Recently, I was listening to a compilation of Christian music, a whole series of songs about how God had helped “when I was at the end of my rope,” “when my own strength just wasn’t enough,” and “when I couldn’t find my own way.” And although the songs were both sincere and emotionally moving, I really would have liked to ask the various songwriters something:
When can man ever find his own way? When is his strength enough? When is he not at the end of his rope?
You see, although we Christians like to talk about a God Who came along to fill in the gaps for us, to smooth out the rough edges, to serve as sort of a genial assistant in our lives, God’s Word paints a very different picture. It does not say that we were slightly off course and needed a little readjustment. It says that we were dead.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.
How much wisdom, how much strength, does a dead man have? How much is he able to contribute to his own rejuvenation?
Truly, we as Christians must recognize that God gave us life and we added nothing. In fact, God’s Word indicates that man’s insistence on contributing something can be the greatest hindrance to redemption. [See, for example, Romans 9:31, 32; Galatians 5: 2–4.]
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
The religious leaders whom he was addressing belonged in the latter category, as does all of mankind, but, not acknowledging their own lack, they could not benefit from the help he offered. And still today, though the price has been paid for all mankind, not all will be saved because not all believe they need to be.
Many of us do recognize that our own works did not gain us salvation, or even contribute to our salvation. We are simply the joyful recipients of something God did by His power, in His wisdom, because of His love. But are we also aware that the Christian life is just as dependent upon God’s grace as the Christian birth?
II Timothy 2:1
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Certainly there were few men who were more mature or more faithful than Timothy. Yet even Timothy could not depend upon his own ability. Neither could Paul.
II Corinthians 12:10
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.
How true it is that it often takes infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, and distresses for Christians to finally acknowledge their own limitations and to begin to depend upon their Heavenly Father. And yet such experiences are not a “required course” in the school of grace – we do have the option of simply believing God’s Word!
I Corinthians 1:26–28
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.
These are difficult words to read, aren’t they? Something in us (called Adam) is repelled by words like “foolish,” “weak,” “base,” and “despised.” How can He make a blanket statement like this? In almost two thousand years of church history, certainly there have been a multitude of wise, mighty, and noble men and women in the ranks of the church, right?
The difficulty lies in the fact that we measure wisdom, might, and nobility by comparing ourselves to others. God uses a different standard. He uses Himself. By this standard, we all fall short.
I Corinthians 1:25
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Perhaps some among us are better equipped than others to prevail in the brief, limited, and brutish arena of the natural man. But the life of God is on a much grander scale. The life of God spans all space, all time, all dimensions. And as sons and daughters of God, we are called to live, and to reign, in that realm.
With this in mind, we realize that God’s wisdom and God’s strength are not simply resources to call on when we’ve run out of other options. We need His wisdom and strength not just when we feel foolish and weak, but all the time. Because, in truth, we are always foolish and weak, compared with Him.
This is not bad news – far from it. Because God’s resources are always available – abundantly available – to His children.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
What glorious news! We can stand! God has provided the armor! But it is essential that (unlike King Saul) we remain “little in our own sight.” Otherwise, that armor will sit there, unused, as we go out to face the adversary alone, ignorant, and unprotected.
Surely, God’s assessment of our limited capabilities is an accurate one. But just as surely, His provision for our lack is both bountiful and available. In Christ, He has given us all we need to live and to reign in both the natural world and the spiritual world. We can do so with confidence – not in the flesh, but in His grace.
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.