God Loves to Work in Our Weakness
Although I ended cancer treatment in March, I am still very tired and
limited in what I can accomplish as a full-time professor and in my
many relationships with friends, relatives, and neighbors.
My experience of weakness has been admittedly frustrating at times,
but it has also been, by God’s good and gracious design, very
beneficial for me and others. God is pleased to use our various kinds
of weakness and limitation to remind us of important truths and refine
our trust in him.
1. Weakness reminds us that our very life depends on God.
Weakness reminds us that our lives are but a vapor, that all flesh is
like grass. We are reminded that God provides each and every breath to
our lungs and beat of the heart. He has numbered our days (Job 14:5;
Psalm 139:16). He is the Creator who upholds all things, even our puny
little magnificent lives, by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). We
cannot take for granted even the mere fact of our lives.
This reminder bears the fruit of gratitude and humility.
Too often, when things are going well, we are tempted to forget how
dependent we are upon God for anything and everything (Deuteronomy
6:10–12). Savings accounts, good salaries, ministry success, healthy
bodies, or a charming personality can become the horses and chariots
in which we put our trust (Psalm 20:7). When our weakness reminds us
that we depend on God and his providence for life and breath, we find
joy simply in knowing that we live by his good pleasure.
2. Weakness reminds us that God will give us new bodies.
Our aches and pains and inabilities point us to our future perfected
body and soul. Feeling like you have one foot in the grave reminds you
that you have one foot, already, in glory. Our longing for the
resurrection is increased by weakness.
As J.I. Packer writes, “Our new body . . . will match and perfectly
express our perfected new heart, that is, our renewed moral and
spiritual nature and character.” Our present weakness increases our
yearning for the day when Christ gives us a new body that “will never
deteriorate, but will keep its newness for all eternity.” The
Christian hope, says Packer, “is understood not in the weak sense of
optimistic whistling in the dark, but in the strong sense of certainty
about what is coming because God himself has promised it.”
This reminder bears the fruit of hopefulness and endurance in faith.
Romans 5:1–5 says those who have learned to rejoice in their
sufferings will endure through trials, trusting God and growing in
Christlikeness. That is because they look back to God’s reconciling
mercy at the cross and forward to their full and final deliverance at
Christ’s return. Romans 8:25 says that those who hope for the setting
right of all creation, by the Spirit at work in them, wait for that
inheritance with patience.
3. Weakness reminds us that we deserve wrath, but receive grace.
All of creation, ourselves included, suffers corruption, pain, and
weakness because of the sin of our first parents (Romans 8:18–21). And
each of us individually has earned the just wrath of God for our own
multitude of sins (Romans 3:23), let alone a little suffering in this
life. We don’t deserve a weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), but a
weight of wrath.
Yet this world and our lives abound with so many good gifts from God.
And we Christians have the best gift, Christ, who is our life and our
eternal treasure. We have been spared God’s righteous wrath, redeemed,
forgiven by God, reconciled to him, justified, adopted into his
family. What mercy!
This reminder bears the fruit of sympathy and kindness.
The weak, being reminded of God’s tender mercy and forbearance toward
them, are assisted by the Spirit to better embody Ephesians 4:32–5:2:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God
in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved
children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for
us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
4. Weakness refines our trust in God’s wise and loving providence.
We learn obedience to God as we experience that nothing can separate
us from his Spirit. God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Joshua 1:9;
Hebrews 13:5), no matter how difficult things become. We learn that he
knows exactly what he is doing at all times, what he is up to through
our trials, even when we can’t comprehend it.
So we grumble a little less about our given lot. We learn a bit more
consistency in submission to our Savior and Lord, no matter what he
brings our way. Our stiff necks grow a bit more flexible. We grow in
the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).
In Finishing Our Course with Joy, Packer defines spiritual maturity
like this: “Spiritual maturity is a deep, well-tested relationship to
our triune God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and a quality of
relationship with both believers and unbelievers that embraces
concern, sympathy, warmth, care, wisdom, insight, discernment, and
This lesson bears the fruit of neither thinking more highly, nor less,
of others than we ought.
There are various kinds of weak believers: the sick, disabled,
elderly, poor, those not intellectually gifted, those with
unimpressive occupations, the socially marginalized (to whom little
opportunity is given and from whom little is expected). Some of the
most sympathetic, caring, and wise people I have been privileged to
meet and know fit one or more of those descriptions. Their
relationship with God has been tested and their character refined.
Our weakness reminds us that the marks of spiritual maturity are not
the abilities lauded by the world, like productivity or being a great
public speaker. God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the
wise, and what is weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). So
let us move toward such people not merely to serve them but to learn
from them. Study God at work in their lives. Look through their
limitations to Christ inside. Listen to them gladly testify to God’s
goodness, grace, and glory.
The Weak Will Conquer the World
All throughout the Bible, we see that God loves to draw attention to
himself and grow the trust of his people by working despite and
through their weaknesses and limitations. Consider barren Sarah and
Rachel, bumbling Moses, Gideon’s small band, the young virgin Mary,
and blue-collar Peter, among others. Jesus himself, the Lamb who was
slain, ultimately demonstrates that it is meek sheep who conquer and
win the world.
The great — and ironic — wisdom of the cross is that God chooses the
foolish, weak, low, and despised to shame the strong and shut the
mouths of the proud. God uses our weaknesses to remind us of important
gospel truths and to refine our trust in him.
What Is Your Capacity for Mystery?
John Piper / December 16, 2016
In twelve minutes, John Piper pulls apart some of the tensions between
Calvinism and Arminianism. Believing the whole Bible, with all of its
varied pieces, is not a small or simple thing. A theology that lives
“by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4) will
require a great deal of mystery. Those of us who accept both truths of
our full human responsibility and God’s absolute sovereignty can, as
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “see two different pictures at once and yet see
all the better for that.” The question is whether you are able to
admit that the Bible can say two things that seem to our minds to be
contradictory and, in the end, not contradict each other after all.