Feature: Deep Strength

“Deep Strength” has nothing to do with our moral or spiritual performance but rather our passionate pursuit of God, which results in our weaknesses being turned into strengths.
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Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. [2] This is what the ancients were commended for… [32] And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, [33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Hebrews 11:1-2,32-34 NIV

Faith makes us strong. It turns our weakness into strength. Do you believe this? Personally, I prefer to complain about, make excuses for, and rationalize my weaknesses. For me, admitting and facing weaknesses is difficult enough without adding the overwhelming task of turning them into strengths. Nevertheless, when reading Hebrews 11 there appears to be no limit to what faith can do. One of the things it can clearly do is turn weakness into strength.

Why Are We Weak?

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7 NIV

According to the scriptures, it is not our bodies which give us life but the breath of God (Job 12:10, Job 27:3). Evolutionary science may or may not account for the human body, but only God accounts for the human spirit which gives us life.

This ‘human spirit’ is what Elihu spoke about when he made clear that the spirit within us develops wisdom according to the level of enlightenment provided by God, not based on age (Job, Pulpit Commentary).

So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said: “I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. [7] I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ [8] But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. [9] It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.

Job 32:6-9 NIV

We can therefore conclude “the spirit in a person” is “the breath of the Almighty,” which gives us life (Genesis 2:7). Once again, it is not the body which gives us life but the human spirit breathed into our bodies by God.

…The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person…

Zechariah 12:1 NIV

How does this help us understand our human weakness? The majority of our human weaknesses emanate from our physical bodies. Our bodies were designed to be temporary (I Corinthians 15:35-41) and will only reach perfection (without any weakness) at the resurrection.

It is the same with the dead who are raised to life. The body that is “planted” will ruin and decay, but it is raised to a life that cannot be destroyed. [43] When the body is “planted,” it is without honor, but it is raised in glory. When the body is “planted,” it is weak, but when it is raised, it is powerful. [44] The body that is “planted” is a physical body. When it is raised, it is a spiritual body. There is a physical body, and there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NCV

The transient nature and weakness of our human or physical bodies is so significant Paul compared them to tents and explained the groaning discomfort we feel is designed by God. Our bodies are temporary, but our spirits are eternal (II Corinthians 5:1-5). So, while we will experience “spiritual weakness,” what we experience most is physical weakness. This is why Jesus told us to pray, so the strength of our “spirits” would overcome the weakness of our “bodies.”

“Watch and pray. Then you won’t fall into sin when you are tempted. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Matthew 26:41 NIrV

Simply put, we are not God. We are human, and humans are weak without God.

Let Weakness Lead Us to God

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. [16] Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

Our weakness is one of the reasons we have such difficulty understanding and pleasing God. Left to ourselves, we are spiritually superficial and weak-willed (II Timothy 3:1-7). We try hard, but in the end everyone has an ‘Achilles heel’ or two. Eventually each one of us will succumb to some weakness without God.

This is one of the reasons God sent Jesus as a man. We were incapable of understanding God’s love and empathy toward mankind, so he sent Jesus. Jesus empathizes with our weaknesses because he experienced them, and this experience allows him to lead us to God.

While our natural tendency might be to hide our weaknesses, we should actually reveal them, understanding that the more we reveal, the more grace we receive to help us overcome. This is one of the reasons Paul spoke so accurately and inspirationally about boasting in our weakness.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. [9] Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. [10] That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT

When we boast in our weaknesses rather than hide them, they can lead us into a deeper and more powerful relationship with God. Paul was actually able to list the weaknesses he experienced, which allowed him to draw closer to God.

Can you list your weaknesses? Can you imagine a way in which God can draw you closer to him because of your weaknesses? Will there ever be a time in your life when you are happy about your weaknesses, because you see how much they have allowed God to work powerfully in your life?

Start by Getting Strong On the Inside

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, [15] the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. [16] I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. [17] Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. [18] And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. [19] May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT

When facing weakness, we must avoid the mistake of the Pharisees, which was to work at looking strong on the outside while remaining weak on the inside (Matthew 23:27-28, Proverbs 24:10). We grow strong on the inside by becoming a Christian and receiving God’s Spirit, which strengthens our ‘spirit,’ providing us with inner strength not limited to the human will (Acts 2:38, Romans 8:5-16).

