July 10, 2013

“But he 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.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain
Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain (Photo credit: Let Ideas Compete)

“One more hill to go,” was the mantra that reverberated through my mind on the descent.  We were on the tail-end of a 30 mile, “out-n-back,” ride composed of a series of rather steep, rolling hills.  I have been making this ride all season in training for the “Four Summit Challenge” at the end of this month.

I swept up the base of this remaining obstacle as gravity turned from a pleasant companion to an uninvited burden.  I responded by dropping a gear and immediately felt the pressure migrating back into my thighs.  I dropped another gear and pushed into the pedals, working to keep my pedal cadence high, trying to transfer as much speed up the hill as I could.  The road soaked up energy as I had to drop into the middle chainring.  I was not even halfway up the hill and my legs had already made their emergency call for oxygen and my lungs were struggling to meet the demand.

“One more hill . . . One more hill . . . ”  I was at that point where I either had to drop another gear or stand and charge to the top.  My mind said, “This is the last hill,  why not!”   but my legs had a list of reasons as to why not.  The victor of this mini-debate was declared as my legs popped me out of the saddle and started the strange little pedal dance of a cyclist desperate to get a climb’s summit.  I quickly crested the hill but the damage was done.  I was gasping for air as I circled around, waiting for the other riders.

“Oh mama, that hurt.”

Giro d'Italia 1991

Giro d’Italia 1991 (Photo credit: ta_do)

After we gathered ourselves, a fellow rider paid me the nice compliment, “You are much strong than even at the beginning of the year.”  I guess all of the riding and climbing has started to pay some dividends.  I had just charged up a hill that I have had to crawl up in the past.  However, I was not feeling like I thought I would feel when I was a “strong(er) climber.”  That ride wasn’t any easier than the first time I had tried it.  In fact, that last little hill had put the hurt on me just like it had always done.

This experience reminded of the quote from three time Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond:

“It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

I have a tendency to think that strength will make things easier.  Whereas, strength does make things easier it also leads to doing harder things.  My little training course has not become easier because my increasing strength has allowed me to go over it faster, which makes it harder.  That is the way strength works.

Strength has to be challenged.  Strength has to be forced to the point that it is once again relatively weak.  Any amount of strength that I have gained this season will begin to deteriorate the moment that I start making my training course easier.  I will be at my strongest only when I am pushing myself to weakness.

My strength begins to ebb when I never experience weakness.

Many have a tendency to think that once they become spiritually stronger then following Christ will be easier.  I have followed Christ for more than thirty years and I can attest to the fact that following Christ has not become easier.  What I thought was hard thirty years ago is no longer as challenging.  However, I still have enough challenges in my spiritual walk that my weaknesses are a constant reminder.

This knowledge of weaknesses, rather than deficiencies to be scorn, actually is evidences of strengths being challenged.  It is at our weakest when we experience real strength.  Paul was given a thorn in his flesh to remind him of his weakness and the sufficiency of God’s grace.  Paul needed to remember his weakness so that the power of God could be perfected through him. Paul never laid back and rested in his strengths.  He never lived like following Christ was easy.  Paul went and did hard things.  He endured the hard things of insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

Relative to me, Paul was incredibly strong.  However, he was well aware of all his weaknesses through the challenges of doing difficult things for the glory of God.  It was by embracing his weaknesses that the power of the Spirit continued to give him the strength that he needed.

For when he was weak, then he was strong.

There are many who have taken the easy route.  They have become secure in their spiritual strengths.  They no longer push their strengths to the point of weakness.  Beware when you feel strong.  Beware when following Christ becomes easy and comfortable.  You should be concerned when your weaknesses are not before you.  The reality is that the strength that you have may just be ebbing away.  The power of Christ does not rest upon those who think  they are strong.  The power of Christ rests upon those who acknowledge their weaknesses and need of Christ.  The power of Christ rests upon those who feel their weakness.  The only way to feel your weakness is by doing hard things.

We are all at our strongest when we are at our weakest.  Let’s go do some hard things and be reminded of how weak we really are.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my weakness so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.  Father, keep me from seeking the easy route.  Push me to use the strengths that You have given me.  Challenge me so that I may know my weaknesses.  Sustain me through my weakness – your grace is sufficient for me O Lord.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.


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  3. Reblogged this on Ruminating….

  4. Great post!

  5. I love this verse

  6. You say: “The power of Christ does not rest upon those who think they are strong. The power of Christ rests upon those who acknowledge their weaknesses and need of Christ. The power of Christ rests upon those who feel their weakness. The only way to feel your weakness is by doing hard things.” AMEN, JD. Thank you for the encouragement to tackle a hard thing–not because “if you can dream it, you can do it.” (That’s what pop psychology says.) Instead, I’ll experience the power of Christ in new ways. Now THAT sounds exciting!

  7. As much as I hate it, I am thankful just the same for the severe osteoarthritis in my knees, hips, elbows and wrists that has limited what I can do and where I can go, because it does keep me closer to the Father. If I had no pain, no limitations with mobility, I might be inclined to neglect time spent in prayer asking for strength and praising Him for what I can accomplish.

  8. Thank you JD. This is one of my favourite verses, and the words of our dear Lord echo in my head almost daily these days. It is a passage I never really understood until I got really sick four years ago, and stayed that way. Since then I have developed quite a fondness for the apostle Paul!

    The trials come and go with breathtaking regularity. Sometimes the Lord seems to wait until I am pleading for His mercy, unable to see my way forward… then he sends sweet relief and my soul rests joyfully awhile. For me that soul rest is a glimpse of what is to come.

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