlight just how great God is by comparison to our glaring weaknesses. Given our eyes need to be on God most of all, this is a good thing. It shows how desperately we need rescue, and it shows how powerful a Rescuer He really is.
God simply isn’t intimidated by your weakness or your mess.
Weakness is a Gift
As we continue to trek through the Bible, though, we find a point sharpening even more in the New Testament. Not only does God do His most profound work through weakness, but your weakness is actually a gift.
The most obvious example of this is when God recognizes some weaknesses in Paul the Apostle, namely pride. God knew Paul intimately just as He knows you and me intimately. In that knowledge, and in His wisdom and love, He sent Paul “a messenger of Satan” to torment Him until the day he died. Lest you take this lightly, Paul says he pleaded over and over and over again for God to “take it away.” I bet you’ve repeated that exact phrase about at least one thing in your life. “God, just take it away!”
It was visible. It was shameful. And it was deep, soul-rescuing grace given out of tender, compassionate love. We find Paul’s opus of sorts regarding weakness right after he talks about this in 2 Corinthians 12, where he says,
But [God] 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. 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 12:9-10
Your Weakness Determines How You See Jesus
Weakness is the very lens through which you see Jesus. You only came to Him because the Holy Spirit made you keenly aware of how deeply you need Him. It is because of your need that you wanted the gospel to be true in the first place.
And your need is not some generic thing. It is unique. It is individual. It is a vivid painting with bold colors. Those are the very colors the Holy Spirit uses to paint Jesus for you. The weaknesses Jesus came to rescue you from define every aspect that you most treasure about Him.
The church needs the view of Jesus your weaknesses have crafted.
When you struggle daily with unrelenting depression, forced to cope with it through medication, exercise, diet, and meditation solely to be able to function in daily life, you’re are forced to see Jesus as the Manna that never runs out. You aren’t given the choice. You are forced to treasure Him as the fountain that is readily available now, five minutes from now, and five years from now. You are forced to delight in heaven to come when that ailment is no more. He knew you would need that because He knows you intimately. That struggle is a deep grace to you and to those around you.
Together, We See God More Completely
When we’re together, we see God more completely than when we’re apart. You struggle with a gut-wrenching fear that your savings will not be enough. I struggle with believing my work will complete me. Another among us struggles with believing another person will satisfy them. Yet another has nearly constant panic attacks. Yet another has persistent pain that never leaves.
The beauty of this is that our unique and individual weaknesses highlight certain aspects of God uniquely. By ourselves, we have tunnel vision when we approach God because we see Him through our own lenses of weakness. Together, we get a more complete picture of Him, relating to one another the aspects we find uniquely beautiful about Him.
The church needs your weakness. We need your panic attacks. We need your invasive thoughts. We need your depression. We need your disability. We need your mental illness. We need your struggles with lust, emotional dependency, greed, anger, laziness, eating disorders, drug addiction, gender dysphoria, and pride.
Why would I say this? Because your struggles were never meant to be hidden. You have to fight tooth and nail to trust Jesus in the midst of your weakness and difficulty. In some cases, you never actually “overcome” the weakness but rather fight just to cope with it. In that fight, you discover something uniquely beautiful about God that the church around you needs.
Please Don’t Hide Your Weakness
Paul boasted in his weaknesses because he understood what God was doing with them. He was content with difficulty that is frankly unimaginable to the vast majority of Americans.
I know your struggle is shameful. I know you want to hide it. Believe me, I know all too well. But Jesus is calling you to be courageous. The truth is that God’s kingdom is by design the Island of Misfit Toys. He prefers the lowly and shameful. You belong.
Some struggles need to be confined to a trusted circle of friends, and I understand that. But that circle of friends needs to know your weakness so they can grow, not just you. For some of us, it’s appropriate for our weakness to be known more widely. Regardless, we desperately need your weakness. Otherwise, we won’t see Jesus the way we need to.