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We are weak and strong
- Jacob Ninan
This is one of many such pairs of truths in spiritual life that appear to contradict each other. One mistake many make is to take just one truth of a pair that they prefer and neglect the other. But the fact is that both are truths, like two sides of the same coin, and we cannot afford to cut off one side without losing value for the other.
Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing (Jn.15:5). As a starter we can see that since we are born in sin and carry around a 'flesh' (Gk. 'sarx' not 'soma' body) with nothing good in it except lusts and desires (Ro.7:18;Ga.5:24), the Devil is out there trying to deceive and trip us up (1Pe.5:8), and the world allures us with so many attractions (1Jn.2:16), we cannot live without sinning, unless God helps us. We are so weak that even when our spirit is willing, we may still fail (Mt.26:41). Many times we do not know the right thing to do, and even when we do, we do not have the power or boldness to do it! After we have proclaimed in our zeal like Peter that even if everyone else may fail the Lord we won't, the hard reality of our nature crushes us and finally brings us to the place where we acknowledge, "Lord, without You I am only a failure!"
That was with regards to overcoming sin. But we also learn, to our chagrin, that even something we are quite good at because of our natural abilities or the expertise we have developed sometimes 'fails' us, showing us that we can't even exist or do small things without God's grace upon us. When we become truly 'broken' in our self-confidence, we learn to cling to God with everything that is in us! God had to break Moses in the desert for 40 years before he learned this lesson.
But then we also come to learn the other side of the truth that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Php.4:13). The more we learn to depend on God, the more we become confident--yet not in ourselves but in God who is with us. We become bold, but without an accompanying arrogance or boastfulness about it. Isn't this the example we see in Jesus? He confessed freely that He could do nothing apart from His Father (Jn.5:19;8:28). But then look at the majestic dignity with which He conducted Himself before Pilate who had the authority to put Him to death!
We make a terrible mistake when we only talk about how strong and rich we are in Christ, without inwardly acknowledging at the same time that without Him we are nothing! It's the modern trend to avoid talking about weaknesses or needs and to act as if we were only strong. Yes, those who are insecure or fragile in their relationship with Christ need to know their rights and privileges in Christ. In Christ we are fully accepted, even though we are unworthy in ourselves (Ro.4:5), and all His authority is given to us in His name (Mt.28:18-20). But others who are oozing with self-confidence have never learned to recognise their utter poverty without Christ. There are two sides to this truth.