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April 19th 2015listen to last Sunday’s worship set. Judges 7:1-15 – Weak is the New Strong. The testimony throughout the Scriptures is that God shines His strength NOT through human through our power, but through our weakness. I don’t know about you, but its hard for me to admit that I’m weak or that I need help. Explore with us what it looks like to embrace this upside down way of living; where we allow God’s strength to shine through our weaknesses. God is looking for more weak people to display his power through!

Weak is the New Strong – Judges 7:1-15

Let me give you a little bit of background as we jump in feet first today.  The nation of Israel, if you were to look at and sort of chart their history as a people, especially as we’re told it in the Scriptures, could be equated to a roller coaster.  I mean they have some extremely high highs and some extremely low lows and those highs and those lows are often pitted against each other in close proximity.  You get whiplash reading through some of this nation’s history.  They go through seasons of prosperity and seasons of goodness and seasons of following after the heart of Jesus.  And they also go through seasons where they hold God at a distance and say we’ve got this, we’ve got it covered, we don’t really need you….in fact, we’re going to go the exact opposite way and worship idols and build high places, etc., etc.

As we jump into the book of Judges, we are going to encounter the nation of Israel at a season of prosperity, a season of rest.  In fact, at the end of Judges 5:31 we get a little bit of context for the story we’re going to jump into today and it says this: The land had rest for forty years.   This is under the great leadership and ministry of one of their judges whose name was Deborah.  She led the nation well, God’s blessing was on her and for forty years they had a season of rest, of goodness, of prosperity.  You may be able to look back in your own life—I can look back on mine—-and see that seasons of blessing often point me or lead me or sort of haphazardly bring me to the place of complacency.  Can anybody relate?  Seasons of blessings often lead us to this place where we may not say it but really we live it—-God, I don’t know if I need you because things are going pretty well.  I’ve got this nailed!

The nation of Israel, that’s the place that they came to.  And the very next verse, Judges 6:1, reads like this: And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.  So the season of rest, the season of prosperity, the season of goodness directly leads them to sorta the “Lazy Boy chair” where they put their feet up, pop the recliner out, lay back and…..all of a sudden they’re in this place where they do evil in the sight of the Lord.  And then it says this really strange thing: …and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian…   That God’s action towards them was I’m going to break you out of this season of complacency, the season of idolatry by bringing a little bit of hardship and a little bit of oppression on you.  We don’t love this about God, do we?  Let’s be honest with each other this morning.  We don’t love that God often breaks us out of seasons of complacency by bringing us into seasons of adversity, but he does.  God gave them into the hand of the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites, you need to understand, this was a prolific, prominent army.  They were a fighting people.  They were well resourced, they were well trained.  They were ready to go and for seven years they did not have much trouble keeping their powerful thumb on the Israelites and keeping them oppressed.  The Israelites were going to the mountains and hide out.  They lived much of this time, these seven years, in fear.  But God is going to bring them a person, a man, to lead them into this next season of prosperity. It’s often cyclical.  They get beat down a little bit, God raises them up as they increase their dependence on Him and then it starts over again.

The person God’s going to bring Israel out of this season of complacency and adversity is named Gideon.  You may have heard of him.  Listen to his resume.  God calls him and hears what he says:  Please, Lord, how can I save Israel?  Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh {So in this tribe that’s not even the strongest tribe in Israel….my tribe, my family is the weakest in that tribe.} …and I am the least in my father’s house. (Judges 6:15)    I’m the youngest, I’m the weakest, I’m the least qualified even of my own family.  And God, you want to choose ME? God, you want to work through me?  Gideon reluctantly takes up this mantle.  This mantle to be the Lord’s chosen person, his leader in this nation.  Gideon had to be a pretty good salesperson, because he is able to recruit—-to fight with him against these Midianites—-32,000 other Israelites.  Now, 32,000 people, untrained and unqualified, with a leader who’s the last and the least, going against the Midianites.  They had about 135,000 people in their trained, well-resourced army.  Now, show of hands.  Anybody want to get in on that???  You look at this at the onset and you look at it through simply natural eyes and you go if I’m a betting man in Vegas my money’s on Midian.  Not on Gideon.  Right?  135,000 vs. 32,000!  Not exactly great odds if you’re a fighting person.

Listen to the way the story continues and this is where we’re going to jump in, chapter 7:1-2:  Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.  The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. {Now here’s the thing.  If I’m Gideon, I’m just going to throw a quick time-out to God….I don’t want to question you God, like I’m sure you’re great at a lot of things.  I mean, you are King of Kings, Lord of Lords, you do sit on the throne of the universe, but maybe math isn’t your thing.  Let’s just have an honest conversation, God.  We have 32,000, they have 135,000 and you’re saying there’s too many of us!  You gotta be kidding me!!} ….into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’     There’s this really interesting principle that weaves its way all throughout the Scriptures.  From beginning to end, we see God inviting and calling people that HE can shine through.  Not people that necessarily have it all together—-which should be great news for us this morning, should it not.  God calls people, not that they have it all together, but people who understand that they don’t and are willing to be used.  Here’s the principle that I want us to wrap our hearts and minds around this morning:  God demonstrates His strength through our weakness.

