After hearing a sermon on Psalm 52:3-4 (lies and deceit), a man wrote the IRS, “I can’t sleep knowing that I have cheated on my income tax. Enclosed is a check for $150. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.”
That’s not quite what the deal is.
Here’s another person who may not be as good of a person as he thinks. This dad says, “The biggest change after having kids was putting a swear jar in the house. Whenever I say a bad word, I have to put a dollar in the jar, and at the end of every month, I take all that money and buy myself a nice steak for being such a cool dad.”
I think he’s missing something.
We need to be willing to see our weaknesses. Being blind to what we aren’t doing so well at doesn’t mean others can’t see them. If you want to be strong in God’s grace then you have to be willing to see what others already see.
After all, everybody has something or things, does something that doesn’t make sense to someone else. We need to be corrected so we can do and be better.
Proverbs 9:8 says, “A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you.” It’s not easy to hear someone tell you you’re not doing well. Hearing that makes us feel bad about ourselves, especially if we’re someone who tries so hard to do the right thing.
But the Lord loves what you’ve done well in the past. God blesses you for who you are today. Still, the Lord isn’t done with you. God’s servants know they have weaknesses and don’t mind being reminded they still have work to do.
We each have strengths. You might be organized or trustworthy. You might be someone who focuses easily on tasks at hand or is good at learning. You’re a creative person or an inspiring person. You may be strong in confidence and willpower.
Or perhaps you’re an action-oriented person. Someone else may be analytical or if not maybe you’re disciplined or charming. Perhaps you’re an emotionally intelligent person that really gets what people are feeling. You’re strength maybe that you’re courageous or team-oriented.
No doubt you have strengths that have helped you out many, many times and that you’ve built your life around.
But we each have weaknesses. And at times those weaknesses can undermine the best built life.
People can be fearful or intolerant, impulsive or moody, passive or naïve, prejudiced or stubborn, messy or shallow, lethargic or cynical. We might be someone who’s aggressive or insensitive. We might not be good at being positive and instead dwell on negatives. Impatience might be a weakness or the need to control.
Whatever it is or they are, weaknesses play a large part in our lives. They just can’t be put out of sight because to others they aren’t out of sight. Let the Lord in on your weakness. Stop trying to hide what can’t be hidden. Be willing to be taught where you’re going to grow.
The truth is when we acknowledge our weaknesses it allows good things to happen. If we’re weak, this means someone else can be strong. If we’re in need of help that means someone else can shine. Being approachable by others helps us to be approachable by God. If we close the door on others then we close the door on God’s path to you.
Don’t shut yourself in to what others are asking of you. Grow to incorporate what a loved one says is important to them. Perhaps then they will be willing to hear you talk graciously of their weakness.
Don’t feel embarrassed that you make mistakes and are called on them. Take a look at yourself and accept that you want to be the kind of person who learns, adapts, changes, and grows.
So often we want to be perfect. The world around us is a mess; everybody we know has something wrong with them. So if we can be perfect, if we have it all together, than we can be different and special.
This feels great, but it’s just not true. Nobody will ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Perfection. People win it for this study or that activity. They don’t win it for themselves.
Now someone may say, “But Pastor, scripture says, ‘Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ This means we’re supposed to be, well, perfect.” Yes, but only in a specific manner.
Jesus is telling us we are to be perfect in compassion, since rain falls on both the good and the bad, and sun shines on both the bad and the good. Perfection for Christ was a perfection of mercy and kindness that sees all people as God’s children, all of humanity as one under their Creator, over whom God’s love shines and blessings fall. That’s the perfection Christ seeks in us.
Looking at our scripture reading, we should know that after Paul planted the church in Corinth, opposition sprang up quickly. Some who called themselves true apostles, who had letters of recommendation from important people, accused Paul of not being an apostle at all.
Their list of damaging attacks includes the point he suffers too much, which clearly means God isn’t protecting him. He changes his mind and his journeys, not following through on plans. Finally, he’s an unimpressive speaker who needs to study rhetoric. He must know this since he never even asks for money when he speaks.
Paul begins his response by saying he has the pedigree and personal accomplishments; he even goes on to list them, willing to boast about being from the house of Benjamin, which is King David’s family line, if others are going to boast about theirs—not the most humble move he says but he’s willing to do anything to keep his flock together.
But then he does something different: He agrees with his opponents that he’s failed a lot. He lists his supposed failures but in such a way as to turn them into his strengths.
They are now his marks of apostleship. And he has more than anyone else who is striving for the Lord Jesus Christ: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
And he finishes by saying, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Instead of being trapped in a corner of his opponents making, he tells his Corinthian church about a God whose strength makes up for Paul’s weakness. Paul acknowledges his weaknesses, not as the cause of his imperfection but as the source of God’s grace.
Nobody is strong all the time; the only question is whether when you’re weak, you will be strong in God’s grace.
Don’t pretend you’re better than you are. Stopping acting strong, and faking like you’ve got it altogether. Uncover yourself to the Lord. Let God’s
grace give you the strength where you’re weak. Acknowledge what’s too much for you so the Lord can give you what you need.
The truth is many of us are doing very well. You paid the bills this month, and maybe even had extra to spend on non-necessities.
You have a job. For however many hours, at whatever rate, you are earning money that helps you eat something, sleep on something, wear something every day.
You have time to do something you enjoy. Even if “what you enjoy” is sitting on the couch and ordering dinner and watching Netflix.
We should be more hopeful when we judge our lives. Find ways to see how well you’re doing. Become more acquainted to your successes, even if at first you failed. A fatal weakness may be your continual self-criticism that doesn’t let you enjoy a victory or acknowledge a success.
An English as Second Language teacher has the ability to see her gifts to her students through their eyes, rather than a perfectionistic lens. She said, “My students try so hard and are so appreciative. One student paid me the ultimate compliment when she said, “You teach English good.” Another assured me, “I will always forget you.” And a third insisted, “I thank you from the heart of my bottom.”
Maybe it’s not perfect but it’s right on.
When the Israelites were to cross over the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land, Moses told them they were to set up an altar at the crossover point. Deuteronomy 27:6 says, “You must build an altar there to the Lord your God of unhewn (whole) stones.”
Unhewn stones are whole stones. Moses told them they were not to do anything to those stones. They weren’t to try to shape them and perfect them to make them good enough to the Lord their God.
God knows what he wants. The Lord is willing to shape us as is best and fit. Trust God. Too often we try to stop God’s work on us by assuming what we are is what is to be. Stop trying to work out your end from your limited perspective. Give the Lord the chance to create you by his grace and compassion.
A 10-year-old boy decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident. The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.
“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?” “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.
This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.” Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament.
He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind. “Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”
The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.
Sometimes we have certain weaknesses and we blame God for them or our parents or circumstances or ourselves, but we don’t realize they can be much more than our downfall. They can become our strength. And even if a weakness can’t become a strength, if you acknowledge it and let God pour grace on it, you will change your life.
Make new room for hope. Find the path of your journey in God’s grace. Learn to hear wisdom rather than criticism when someone says you don’t have it altogether. This way you will let God’s grace shine upon you, his mercy raining blessings in your life, no matter your situation or circumstance.
Can the church say Amen?