“It is always upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build his Kingdom; and that he can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.”
~James Stewart, the Scottish preacher, not the actor
If we were to meet the apostle Paul today in a church building or at the post office or grocery store, I think we’d notice him. And I think we’d stare. Not just because he’d be wearing a robe and sandals and speaking Greek. I think we’d not be able to help staring at all his scars. All his bruises. Some of his many wounds would be red and swollen. I imagine he’d be limping. I see Paul as a crooked man, bent over and almost deformed in some places due to many broken bones that healed improperly. And I think we’d notice all those things right off the bat.
But I think we’d also immediately recognize his fire. His passion. His determination. Even his cheer. I think we’d be looking at a man broken in body, but not in spirit.
And the deal with Paul is that he rarely talks about his scars and bruises and broken bones. When he does discuss everything he’s been through, it’s because he’s being forced. And it’s never in an effort to gain sympathy. It’s never to brag on himself and his own abilities to persevere and overcome. It’s always to brag on God. We admire Paul, not because of his suffering, but because of his response to the suffering.
Paul sees his trials from the divine perspective of his God. Paul tells the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) that his sufferings and persecutions aren’t unpleasant interruptions. They’re not distractions that mess up his life. They’re not unfair intrusions. Paul sees the pressure and the crises as gifts from God to show us, to teach us, to rely on the Father and not on ourselves. Through his pains Paul sees clearly that God has delivered us, God is delivering us, and God will deliver us (v.10).
In 1 Samuel 30, David finds himself in the middle of a horrible crisis. He and his men have returned to thier village in Ziklag only to find that all of their homes have been burned to the ground and all the wives and children of the town have been stolen away. David has no wife, no children, no home, no village, no land, no possessions, no wealth, no security, and no friends. In fact his friends, his own loyal men, are blaming him for the situation and are talking about killing him. In a matter of just a couple of days David’s world was turned completely upside down in a horrible way.
And in the middle of all this, Scripture says “but David found strength in the Lord his God” (30:6).
That’s where Paul finds strength, too. In the Lord his God.
And if we saw Paul today we’d admire him for his great strength in trials. We’d applaud his fierce determination through persecution. We’d praise his perseverance in suffering. And Paul would say, “No! No! No! You don’t get it! I’m not strong! I don’t have any strength! All I have are weaknesses and flaws and shortcomings! I’m not strong!”
“The one who pours his strength into me,” Paul would say, “he is strong. The one who overcomes my weaknesses, he is strong. The one who delivers me through my crises and uses the pressure to make me into the person he wants me to be, he is strong. I find my strength in the Lord my God.”
Don’t hide your weaknesses. Boast in them because that’s where God displays his strength.
Don’t shrink from the crisis. Boast in it because that’s where God does his best work.
Don’t despair under the pressure. Boast in it because that’s where God delivers.
In all your humiliations, struggles, battles, weaknesses, inadequacies, helplessness, and sickness, realize those are the things that make you effective. The Lord your God says those are actually the things that make you great. Because it’s in those things that God gives you his strength.
It’s official! The Legacy Church of Christ is now the sponsoring congregation for Cory & Emily Mullins, missionaries to Australia, and David and Olivia Nelson, missionaries to Eastern Europe. The Mullins and Nelsons will move to our area, place their membership with our church family, and work with us through the summer before they begin their six-year foreign missions commitments in the fall.
As their new home church, we’re providing their housing during this interim three or four month summer period. We already have the two houses. But we need furniture and other household goods. If you can donate or lend any beds, chairs, tables—any kind of furniture—we need it. Lent items will be returned in the fall while donated items will go to Legacy Give Away Day.
It’s exciting to partner with two missionary families in this way. By the time they leave for their destinations in the fall, they’ll belong to us. We’ll be sending out four of our own. I think we’ll take much more ownership and pride and feel much more responsibility and connection to the foreign missions work of our congregation when we already know and love the people we send.
Cory and Emily Mullins will be moving here in the middle of next week. David and Olivia Nelson will be here at the end of June. Please keep those two young couples in your prayers over the coming days and weeks.
Michael Young’s team record 23-game hitting streak ended last night with an 0-5 with a walk and a run scored. But David Murphy hit a grand slam in a seven-run seventh inning for the Rangers to help Texas come from down 5-1 again to beat the Royals. This puts the Rangers over .500 for the third time this season and pulls them to within two games of Oakland for second place in the West.
But while the Rangers are first in the Majors in runs scored, at just over 5-1/2 runs per game, and team batting average (.286) they’re dead last in the most important fundamental areas of the game. Texas gives up more runs than any other team in baseball. They’ve committed more errors than any other team. And no group of starting pitchers in baseball have issued more walks or compiled a higher ERA than those in Arlington.
They can get away with some of those mistakes and shortcomings in Kansas City. But certainly not in California or New York or Boston or Detroit or Tampa Bay.
I’ll get to those goals for 2008 and 2009 tomorrow.