The Strength of Your Weaknesses
If you've been with us in our study through the Gospel of John, you no doubt know we're at the Feast of Tabernacles. So many of these past weeks have been spent at that very feast. We've had encounter after encounter with the Pharisees. We've had objections. We've had debates. We've had Christ making these bold claims, one of which is "I am the light of the world."
We come today probably in the footsteps of that same day as Jesus is passing by one who has blindness from birth. Not something that developed from a disease or later in life, but an individual who has never seen, who has never known sunlight, who has been, in that culture, a beggar. He is raised up to be a beggar because without sight, there is no opportunity for him. There is no ability for him.
Brother Mark is correct. This is a true story, but it's such a metaphor for all of us as we consider our own inability to know the things of God, to be able to treasure the truths of God without the light of the world first coming into our hearts, illuminating us so that we who are blind can see. That certainly weaves all through this story today.
Also weaving through this story is really the shocking words for us perhaps of the disciples at the very beginning of the story. They're addressing the man's blindness. They've been taught by rabbis that blindness from birth could have been the result of sin in the womb. They draw back to the story of Esau and Jacob and feel that Esau committed sin in the womb. So that story carries forward. So when they see someone with a congenital birth defect, one explanation they offer is, "They must have done something even before they were born."
Of course Christ wants to stop that thinking. He wants to put an end to that foolish argument. He wants to point out that all of us are born in sin; all of us fall short of the glory of God. But the weaknesses we find in people are actually where God can get His glory. Our strength may very well be…and in fact I believe is…in the very weaknesses we have, the very things that threaten us, the very things we are not proud of. The weaknesses that have dragged us down I want us to see today may be very well where our strengths lie.
So I call the message today that your strength is in your weaknesses because we all come here today with certain weaknesses, certain things we're not sure about, certain things we might have used as an excuse for why we can't do whatever it is. I want us to see that maybe that's been put there so God might get the glory.
Look in John, chapter 9. Verse 1 says, "Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'" The disciples want to enter into some theological debate here. You know, the sad thing about this is they look at this man who is blind, who is a beggar, and it's what they don't do, which is to minister to the guy. They don't have any interest in the gentleman. They just have interest about the gentleman. They are leaving their Christianity at the same level so many of us leave Christianity, at the abstract idea. You know, we talk about sin in the abstract. We don't talk about ministering to a particular person in concrete.
Often the great challenge of being a believer is to move from the abstract Sunday school into the reality of Monday through Friday and to actually live out our Christian faith, to see someone who is suffering from addiction, someone who is suffering from a defect, someone who is suffering financially, someone who has been shunned in the community. Rather than talk about them, to go to them and to minister to them because you see, that's exactly the example Jesus is offering here.
Now there are a lot of blind people. Really this story is very similar to the one we saw earlier in our study of John when Jesus walks into a portico filled with people wanting to be healed by the so-called miraculous waters at the pool. Jesus picks out one and heals them. Certainly there are many blind people, but Jesus stops with this one. Jesus does it for a particular reason.
When we think about the disciples' response, I think we're mindful that's a common response in Scripture. You go back to the book of Job. You want to see how people like to respond to somebody who is suffering, who is down and out, who has lost their family, who has lost their finances, who has lost their possessions, who has lost their health.
You can see what kind of good friends Job had. They were the kind of friends who liked to talk about Job in Job's presence and to ridicule him in his presence, to basically accuse him and to say his circumstances he was in must have been the result of the fact he wasn't pleasing God. You know, when you don't please God, God will get you. When you don't do what God wants you to, God will zap you. That's how so many people view our Heavenly Father, that He is Somebody we try to avoid at all costs. We try not to tick Him off. We try to just stay away and keep our nose clean. That's how Job's friends analyzed Job's condition.
Job is a man in weakness. In the story of Job, you see a man who has gone from great strength, apparently very wealthy, a good worshiper, great family man, to a man who is in sackcloths and ashes literally. A man who is suffering the boils on his own body. A man whose wife says, "Curse God and die. Why don't you just commit suicide? Why don't you just get it over with?" If that were not bad enough, his friends saying, "I wonder what sin it was that got you into this kind of mess?" Job responds to that.
I want you to hear these words because this is the testimony of a man in weakness. I want to speak to you who have felt the ridicule, the accusations of even good Christian friends because you right now are suffering. You're alone. You're broke. You're addicted. Whatever it might be, you're suffering from something that has brought you to a point of weakness. Others, rather than helping, rather than ministering, rather than having that Christ-like response, they're saying, "I wonder what you did to deserve this."
