In our culture – most cultures, in fact – we practically worship strength. It’s been like that for as long as anyone can remember. Years ago, advertising gave us the image of the beefy beach bum flexing his biceps in front of swooning bathing beauties while a 100-pound weakling looked on in envy.
In sports, fans stare in awe at the massive offensive lineman in football who blasts openings in the opposing team’s defense for the running back, or his defensive counterpart who flings blockers aside as he races toward the quarterback.
Baseball has hulking sluggers and their tape-measure homeruns, and in basketball we “ooh” and “aah” at towering athletes slam-dunking balls through the nets.
The movies depict strength in many ways. Superheroes, straight out of the comic books, muster their powers to engage in the perpetual battle of good vs. evil. Superman never imagined the feats of strength 21st century superheroes perform. If you’re more into the animated types of heroes, you might remember characters like Popeye (with his spinach-infused biceps), the flying rodent Mighty Mouse (“Here I come to save the day!”), and even the villain-vanquishing Underdog, with his patented words of assurance, “There is no need to fear. Underdog is here!”
Our real-life, everyday world showcases strength in myriad ways. There’s military might, of course. And economic power. Political parties revel in flexing their executive and legislative muscles while they’re in power. The media seek to influence and even shape society through the power of the spoken and printed word. And in the work world, people in positions of leadership often leverage their strength to advance their agendas.
In the Bible, however, we find things much the opposite. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” The reason is simple: The Lord desires to receive the glory and honor He deserves, so He works through us despite our weaknesses and inadequacies.
Think of shepherd boy David, long before he rose to become king of Israel, conquering the towering giant Goliath, all nine feet of him, without using a conventional weapon of war. Veteran Israelite warriors had cowered before Goliath, so God manifested His power through li’l ole David, armed only with a slingshot and stone. As David had declared to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45).
How about Gideon, whom God called to lead the Israelites against the powerful Midianites? When the angel of the Lord charged Gideon to lead Israel against the massive Midianite army, he argued, “… ‘how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together’” (Judges 6:15-16). To ensure that the Israelites didn’t take the credit for victory, God even commanded Gideon to reduce his troops from 22,000 to a mere 300.
Strongman Samson had to lose his famous hair and eyesight before God would use him to exact vengeance against the scheming Philistines. In the moments before his death, Samson prayed, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines…” (Judges 16:28). The Lord indeed strengthened Samson after he had been paraded into the pagan temple; pushing against the supporting pillars, we might say Samson ‘brought the house down.’
There are so many other biblical examples of God working through human weakness, but there’s perhaps none better than the apostle Paul, once a proud Pharisee who was humbled when he encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Truly converted and transformed, Paul spoke often of his total dependence on God. Lest he might forget, the Lord gave him a “thorn in the flesh.”
Speaking of the debilitating impact of that unidentified “thorn,” the apostle Paul stated, “But [the Lord] 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” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
What does this have to do with us? Aren’t we often encouraged by friends to “be strong” in the face of adversity? The principle is simple: During times of crisis, while we may be tempted to rely on our material resources, our mental and physical capabilities, and the help of others, God wants us to realize that our trust should be in Him alone.
This is a lesson best learned before circumstances become desperate. The Lord wants us to depend on Him at all times, not wait until we’ve exhausted all other possible options. He desires for us to wake up every morning and go to bed each night with the same thought running through our minds: “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He had become my salvation,” as it says in Exodus 15:2 and Psalm 118:14, and expressed similarly in many other passages.
We’re admonished in Ephesians 6:10 at all times to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Contrary to what our culture tells us, being weak isn't a bad thing.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.