The Apostle Paul made a strange declaration that is important for us to reflect on in our lives too. He said that when he had nothing to rely on in himself he was in a place of true strength.
“When I am weak, then am I strong.” 2Corinthians 12:10
One of the problems we have when we use a support system is that we come to rely on that support system. When we rely on a walking stick, for example, we ask less of our legs, and that can slow down their recovery. That’s not to say we don’t need a walking stick, but it points to a need for care when we use things to prop us up.
A child who always cries to his mother doesn’t learn to deal with issues himself. A person who drives everywhere risks having weak legs.
Often people who have fewer resources become much more resourceful, since they can’t just pull money from their pocket to solve their problems. People who have to do things the hard way are often stronger, fitter and more capable than those who get an easier life.
The most available things we have to lean on are those things within us, such as our will and mind. We rely on our capabilities and craft life that suits what we can do successfully, avoiding those areas where we are stretched or struggling.
Over time, then, we can end up living a life within our own boundaries, according to what we are capable of and relying on our own strength.
And that’s the danger zone – “relying on our own strength”.
When we live out of our own resources we are trusting ourself and our own capacities. We live according to our own limitations. We are also programmed to rely on, trust in and look to ‘self’.
That’s fine if we were just animals living in the jungle, but we are much more than that. We are God’s special creation and we are meant to live in close fellowship with God. We are to trust Him and rely on Him for all the things He has for us.
By living a life within the boundaries of who we are, standing on our own strengths and capabilities, we don’t need the Lord. Even if we intend to trust Him and have entered into relationship with Him, that connection is weakened by our leaning on the walking stick of our own abilities.
Our own strengths become the prop we rely on, instead of learning to walk totally reliant on the Lord.
So that’s why we often see people experience wonderful turn around when things go wrong for them. People who face difficulties tend to instinctively lean more heavily on themselves to get through. They may rely on their network of family and friends. They heighten their wits and focus their mind and will on getting through the trials.
If they succeed in their own strength, then they have not learned to lean on the Lord and they have missed the much more wonderful things God has for them.
When a person finds they can’t struggle their own way through and they end up losing what they tried to protect, then they are stripped of much of their self reliance. They find that they cannot get through on their own and are weak.
Then, and maybe for some, only then, they cry to the Lord, humbling themself, and asking God for rescue, help, forgiveness and so on.
And that’s where we see Paul’s great discovery come to effect.
“When I am weak, that’s when I am strong!”
Through history we have examples of men and women whose life really took off once they were in a low place, such as prison, financial collapse, family breakdown and the like. Up until then they kept leaning on the prop of their own abilities. Once that prop was taken from them they had to rely on something else. Faith.
Faith in God is our legs and arms. It is our heart, brain and lungs. It is our wisdom and strength. It is our energy and stamina. It is our entire being.
But we have a prop which we lean on instead. That prop is our natural abilities, which we think are our personal treasure and the real expression of who we are. We pride ourselves in our thoughts, abilities, preferences, personality and so on. We cultivate a life based on those things. And all the time we do that we are merely ‘existing’ not ‘living’.
To truly live is to be in Christ and to have Christ as the full resource of our being, not our own abilities.
“For to me, to live is Christ” Philippians 1:21
“Christ, Who is our life” Colossians 3:4
Friends, I don’t wish trouble on you, but I do urge you to realise that all your own abilities and capacities are a prop for you life. They keep you from truly living. All the things God has for you, which are outside your experience, comfort-zone and abilities will never be discovered while you rely on yourself. When you are strong in yourself, you are actually weak in faith and in living the life God has for you.
I urge you to submit yourself to God and let Him lead you to areas where you aren’t relying on your natural abilities. Then you will be able to testify, as Paul did. I am strong and successful and powerful and blessed, taking new ground, achieving more than I ever thought and living far beyond anything I ever imagined, When I Am Weak!