Promises Regarding Shortcomings and Weaknesses
When I Am Weak, Then Am I Strong
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong”
(2 Corinthians 12:10).
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Cinematographer Conrad Hall once said, “There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” He, of course, was thinking of what would make a film more dramatic. But in God’s plan we learn that the avenue to human perfection and true beauty will be through the experience with sin and imperfection. As we explore some of the precious promises regarding our shortcomings and weaknesses, we begin to see the splendor of God’s perfect love and wisdom in dealing with our inadequacies and using these to help us grow into His likeness.
Each one of us has shortcomings and weaknesses. The Lord is faithful to forgive us of every sin and imperfection through Jesus as our Advocate. The most wonderful part is that the Lord can actually turn our weaknesses and sins into blessings and opportunities for growth.
For All Have Sinned
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NASB). This does not say some have sinned, or most have sinned. It says that all have sinned. For we are born in sin and “shapen in iniquity” (Psalm 51:5). This is an important concept to keep in mind, because some brethren may be too hard on themselves. Focusing too much on their sins and shortcomings can lead to discouragement.
When we first consecrate, God often veils our eyes from many of our imperfections because if they were all to be revealed we could be overwhelmed. As we continue in the narrow way, God slowly begins to reveal to us our hidden faults. When he does so, we may begin to believe that we are going in the wrong spiritual direction. However, the very fact that we notice these shortcomings can be an indication that we are making progress, becoming more sensitive to the presence of sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (NAS).
We Cannot Judge Ourselves or Others
“Judge not and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). In order to avoid being condemned we are not permitted to judge others. In fact, when we observe faults in our brethren, we are to sympathize with them and help them overcome these faults. This help may come in various forms, whether through simple encouragement, lending a helping hand or implementing the procedures described in Matthew 18.
Indeed, Paul said “I judge not mine own self” (1 Corinthians 4:3). This does not mean, however, that we should not carefully evaluate ourselves and try to make improvements where needed. That is the Apostle Paul’s thought when he wrote, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). In other words, if we examine and correct ourselves, the Lord will not have to chasten us or impose corrective measures.
However, focusing too much on our faults can lead to harsh discouragement, a danger, for the devil can overwhelm us. When we are dispirited by our behavior, we may feel unworthy of God’s love. We may unconsciously withdraw from the Lord and attribute the distance between us to the Lord’s displeasure, when, in fact, it may be our own doing. When we sin, our first action should be to run to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. God is patiently waiting for us to come and seek His unfailing love and mercy. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV).
The Lord is Faithful and Just to Forgive Us
If we run to the Lord at the first realization of sin and seek His forgiveness, He promises to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This is a beautiful promise that we must cling to and claim as our own. It suggests that there is a process of forgiveness and that God will always do His part. Our responsibility is to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). God provided this special message of encouragement because He knew that His people would become ashamed of their repeated failures. It is by His grace that forgiveness and help are always available, even in the case of repeated failure. We should always remember this.
Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We are laboring against our fallen flesh and the devil. We are heavy laden by sin. By giving our lives to the Lord in consecration and then coming to Him when we sin, He will, in turn, carry the burden of our sin, allowing us to rest and be assured of His abiding love.
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13, 14). The word for “pitieth” in this verse means “to love” and “to have compassion on.” The Lord has compassion on those who love and revere Him, just as a loving father does for his own children. He has compassion on us because He knows our frame, that we are fallen and imperfect.
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). As our Advocate, Jesus stands alongside of us, interceding on our behalf, much like a defense attorney would defend a client. We are guilty of sin, yet he defends us and pleads for us to the Father, the Righteous Judge.
This he does by applying his merit to cleanse us when we sin. We can have full confidence knowing that despite the sin we may have committed, or how great our faults, the power of Jesus is even greater. Thus, if we come to God through Jesus, we can rest assured that our sins are forgiven. It is our privilege to seek the promised grace to help in every time of need, and to be confident that our best efforts toward righteousness are acceptable to God when presented through the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us by faith.
God Can Turn Our Weaknesses into Blessings
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NASB).
Bro. Russell once described this passage as the secret to every successful Christian’s life (Reprint 5942:4). When we realize that we cannot battle our weaknesses alone and bring them to the throne of grace, we will be strengthened in the power of the Lord’s might. It is a power that we could never have on our own (Ephesians 6:10). We become stronger by relying upon Him for help, guidance and courage. This is why we can rejoice in our weaknesses, because they cause us to run to the Lord for help, that will, in turn, intensify our desire to please Him and to strive even harder against our imperfections. What a blessing that is indeed! We are broken, earthen vessels. When the strength of God works in us, He is more honored than by what we can accomplish on our own (Reprint 1920).
