Boasting in Weakness

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
— Paul the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:9

I do not know about you (beyond the shared experience of our condition), but I am amazed at the variable levels of weakness in my own faith. We are seldom weak in one area at a time and are rarely aware of these weaknesses until they are exposed. Worse yet, many of us struggle to do what we love, what we are strongest in. How can we be so afflicted, seemingly out of nowhere, to the extent we cannot function as before?

Paul's letter to the church at Corinth encourages the Body to rest in the grace of Christ. He does not exhort them to enter into the fullness of faith under their own strength. Often when we refer to Paul it is as an apostle, a great missionary, a teacher, the first apologist, etc. in other words, we know him by his strengths. Paul, however, often reminded us to know him by the weakened sinful nature his Savior came to redeem. 

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
— Paul the Apostle, 1 Timothy 1:12-17

 

What of Samson then, the physically strongest man of God to ever walk the Earth? Did he boast in his weakness as Paul did? No, what became of Samson is all too familiar. His weaknesses were manifold; arrogance, pride, and the lust of the eyes. We may downplay Samson's story as one of righteous flow from on High imbuing Israel's judge with superhuman powers, but the strength of Samson is akin to the power of the Holy Spirit within each believer. Samson's weakness lead to the degradation of his famous strength; founded in his covenant with God not in his hair. Samson's hair was a sign of His covenant with the Almighty, a condition of his vow to set him apart as a faithful servant of God. The covenant by which we are bound is built on the blood of Christ our Savior, claiming us as children of God. Samson betrayed his vow from the minute he decided to pursue a relationship with Delilah. He was blinded by his desire for her, rather than blinded to her by his desire for the Lord. 

So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.
— Judges 16:17

He traded his relationship with God for a chance to get close to a woman conspiring against Israel. Samson will always be known for his strength, but we have so much to learn from his weakness. Like David, like us, Samson's life was marked by a series of mistakes which led him further and further from his calling. King David did not go to war with his army and fell into a temptation that ended with infidelity and murder. Samson chose to fraternize with Philistines rather than his people, and he lost his strength and his sight. What duty are we neglecting and what will we become of us because of our own refusal to be perfected in weakness?

The Lord was magnified by the restoration of Samson after he was brought low. Samson was weakened, blinded, and enslaved when the Lord answered his prayer at the temple of Dagon. This Samson was the vessel God used to destroy the Philistines, their rulers, and gods; not the strong man who used the jaw bone of a donkey to slay 1,000 men. We may never extract honey from a lion we slay with our own hands, but we have known the strength of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How often, like Samson or David do we turn away from the blessings and promises of God in order to chase after the unworthy spoils of this life? 

Strengths and weaknesses are easy to identify in others, yet we struggle to self diagnose. We readily know what we like or dislike about others, the things we want to become, or avoid. We are each part of the Body of Christ, can the mouth speak life if the tongue is weakened with hate and malice? How will our hands serve one another in love if the wrist is broken? If the forearm is strong but the shoulder is torn, the bow cannot be drawn. So much for our strength if it can be nullified by a critical weakness. Let us boast not in our strength, let us not fall into acceptance or sadness over our weakness. Instead let us rejoice in Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith as he continues the good work He began in us. He is glorified in our weakness and our strength is in Him alone. 

Sola Christo, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria.