A closer look at weakness

In his recent book, “Weakness is the way,” Dr. J. I. packer suggested that, “God does not allow us to stay with the idea that we are strong. O, we may have that idea. But the Lord is going to disabuse us of it one way or another and it will be good for us and give glory to Him when he does so.”  (J. I. Packer).

What do we mean by “weak”?

  • Depleted (during and after a sickness or some great emotional struggle)
  • Inferior
  • Inadequate
  • Insufficient
  • Lacking strength
  • Lacking resources
  • Inept, languid, powerless, feeble, vulnerable

Weakness is likely considered a defect to an otherwise good condition. Weakness can be 

  • a feeling
  • a condition
  • a position

We use the word in common ways:

  • “She is a weak person.”
  • “I have a real weakness for….”
  • “I was caught in a moment of weakness.”
  • “Their team has few weaknesses.”

When asked to fill out a reference form, we’re often requested to list the strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

Scriptures on weakness

  • Matthew 26:41 “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
  • I Corinthians 1:27 “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
  • Romans 8:31  “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”
  • Romans 14:1 “weak in faith”
  • I Corinthians 11:30 “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
  • I Corinthians 15:43 “sown in weakness, it is raised in power;”
  • Romans 15:1 “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”
  • I Thessalonians 5:14 “we urge you, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak…”
  • Acts 20:35  “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
  • Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” 

Scriptures on strength

  • Joshua 1:5-6 – “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people…” 1:7 – “Be strong and very courageous” 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • Ephesians 6:10 – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”
  • II Timothy 2:1 – “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
  • Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
  • Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you”
  • Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
  • II Timothy 4:16-17 – “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.”
  • Ephesians 3:16 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”
  • Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.”

Key text: II Corinthians 12:7-10

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:7-10).

A basic spiritual principle
Spiritual power is experienced from a position of trust and dependence on the living God (Deuteronomy 8:3-5; Psalm 62:8;Proverbs 3:5-6).

The turning point: vv.9-10 

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

  • Move from passive resignation  (accepting what must be)
  • To active acceptance of God’s plan for giving strength and power through weakness.


What difference in perspective, attitude and emotion occurs when we exchange a mind-set of passive resignation for one of active acceptance?

Paul recognized the outcome – “so that Christ’s power may rest on me,” or “pitch its tent over me.” Then, in verse 10, he notches it up by offering an expanded list of afflictions: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.”

  • Did his circumstances change? Apparently not.
  • But the way he understood them changed and he received the answer he desired.
  • Was the thorn removed? No.
  • But sustaining grace and increased power turns thorns of Satan into thorns of grace.
  • His agonizing prayer was essentially: “How can I possibly continue with this thorn of affliction?” Answer: “See it as a thorn of grace that brings increased grace and increased power from Christ!”
  • How we choose to see things profoundly affects our perseverance.
  • One’s perspective can strengthen or diminish endurance.
  • We grow weary when we lose perspective in our trials. 

Earlier thought from Dr. Packer

“When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, as likely as not we shall impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm getting up and our strength spent, and someone takes our arms to help us, we shall thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on him. Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself.

How does God accomplish this purpose? 

“Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely. This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another — it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast”  (quotes above from, J. I. Packer, Knowing God).
Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Anxiety, Defeat?, Depression, Despair, Discouragement, Emotions, Encouragement, Failure, Faith, Fear, God's power, Satan, Spiritual growth, Spiritual transformation, Suffering, Trials, Walking with God and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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