Every Wednesday we’ll post a message having to do with doctrine and purity. Hope it helps.
A Powerful Wimp
When I used to pump iron like a maniac, my bench press, leg squat and shoulder press stats were impressive. I could, if I was being a real jerk, openly brag about how much weight I could toss around, which is an irritating habit some guys have and their social life rightfully suffers as a result. Still, when I’d wear tight t-shirts that may as well have been signs saying “Please Look Here”, people would ask, and I’d modestly (ha!) answer by reciting the poundage and reps I cranked out. And when doing so, they had every right to say, “Prove it.” I’d have been quite a fool, after all, to boast about something I couldn’t really do.
I have a very different and, I must say, much better boast these days: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I know, Paul said it centuries before I did (Philippians 4:13) but I borrow it freely. It fits this 57 year old not-so-buff-anymore-guy better, and it carries so much more redemptive value. And yet, as in earlier days, the hearer has every right to say, “Prove it.” And there’s the rub.
To say we are born again, with the spirit and resurrection power of Christ within us, is to be audacious, bold, even a little scandalous, because it implies – no, asserts – that we’re different. Hugely. With capacities that are unlimited. So in response to such a boast some would, like Herod, childishly hope for a magic trick as a show of divine empowerment. (Luke 23:8) Jesus Himself denied the request; let’s do the same. But there are other ways His power shows itself in us, ways that are convincing and convicting, ways a non-believer can relate to, leading him to reconsider the Gospel. When we allow God to work in and through our weakness, miracles happen.
I know, because I’m a satisfied customer. When He called me to live a chaste life, I knew I was in no different a position than Peter was when Jesus said “Step out of the boat and take a stroll with me on the water.” Impossible, yet he obeyed. And for me, equally impossible, yet I obeyed (Miracle Number One!) and, lo and behold, I walked atop the ocean for three years before marrying. And when He blessed me with a wife He also commanded monogamy, something I had always thought you sprayed with Pledge. Yet here we are, monogamous after 25 years, enjoying the damp but safe stroll. Ditto for His call to patience, diligence, kindness under pressure, grace under fire. All of them require the impossible of me; all of them, when accomplished, give me extraordinary bragging rights. Not about me, lest lightening strike, but about the Empowerer, the One who makes it all happen in whom I can boast because He makes it happen with me.
But there’s a catch. The area He shows His power in is invariably an area of myself He calls me to first die to. No bargaining there; no death, no resurrection. So just as I paid my dues in the gym slinging weights and screaming my guts out, I now scream them out wrestling with Him as He says “Die, Monster, Die!” to my nasty flesh and I finally, after countless stupid excuses and rebellions, say “Uncle. I can’t be patient, loving, or holy on my own, yet You demand it. So take over. Flex Your bicep.” And my, what a show follows! Paul said it, as always, better than I ever could:
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (II Corinthians 12:9)
That’s me, a powerful wimp, strong only in the parts of me I’ve truly died to, weak in the areas still unsurrendered, secure in the patience and grace of the personal trainer who’s fashioning this vessel into something of value. So the boast is still there, but now when I crow, I can say with integrity, “You wouldn’t believe how much weight I can’t lift! And yet you also wouldn’t believe how much I can. Let me explain —“