Posts Tagged ‘Strengths’



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.



June 1, 2013

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Body buildingStrength!  Who does not want to be strong?  Who wants to be weak?  I have never known a person who strove to be a weakling.  My entire world has been dominated by the strong.

Athletics is a competition of strength.  Those who have the strength to generate the most power, speed, flexibility, balance, and agility will be the ones who win the competition.  I have never trained for an athletic event with the goal of getting weaker.

English: Albert Einstein. Français : Portrait ...Academics is a competition of intellectual strength.  Those who have the strength to manipulate complex problems, develop elaborate logic, and comprehend extensive treatises, are the ones who achieve the pinnacles of the ivory towers.  I have never studied with the intent to be weaker in a particular subject.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...Business is a competition of power.  Capitalism dictates that the strongest businesses will survive and prosper.  The business with the most capital, stronger market share, superior product, better price is the business that will prosper.  I don’t spend my work-week in the hope of making my company have a weaker balance sheet.

Relationships are built on strength.  Those who possess the strengths of love, compassion, patience, selflessness, and forgiveness will be the ones who have deep and meaningful relationships.  Deutsch: Georg Müller (1805–1898), Waisenvater...I don’t long for weak and meaningless relationships.

Faith is a matter of strength.  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak. (Romans 15:1)  There are those with stronger faith than others.  I don’t seek God in order for my faith to become weaker.

Our world is built on a pursuit and desire for strength.  I have never known a person who liked feeling inferior.  Our own feelings of inferiority are merely an acknowledgment that someone else has a strength that is superior to your own.  Our objection to being cast as inferior is a refusal to accept another person’s opinion of differing strengths.  We spend our lives making assessments of strength, both our own and others.

Usain Bolt

There may be the self-deprecating sorts who don’t think that they have any strength.  That is simply a lie polished in the center of their self-obsession.  Anything that we do well is a strength and everyone does something well in comparison to someone else.  I am incredibly fast in a foot race with a four-year old.  I am not so fast in a race against Usain Bolt.  I will destroy a toddler in a cage match but I will run for my life against Jon “Bones” Jones.

We all have strengths.

We all want to be stronger.

That is how our world works.

Here is the problem with this approach that we all live by, “God does not use the strong.”  This is insanely counter intuitive.  God does not use those who are strong and wise.  God does not use those people who are particularly skilled in the arena of their talents.  That just does not seem right.  I can give you a list of people who appear to be using their gifts and talents in ways that are very much being used by God.

Whether God uses us has nothing to do with human ability.  It has everything to do with our attitude.  I can do many things in my own strength:

I can love my wife in my own strength.
I can parent my kids in my own strength.
I can write this blog in my own strength.
I can go to work in my own strength.
I can even seek God in my own strength.

I can do all of those activities and many more by doing what I am good at.  What happens when one of those activities excels due to my efforts?  I want to take a bow.  I want to be acknowledged.  I want to boast in an acceptable Christian manner.

This is the insidious nature of strength.  Our greatest strengths can lead us into unknown bogs of futility.  We can think that we are doing such great work using our strengths when God has turned His back due to our pride.  Pride lies in wait for the first glimmer of a strength.  Pride will snatch a strength in its burgeoning infancy and fan itself into a flaming beast.

Those of extraordinary skills and talents are the most susceptible to stumble into pride.  However, we all need to be diligent in examining where we attribute our strengths.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eph. 6:10

What do you have that has not been given to you?  What strengths do you have that are not from God?  What talents or special acumen is not a result of the Creator’s hand?  Was not God’s sovereign plan guiding every opportunity that has gotten you to where you are?

Every strength that we possess is the result of a divine blessing from God.  Therefore, we have no accomplishment in which to take a bow for.  Honestly acknowledging the true source of our strength results in us boasting in the Lord.  He is the one who is due the credit.  He is the one due the acclaim.

Another aspect of strength that is good to remember is the fact that our strength is not that impressive.  Strength is relative.  Our accomplishments are meritorious only in comparison.  We can appear worthy of praise only in comparison to one another.  However, a boast in ourselves quickly appears rather silly in comparison to God.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????Most of us have examined the flexed bicep of a pre-pubescent boy.  We pat him on the head and praise him for how strong he is all the while smirking about the absurdity of his bony little arm.  We are much less than that scrawny little boy when we compare our strengths to God.  It seems so very foolish to make much of a strength when we consider the strengths of our Father in heaven.  The assessment of our greatest strength in comparison to God will result in us boasting in the Lord.

The reality is that we are weak.  We were made weak.  We will always be weak in comparison to God.  All the strength that we have is a gift and unfathomable strength resides in Christ.

The glory of God is best seen in our weakness.

We should revel in our weakness because that is when God is made much of.

Therefore, our weakness is glorious.

When we fully embrace the glorifying potential in the weakness of our strengths, then we really can be used by God.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me of the pride I have taken in my strength.  Forgive me for boasting in myself and not acknowledging all the blessings you have given me.  Forgive me for not humbling myself before your greatness.  Thank you for my weakness.  Thank you for creating me to need You.  Thank you for doing everything that my strength is so unable to accomplish.  Thank you for not giving me trials based on my strength  All my strength comes from You.  All that is good in my life comes through my weakness.  Lord, may you be glorified in my weakness.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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