Sermon: Strength in Weakness

Last week, I shared a sermon at Journey Church, which I titled “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

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This is a photo of me on Mt Kilimanjaro. Climbing this mountain was one of the most physically & emotionally challenging experiences I have ever gone through. Yet, I can say that the struggle made the triumph of the summit all the more rewarding. I learned so much about myself through this experience, and I feel like that is largely true of any type of hardship we go through.

A lot of people question the purpose of suffering. If God is love, and He is as good as everyone talks about, then why did _______ happen? I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that yes, God is love, but love can be painful. The purpose of suffering is not just because God wants you in pain, but because He is doing a deep work in you. A good father isn’t one that shelters his children but one that allows them to go through things that will mold and shape their character, that they might become the person that they are created to be.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This passage is really rich with biblical language – I want to encourage you to listen to my sermon to hear an explanation of the significance of these words as I exegete these verses. Keeping this in mind, the “Kelly” translation of this verse is:

You need nothing more than God’s grace, because His resurrection power is completing a process in you. Therefore, rejoice in your powerlessness, because as your weakness increases, God’s power grows and dwells within you.

CS Lewis said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The fact of the matter is, suffering is, well, painful. How do we rejoice in the midst of it?

We can rejoice in these sufferings because God is taking us through trials which humble us, taking our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus. We begin to understand that we can accomplish nothing without His strength. Through our weaknesses, He shines through and is glorified. Because when we become less, Christ in us becomes more.

What I want to challenge you today is – in those moments, who do you turn your eyes to? Do you grit your teeth and fight through it, or are you quick to God and admit your need for His help?

Personally, I tend to turn inward, gritting my teeth and bearing it in my own power, saying, “I can do this!” Or, sometimes I turn away from the pain, doing what I can to change the circumstances and making myself comfortable.

But in reality, the only proper response is to say, “Jesus, your grace is sufficient for me. Give me power in my weakness.”

Terry Fullam said that there is one prayer that is irresistible to God: “Whenever we ask him for the grace, the wisdom, the insight, the knowledge, the courage, the resources to accomplish what He has assigned us to do.” This prayer is irresistible to God because it’s an acknowledgement that we are nothing without Him.

So this week, in your moments of greatest weakness, I want to challenge you to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” You’re literally asking God to pour His strength through you. And He will. He delights to.

The reality is that in heaven, it won’t matter how rich you were, or how prominent you were. All that will matter is how wonderfully the strength of God poured through your weaknesses.

There’s more! To hear my entire sermon, and some stories of how God has turned my greatest weaknesses into strengths, click here: http://jcboston.org/weak-strong/

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Made to Sing

Lately, as I stroll into my ministry meetings with my helmet clipped to my backpack, I get many stares.

“You…biked here? Today?” As if I just cart around my helmet for fun.

“Yep. I bike in the winter. It’s how I get around,” I respond, nonchalantly. And I usually get a blank stare, as if someone told you they had just walked to the moon.

Yesterday, I was toodling along the road on my bike here in Cambridge, heading to the Journey Church office. My head was spinning with all the things I had to do that afternoon – the people to reach out to, the all-important meetings, the emails to respond to. Somehow no matter what I do, my to-do list never seems to shrink. Today there was something that struck me though: I noticed that all the birds were singing.on’t they know that it is winter? That February in the northeast is absolutely, positively bone-chilling? I’m pretty sure it would be warmer to crawl into a grocery store freezer and stand in front of a full-blast fan than to bear the chilly gusts of the New England winter.

In fact, I bike like a madwoman not to save time but to keep my extremities from freezing and falling off. As icicles form on my nose, my feet spin in circles generating a nugget of heat inside my down jacket. My greatest fear is that my body parts will suddenly stop moving and I will keel over, frozen to my bike, crashing to the ground as a living icicle for the world to laugh at.

In that moment I was so numb I probably wouldn’t even noticed the birds, except that they were positioned strategically on a stark stick tree at a stop sign, their tiny claws clinging to the icy brown branch, singing their little hearts out.

(photo credit http://3.bp.blogspot.com/)

And in that moment I said, “God, I wish I were a bird like that, that I was just made to sing.”

And I heard Him speak to me clearly in my heart, “You are.”

And that just wrecked me.

I was made to sing. Just like the birds, I was made to sing, to dance, to run barefoot through meadows with hands outstretched and scale big trees to watch the sun’s colors fall. Yet as we grow up, life turns into a never-ending to-do list, with more responsibilities and people to attend to than time in the day. If we’re not careful, we can be consumed with doing instead of being, with completing instead of singing.

Meadow near Tiraspol, Moldova

Life as a bird seems so much simpler. You just wake up each day, eat a bit of whatever food you find, then perch somewhere and sing to the world. In fact, the birds were one of Jesus’ greatest teachers. In Matthew 6:26, he tells his disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Now hear me out. I’m not saying we have to neglect our daily responsibilities, or pretend that the realities of life don’t exist. I’m just saying that in the midst of life, we must make time to sing.

What do you do that makes your heart sing?