Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Greatest Strength

I have been wondering for some times, as I have listened to and read the Bible, what the personalities and thoughts of some of the Biblical characters were like. I know, I know, they were totally holy, barely sinned, and all spoke in perfect King James English... but beyond that, what were their personal struggles like. I know for me, living out my faith and being an expression and reflection of Christ's love for the world is not always easy. So, I assume, that being human, the early apostles and disciples had some of the same feelings.

Then I began to meditate on the idea that His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). I do not want to be one of those 'holier than thou' Christians, but I also do not want to make the mistake of hiding who and what I am just to be accepted by people. I found this to be a very slippery slope, on both sides, and was wanting to know what this verse meant. To be strong in the midst of weakness for me is a little hard to fathom. Yes, I realize those who are super spiritual will say, "You just need to trust God" or "You need to have more faith" Both of which are true statements, but neither of which are obvious practical examples for me to follow.

And then it hit me...

The book of Acts focuses mainly on two different apostles. The first half is focused on Peter, while the second half follow Paul. Both men were obviously led by the Spirit and are both worth trying to emulate. (all except that martyrdom thing, I'd like to pass on that)


Paul was a pharisee of pharisees. He was thoroughly trained in the law of Moses under a teacher named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was both passionate and zealous for holiness and obedience to God. So, much so, that he could bring the new found followers of Christ to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:5). He would be the perfect person to send to tell the message of the love of Jesus to a Jewish nation. He was trained for it. He was known for it. He was the top of food chain in religious standing with the Jews.


Peter was a fisherman (Luke 5:2-3). He was your regular, run-of-the-mill Jewish guy making a living doing what his father had taught him how to do. He was a career worker, not a intellectual or a pharisee (Acts 4:13). He understood things like the ocean, tides, and fish... and yet, he and his brother Andrew are among the first disciples who are called. James and John, fishing partners of theirs, were also called out of this occupation (Luke 5:10). Jesus even goes one step further and in His band of twelve apostles, selects three of them to be closer to Him. These three were Peter, James and John (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 14:33)

But wait a minute....

On the contrary, they saw that I (Paul) had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. (Gal 2:7)

Paul was the one that was sent to the gentiles, and Peter to the Jews. That seems a little backwards doesn't it? Paul was the one with the training in Jewish law and religious standing. Peter was just a fisherman. Likewise, as a fisherman, Peter probably would have been a little more accepted by the gentiles, on the mere fact that he was a little more 'blue collar'.

And here is the beauty and majesty of God's sovereignty...

God called both men to minister in the area where they could not stand on their own strength and knowledge. They needed to guidance and reliance on the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish their task. This is not to say that they could not use their past experiences and knowledge, but it would not have been enough to do it on their own.

This is the perfection of Jesus' strength filling our weakness. When we can stand in the place of ministry and NOT be able to do it ourselves. Not because we are choosing not to... but because in and of ourselves, we simply don't measure up.

If we don't give ourselves the opportunity to fail, we never allow God the opportunity to succeed.

- Just a thought.


wendalyn said...

I like this one Bill. I think this is one of my favorites so far.
Your absolutely right...We have to step out of our comfort zone because only then is it about God. When we stay where we're comfortable its really just about what we can. And Im pretty sure that what I can do is nothing compared to the awesomeness of God.

Crystal said...

I think Wendy said it, Bill. It makes me feel both peaceful and scared to death that there's nothing I can do to fulfill my purpose -- it's all about what God can do through me. I just have to allow and obey.

Melanie said...

It's too easy to take the credit when you do something well that everyone knows you have the ability to do. It's not until we go so far outside of ourselves, that we can truly say, "to God be the glory".