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” [16] For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:15-16 NLT

Spiritual strength does not come about through some type of magical action achieved by the waving of a wand. The internal strengthening of the Spirit occurs in large part when we draw our strength from the love of God. Nothing will help us understand this love better than diving into the scriptures, as we are led into a deeper understanding by God’s Spirit. This is what it means to take responsibility for working out our own salvation, where we do the spiritual work necessary to make ourselves strong on the inside.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13 NIV

When we grasp how deeply God loves us and we allow his love to grow roots in our heart, then the level of mental, emotional, and even physical strength we experience will exceed our human limits.

Our lack of spiritual awareness and thinking can make us doubt this promise, but this is what the journey of “Deep Spirituality” is all about. Every day we are doing the spiritual work necessary to develop the type of dynamic and transformational relationship with God that helps us turn our weaknesses into strengths and exceed our natural limits.

Deep Strength Works Inside Out

Family of Jacob, why do you complain, “The LORD doesn’t notice our condition”? People of Israel, why do you say, “Our God doesn’t pay any attention to our rightful claims”? [28] Don’t you know who made everything? Haven’t you heard about him? The LORD is the God who lives forever. He created everything on earth. He won’t become worn out or get tired. No one will ever know how great his understanding is. [29] He gives strength to those who are tired. He gives power to those who are weak. [30] Even young people become worn out and get tired. Even the best of them trip and fall. [31] But those who trust in the LORD will receive new strength. They will fly as high as eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not grow weak.

Isaiah 40:27-31 NIrV

God does not limit himself to strengthening us on the inside. He can strengthen us on the outside, as he promises in Isaiah 40:29-31.

First, we learn from Isaiah 40:28 that we don’t know God if we think he gets worn out and tired. I consider the term “worn out” to be a contrasting reference to God’s “unlimited emotional strength,” and “tired” to be a similar reference to his “unlimited physical strength.” Using these human terms is difficult, but think about it this way. While people get worn out and tired listening to us, sticking with us, or believing in us, the God we know understands and remains faithful regardless of whether we are weak or strong.

Isaiah 40:29-31 seems to tell us God can endow us with this same capacity for emotional and physical strength. We can keep going just like God, because we are receiving from him a “new strength” far exceeding our human strength.

What is the point? “Deep Strength” isn’t deep unless it works from the inside out, which means we must rely on God for the capacity to be both “emotionally” and “physically” strong.

We cannot become satisfied with a ritualistic prayer or robotic scripture reading. Instead, we should be looking for “Deep Strength,” which will allow us to be inspired by and actually obey those scriptures on the inside while watching our boldest prayers come true on the outside (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Why Getting Strong Matters

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [18] If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. [19] So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 NLT

If you haven’t already read the Kingdom of Change post, you should do so now, because it provides an in-depth understanding of the importance of the kingdom and the fact that God’s kingdom on earth is the church.

Since God’s kingdom on earth is the church, it makes a great deal of difference whether the church is weak or strong. A weak church obscures the greatness of God and his kingdom, while a strong church inspires in the opposite direction. Conclusively, weak Christians make churches weak, strong Christians make churches strong, and past reputations are irrelevant.

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. [2] Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

Revelation 3:1-2 NIV

When speaking about weakness, I am not referring to human frailty, which we all experience. Nor am I referring to the spiritual weakness of mistakes or sins. The weakness that makes churches weak is the result of humanistic self-reliance. Turning from weakness to strength is a spiritual change where we no longer look to ourselves but to God for our strength.

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Psalm 84:5 NLT

When we rely on ourselves, we grow weary and frustrated because our human weakness makes it impossible to live the life of destiny to which God has called us. Perhaps you are like me and become more irritated, annoyed, and angry under these conditions.

Interestingly enough, the scriptures teach us “those whose strength comes from the Lord” are joyful. Joyful Christians and joyful churches are not primarily made so by any human action of organization, creativity, or leadership, but by relying on God for their strength.

Every Christian should make it their mission to become strong in God, so their church can righteously represent the kingdom. From my point of view, this is central to what Jesus was talking about when he called every believer to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? [32] Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. [33] Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. [34] So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today.

Matthew 6:31-34 Voice

When we are strong in God, it is because the Spirit helps us overcome our weaknesses and shine with joy amidst the dark discouragements in this world. We become the light that allows people to know there is a God, not because of our strength but because the strength of God is working so powerfully in our lives (Zechariah 4:6)

This type of “Deep Strength” has nothing to do with our moral or spiritual performance but rather our passionate pursuit of God, which results in our weaknesses being turned into strengths. In this way, God’s dreams for each of our lives becomes a reality, glorifying his name and making his kingdom known through the church.

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