Listen to Job's response in Job 13. In verse 1 he is continuing his response to them. He says, "Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you." In other words, "Everything that has happened to me, I saw it too! I'm living it! You're talking like I didn't notice what's happened in my life, but I very well have noticed the terrible things that have happened in my life."
Verse 2, "I am not inferior to you, but I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God. But you forgers of lies, you are all worthless physicians. Oh, that you would be silent, and it would be your wisdom!" In other words, "I wish you guys would shut up. That would be the smart thing to do! You're terrible doctors; you're terrible physicians trying to diagnose the condition I'm in." Verse 5, "Oh, that you would be silent, and it would be your wisdom! Now hear my reasoning, and heed the pleadings of my lips. Will you speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for Him?"
You know, brother Ron pointed out the sin of the third commandment (which is not to take the Lord your God's name in vain), to take the Lord's name in vain, is to ascribe to God something God never said. I've always heard that it meant you don't cuss, but that's not what it means. It means to say God said something God didn't say, that God did something God didn't do. That's exactly what Job is saying here. He is saying, "You're saying I am suffering because of what God has done to me, that I'm deserving the just punishment God is dealing out. But you're speaking wickedly for God. You're pretending to say what God never said, and you're being unholy with your words."
People are like that. "Who sinned? Him or his parents? I wonder what kind of sin got you in that condition you're in today." Oh, he says in verse 8, "Will you show partiality for Him? Will you contend for God? Will it be well when He searches you out? Or can you mock Him as one mocks a man? He will surely rebuke you if you secretly show partiality. Will not His excellence make you afraid, and the dread of Him fall upon you?"
"You're acting like you can judge people! You're acting like you know what God intends to do. What you ought to be is very afraid of the holiness of God, trying to step into the place of God. God is going to rebuke you, and you're going to be very dreadfully afraid when you realize the travesty you've committed judging someone instead of ministering to them." "He will surely rebuke you (verse 10) if you secretly show partiality." Then down to verse 12. "Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay."
In other words, "Your good platitudes, your statements, are worthless. They're like ashes. Your defending yourself has no strength to it at all. It's like clay." Listen to what he says. This is the reason I'm bringing you through this discussion. "Hold your peace with me, and let me speak, then let come on me what may!" My friends, this is the statement of a person in weakness who is going to trust God. "Let come on me what may! You hold your peace with me." Verse 14, "Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hands?"
Verse 15, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him." "Even if He kills me, I'm going to trust Him. Even if He kills me, I'm going to trust Him." You see, the response of a person in weakness needs to be that of faith. Our response of weakness needs to cease searching for the Why am I in this condition and to begin searching for the who, for the who can help me, for the who I can worship, for the who I can glory.
Come back with me to John, chapter 9. Jesus answered in verse 3 and said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Verse 6, "When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."
That's an unusual thing. Sometimes Jesus just speaks to them. I believe the symbology of using clay is to remind us we are but clay, and the healing is going to come from the One who can form people out of clay. So He puts the clay, and He says to him in verse 7, "'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam' (which is translated, sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing." Verse 8, "Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, 'Is not this he who sat and begged?' Some said, 'This is he.' Others said, 'He is like him.' He said, 'I am he.'" "I am he!"
Verse 10, "Therefore they said to him, 'How were your eyes opened?'" Another bad question. The question is not how…the who! We will see a miraculous thing happen, and our human response often is…How? How did that happen? When we try to analyze and break down God's goodness, and when God has stepped in and He has miraculously delivered and He has done great things for us, we step back, and we say, "Now how did this happen? How did this happen? I wonder if maybe it was this or maybe it was coincidentally that? Or it could have just the consequences of…"
We miss the miracle. The questions in our lives and the miracles in our lives should not be how but who. The who who brought it. The Jesus who brought it. They said, "How then were his eyes opened?" But even in asking that question were beginning to see how the glory of God is going to be revealed. Verse 11, "He answered and said, 'A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, "Go to the pool of Siloam and wash." So I went and washed, and I received sight.' Then they said to him, 'Where is He?'" He said, "Duh! I'm blind. I don't know where He was. He sent me to the pool. Now I see! I was blind then. I don't know where He went. I don't know! You're asking me? You're asking the wrong guy."