An example of this was shown in the experiences of the Apostle Paul. He was given a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), which was likely his poor eyesight. Once it was clear that God would not remove this burden, Paul accepted it and considered it in a positive light. It served as a reminder of the life he left behind, when he was spiritually blind. It also served as a reminder of his unworthiness. He used this thorn as a motivation to work harder and be more dedicated. His poor vision, along with the other physical persecutions he suffered, made him realize how much he needed the Lord’s guidance and help.
Understanding that our sins are forgiven does not mean that we should knowingly sin just so we can take more advantage of the Lord’s strength and grace (Romans 6:15)! We are to continually strive against our weaknesses and imperfections. It is interesting that the Lord asks us to strive for perfection with the full knowledge that we cannot attain it. But in making the effort He sees how hard we are willing to try. With the effort comes growth, and therein lies the key. Let us fight against our imperfections with every ounce of our energy. Let an awareness of our own shortcomings serve as a reminder of our need for a Redeemer. Let it be an inspiration to put more time and energy into activities related to the Lord. This is how our trials and tribulations can work out for us a more “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand” (Psalm 37:24). Even the most righteous individual will stumble and make mistakes. But the important part of a Christian’s life is to rise up again (Proverbs 24:16). By His grace, the Lord will help us do just that.
Let us therefore not fear our weaknesses, for it is the basis on which God’s power and glory are manifest most brilliantly. We can sometimes be so afraid of making mistakes that we find ourselves paralyzed into inactivity. We must not be afraid to act for fear of making mistakes. Instead, we should have great confidence in God’s overruling power as long as we are at- tempting to do His will and not our own.
We should also learn from our weaknesses. In understanding them we can be better prepared for future experiences, knowing how the Lord would have us handle them. This is an inherent part of the permission of evil as we gradually learn to seek the Lord and His righteousness.
An Example of Christ Working with Weaknesses
Let us take a moment to reflect on some of these principles in the life of the Apostle Peter. Peter was known for his zeal and impetuousness. However, he was also criticized for his lack of faith and his denial of the Lord. On the ship in the stormy sea (Matthew 14:22-29, Mark 6:45-51, John 6:16-24), Peter was the only disciple to actually leave the ship and walk on the water towards Jesus. This took a remarkable amount of faith and courage. But alas, Peter was not perfect and soon became frightened by the wind and the waves. As he began sinking, Jesus reached out his hand and brought him to the boat. His rebuke was cutting when he said, “Oh thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt” (Matthew 14:30,31). This experience revealed the fact that Peter, and all of us as well, are a mixture of faith and fear. The Lord used this experience to show that faith must overcome human fear. It was a wonderful witness to the rest of the disciples of his power, as they responded, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (Matthew 14:33 NASB).
Sometime after this experience Peter denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75). Peter was sitting in the courtyard where Jesus had been taken. He was there because he had the courage to follow after Jesus. Only a short time earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was ready to defend Jesus to the death. But in the courtyard of the High Priest he was afraid and vulnerable because he was alone. When he was accused of being a disciple Peter panicked and denied knowing the Lord. Imagine for a moment that you were in Peter’s place. How would you feel when you came to the realization that you had denied your Savior, the person for whom, earlier that night, you had been willing to give your life? The guilt that Peter felt must have been unbearable. Peter was heartbroken and went out and wept bitterly.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the manner in which the Lord dealt with Peter showed great wisdom and care (John 21:15-25). Jesus reached out to Peter because he knew Peter’s heart condition and that Peter was suffering from an overwhelming sense of guilt. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with “agape” love, Peter could not, in good conscience, say “Yes.” How could Peter love him with agape love knowing that he had not demonstrated such love when he had the opportunity? Still Jesus knew what Peter needed to overcome his guilt. He told Peter how Peter would die. He would die by crucifixion in the name of the Lord God. Amazingly, Peter was thrilled to know this. It meant that he would again have the opportunity to demonstrate his true sacrificial love for Jesus. Thus, Jesus was able to read the heart of Peter and with such wisdom restore his faith and courage. Peter could now move on and become a true leader of the church.
The experience gave Peter new strength and wisdom. When we read 1 Peter 5:6-9, we see in his words wonderful growth and maturity. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (NASB).
No matter where we are along the narrow way, sin is still present with us. Therefore, we have need of a Redeemer. We must carefully evaluate our own shortcomings and weaknesses and then come boldly unto the throne of grace, asking for forgiveness and help to overcome. We can then confidently accept forgiveness from God because we have an Advocate with the Heavenly Father. We then can learn from our past and press
for ward towards our heavenly goal as so beautifully demonstrated through the life of the Apostle Peter. We conclude with the inspiring words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up, never give up, never, never, never give up.”
Categories: 2016 Issues, 2016-September/October