Thursday, March 13, 2008

Welcome the Weakness

This week is the annual missions conference at Washington Bible College and Capital Bible Seminary. We have had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Lewis Sutton for the first part of the week. Today he told a great story about something that happened while he was in college.

Dr. Sutton had committed himself to getting up early each morning to spend time in God’s Word as well as in prayer with his Lord. Being a typical college student, he was not very disciplined about getting to bed at a decent hour. So the early risings were often difficult to manage. One morning, after too little sleep the previous night, Dr. Sutton sat at his desk, trying to focus on his Bible propped up in front of him. His brain too foggy to think clearly, he decided to spend the rest of his time in prayer before getting ready for class. With his roommate still asleep in his own bed, Dr. Sutton rested his head on his folded hands on the desk, started to pray, and promptly fell asleep. Two hours later he awoke with a start to find himself late for class.

A few weeks later, Dr. Sutton and his roommate were at a Christian fellowship. His roommate was asked how things were going. “Just great!” the roommate enthused. “I’ve been having great quiet times with the Lord and my prayer life has been really taking off.” When asked what had happened to make the difference in his life, the roommate gave a ready answer. “The other day, my roommate Lewis spent two whole hours in prayer. I was so impressed I decided to do exactly what he was doing. And the Lord really turned my life around!”

Of course, Dr. Sutton later shared exactly what had gone on during that “prayer” session his roommate had observed and together they had a good laugh over it. But he had discovered an interesting truth about God: He can use even our greatest weakness or failure in a good way in us and in the lives of others.

First Corinthians 1:27-29 tells us: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong . . . so that no man may boast before God.” We worry about “having it together” before we try to serve God. But God doesn’t tend to use people who have it all together. He wants people who again and again curl up at His feet, aware of their sin and begging for the grace to carry on.

When we blow it, we are suddenly once again aware of the ugliness that still exists inside us. The fa├žade is shattered, and we come face to face with what really was true all along: we are too needy and unworthy to deserve to be used in the service of the King. Yet amazingly, God actually delights to work through those who are a big mess (like me). After a failure, we are suddenly aware once again that we are in need of grace as much as ever. God’s response to that awareness is to compassionately wrap His arms around us. Psalm 34:18 assures us: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

The world considers things like self-sufficiency, confidence, and competence to be worthy and admirable. These are not what God desires for us. Instead, He wants us to be dependent on His strength, reliant on His power, and wholly leaning on Him for all aspects of our life. The more aware we are of our faults, the more we understand if we were left to fend for ourselves, it would not end well. That is what our weaknesses do for us. They keep us grounded in the truth. When we understand the reality of the situation, God can do His most mighty work through us. And in the end, His glory shines out through the cracks in the vessels He has chosen to use.

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