Here is part 2, to the challenge my friend gave me for a Sunday School class session, “explain how your heart issues have had bearing on your Christian journey especially in terms of making space for God in your life.” If you want to read more about my journey, you can read Part 1 here. You can also read something about this process that I’ve written earlier on this blog, here.
I tend to be a pretty self-sufficient guy. At least I’ve tried to appear that way through the years. Remember the old commercial tag line, “never let them see you sweat”? That’s what one of my interior voices said to me often. Because of this, one thing I’ve been horrible at all my life is asking for help. I always figured in the end I would figure it out. As I get older, I realize that I could have increased my impact, if only I would have asked more for input, advice, coaching and even correction.
But age alone didn’t get me to this kind of openness, incapacity did. As I pastored a church, during my health struggles, there were days I just couldn’t. I remember a couple of weeks after surgery, I decided to attend worship, just to let everyone know I was alive. I couldn’t make it through one song without sitting down and giving in to inwardly whispering the words as a prayer. This is something I never experienced before. And I wanted to get over it as quickly as I could. But with repeated trips to the hospital over the next few years, a word kept being said to me, “chronic.” That usually means you wont’ be getting over it any time soon.
What would I do? How would I serve, when sometimes in the middle of the afternoon, I had to lay down on the couch in my office for a 30 minute nap? That’s not strength. That’s not leadership. That’s not what God called me to do. Or did He? I think now, He did. But why? He was creating space in my life for Him to work in a new way. It wouldn’t be Jim’s ability or ingenuity (even if God-given) that would accomplish the work of His kingdom.
It would be Him and His power. I found that people were actually being impacted and changed more in my weakened condition, than they had been in the years before. How could that be? I found that the weaker I became, the more space there was for the power of God. I think that is exactly what the Apostle Paul experienced too. He wrestled with God over a weakness. He called it his “thorn in the flesh.” He also referred to it as a “messenger of Satan.” In other words, it was not a pleasant thing. And he wanted the freedom of relief, so he could go about his ministry – God’s business.
And then he wrote, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).”
In the beginning of my struggle, these words had little impact except to frustrate me. Because in them, I saw no promise of deliverance. I heard no encouragement that life would get better. Instead, I was confronted with the fact that this is the stuff that God has given me. Just like for Paul, the thorn of pain was transformed into a crown of glory. Why? How? Because the human weakness made space for the power of Christ. That’s grace!
When we suffer a weakness, especially a long-term weakness, our misconceptions of self-sufficiency are ripped wide open and laid bare. And when those ideas are thoroughly dispelled, God’s power is free to flow into every area of our lives and ministries. We become acutely aware that this is not me. When I stand before a group of people, hardly feeling able to finish the message – at some points, having to sit on a stool – not to be cool, but because I just can’t stand, and lives are changed, it is because God’s power is free to work in a new way.
This has happened in my marriage, in my relationship with my kids, in my ministry with other pastors. My weakness has freed God’s power to move in ways I could never have dreamed. That, my friend is GRACE! And that is a source for real joy. So, now when my heart is right and I’m in tune with God, I rejoice in my weakness because there is now room for God’s power to show itself!
Let me share one more way God has made his power known. As I’ve needed people to minister to me, God has displayed his grace and power through them. More is done for the Kingdom, His grace is displayed and His glory is magnified.
Can you thank God today for every weakness that makes room for His power? If not yet, or not again, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how this weakness has really made space for Him to work in ways you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Thanks for reading… hold on for the final installment to come!