Are you strong? It’s true that strength is a relative thing. We can always find someone “stronger.” Not only that but strength comes in different varieties. We might think of brute, physical strength first, but what about emotional strength? Some of the strongest people I’ve known I could easily whip in a weight lifting contest.
More importantly, what about spiritual strength? The Bible says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10). A spiritually-minded person is concerned most for this strength. How, though, is that measured?
We might want to take a measure of our spiritual strength by answering questions like, how regular am I in worship attendance? How often do I go to Bible class? Do I read the Bible daily? How many times do I pray? Granted, these all contribute to and are vital for our spiritual well-being, but that’s not the way to measure strength. That’s measuring it like we would other strengths (how much weight can I lift or how many difficulties can I put up with?). Those measures are self-possessed; that is, it’s based on what comes from me. Not so with spiritual strength.
Paul’s experience teaches us that eliminating what was weak in himself was not the path to greater strength. He claimed precisely the opposite. Less weakness didn’t equate with greater strength, it actually depleted strength.
Ok, this demands some explanation. I’ll let Paul do that. “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
It’s in recognizing our own weakness that we are led to greater reliance on and trust in God. He’s the one who is strong. Paul wanted his weakness removed (“thorn in the flesh”). That’s us too, isn’t it? When we think of strength, our minds focus on what we are. To be stronger, get rid of weakness we say. God says that’s not how it works. When we eliminate our weakness, we eliminate the very place where God’s power works. Our effort to become strong has resulted in removing the channel for God’s strength to work.
This is what it means to be strong “in the Lord and the strength of his might.” The strength is the Lord’s, not mine.