But the glory has been revealed. The glory has been revealed, and the glory was revealed…notice this…in the man's weakness. I mean, a man with great eyesight would have brought no glory to God in that event. A man who had strength would have brought no glory to God. The glory came through his weakness. Jesus told the disciples that neither, but that the glory of God might be revealed.
My friends, I want to tell you the weakness you may find yourself suffering in now, the weakness that is the thing that's so gripped you, I want you to glory this morning. I want you to praise God this morning because it is in that weakness you're going to find God. It is in that weakness He is going to bring deliverance.
Let me share some verses with you. Second Corinthians 12, verse 10, Paul said, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities." The word for infirmities is the word adunatos. Dunatos means strength, and adunatos means weakness. "I take pleasure in (weaknesses), in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses." I mean, is this guy crazy? Do we want to take pleasure in weaknesses, in infirmities? Do we want to take pleasure in suffering? Yeah. He says, "Yes, I do." Why? "I do it for Christ's sake." In other words, "the glory of God…the glory of God." Notice, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." "When I am weak, then I am strong."
Paul was strong in a lot of things, but Paul noticed God's glory came from his weakness. His real strength, if you will, came from his weakness. It's not, "God, help me remove the few weaknesses I have so I can be strong enough to bring glory to You." It's, "God, thank You for my weakness because it is in that that Your glory is going to come." Rather than trying to avoid your weaknesses, why don't you begin to see it is in those weaknesses God's strength is going to come? It is in your weakness God will get the glory, not in your strength. Your strengths are great, and we'll talk about those in a moment, but your weaknesses are not to be dismissed, avoided, hidden. It is there you're going to find the glory of God.
You're looking for the glory of God? You're looking to be used greatly of God? My friends, it is in your weakness, not your strength. Oh, people will say, "You know, you have a lot of talent for this. You have a lot of ability for that. You ought to use that for God." Well that's true. But your weakness is where God's glory comes. Your weakness is where God's strength comes. That's what Paul said.
Listen to what the Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 11:32. He has been talking about all these great heroes of faith. In verse 32 he says, "And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, (notice) out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." What's so great about all of these people is they were all weak people.
You look…Samson is listed here. Now we look at Samson's life in the book of Judges, and we see anything but a godly man. We see a man who was given natural, physical strength. But he did not use his strengths for God, did he? He used them for himself. So God doesn't get the glory, but when does God get the glory? When is God glorified? What is the most glorifying moment in Samson's life?
It's at the end of his life in the weakness of being shackled between those two pillars of stone. God gives him the strength to push them down. That story is totally different if Samson is just walking along kicking columns over. But when God did it, out of his weakness, he became strong. He prays that prayer, "Oh God, just give me the strength to bring down all of these to their death." Out of his weakness, he became strong.
It is out of David's weakness we have the tenderest moments. Not him just as the conqueror, but it's when he is running from his accusers that we find God being glorified in his life and those wonderful psalms being written. It's not him as the king on the roof of his palace. But it's him on his knees begging the forgiveness of God because of the weakness of his adultery that touches our hearts as we read his encounter in Psalm 51. It is in the weaknesses of our lives God gets His glory.
Joel 3:10 says, "Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am strong.'" When God brings about His real peace, when God ushers in that millennial time of peace, the weak say, "I am strong." The weak say, "God be glorified." Our strength comes from God, in other words. Those who are weak say, "I am strong."
But what about our strengths because we're not weak at everything. Some things we're strong as. Some things we're good at. Where somebody might have a weakness and God will get the glory, someone else might have a strength in that area. So what are we to do with our strengths? Doesn't God give us strengths? Does He only give us weaknesses? No! God gives us strengths, but He gives us the strength to help the weak. That's why He gives you that strength. That's why He has given you that talent. That's why He has given you that mental ability. That's why He has given you those finances. That's why He has given you that stability. My friend, it's not because you've been a good boy and girl. It's because He wants you to help.
Paul says in Romans 15, verse 1, "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak." That word scruples is adunatos. The weaknesses of the weak. We ought to bear with or hold up or help out the weak and not to please ourselves. Your strengths are not given so you can please yourself. If God gave it to you, it's there so you can help the weak. When you do, God gets glory. When the weak are helped, God gets the glory because out of the weakness, they become strong.
There would be some in our fellowship right now who are weak in an area that someone or others are strong in. Those who are strong ought to bear up the weaknesses of the weak. When they do, those who are weak become strong. When they become strong, it's for Christ's sake. God gets the glory.
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