So you look at one of the great leaders of the nation of Israel, Moses.  Moses leads his people out of Egypt.  Moses has multiple movies made about how awesome he is.  And yet if you go back and read the story of Moses, his claim throughout the whole time is I’m the wrong guy.  I’m a murderer, I’m weak, I’ve got a stutter, if you can bring other people alongside of me, God, that would be awesome, that would be great.  We could accomplish something if you had somebody qualified.

David, arguably the greatest king the nation of Israel ever sees.  Would have been overlooked because his dad didn’t think he was qualified to be in the lineup of people that might be chosen.  Right?  He’s getting Taco Bell for his brothers while everybody else is being paraded in front of Samuel to see who would be the next king. And yet, this is the person that God chooses to work through.  It appears in God’s economy that it is possible to be too big for God to use, but it’s impossible to be too small!  It is you can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small.

I was interacting with my Life group around, not this specific passage but another one that made the same point, and we started to really wrestle with this idea that even in the church we don’t like this, do we?  No!  We would much rather take a strength-finders test and a spiritual gift assessment than we would do any sort of reflection on our weaknesses, wouldn’t we?  It’s sorta interesting and I say it sorta tongue-in-cheek, but have you ever taken a “weakness assessment?”  Where you took the test and it’s like wow, you’re really terrible at hospitality.  You should have a few more people over so Jesus can shine through that.  You’re the least welcoming person we know; we’re going to put you at the door Sunday.  You’re so intimidating Jesus has to shine; people will just be turned away.  We don’t like this, do we?  We do not like this idea and if you’re anything like me I often either make excuses around my weaknesses or try to cover them.  So it sounds a little bit like this:  If I were a little bit more intelligent with the Bible, then I’d share my faith.   Because God needs me to be real smart to shine through.  Or, if I was a little bit more quiet, or if I was a little bit more loud, well then God could probably use me….or if my health was a little bit better then I would jump in the game and when it gets there I’m in.  Or, when my circumstances are a little bit different then I’m sure I’ll be a vessel that God wants to use.  And we have this, even in the church, we have this tendency to say strong is better and God works through strong people and people that are able, rather than embracing the Biblical principle that says well actually He loves to choose small, insignificant, broken vessels to shine His glory through.  He loves to!

Listen to the way Paul says this: If I’m going to boast {So he’s in this interaction with a church that he loves, that he helped start.  People have come in after them and they have their Apostle resumes with them and Paul goes alright if you want to play that game let’s play it, but…} If I’m going to boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. {because then you see Jesus and not me.  That’s what I’m going to boast in, he says.} (2 Cor. 11:30)  I say that sort of tongue-in-cheek, have we ever developed a spiritual weakness assessment?  Or have we done a weakness-finder test?  I say that sorta tongue-in-cheek, but I do believe that there’s some absolutely beautiful, power principles about the way that weakness actually positions us better than strength to not only be used by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but how to know Him and walk with Him better.  Let me point out three of those that I think come through in the story of Gideon.

Look again with me at verse 2:  The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give in to the hands of the Midianites, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.”    That word “boast” is key.  It means glory in, or to adorn, or to make beautiful.  Here’s what God wants to do in the nation of Israel and I would propose He wants to do this in our lives, too. To position us, not only for useful for His kingdom, but for joy as we walk with him.  Here’s what he’s doing with the nation of Israel:  He’s bringing them low, to subdue their pride.  All throughout their history, they have this tendency to win a few battles and think they’re awesome.  I mean, I’m so glad we’re so different!  So glad I’m so different.  A few little successes and we start to……the human heart is drawn towards…I’m going to put myself up on that throne…of my life…of the universe!  And the thought goes into our head: If I were God I would do this so much differently and so much better and He could probably stand to take a few notes from me.  Right?  I’m not alone in this, am I?  Here’s what God is saying:  Pride that elevates you will actually destroy you.  Did you know there’s a way to win victory that will actually lead to your defeat?  And it’s a victory that leads us to think I’m awesome, rather than deflecting the glory and praise back to Him and saying He is amazing!  The Scriptures are gonna teach God hates pride.  He hates it because it robs Him of his glory and it robs you of joy.  Because the life aligned with the way God created the whole universe to function has Him on the throne, not us!  Humility for us will either come through an awareness of His divinity OR it will come through humiliation.  You get to choose.  But we will be humbled.  It will either be a humility that comes from realizing He’s God, I’m not OR it will be a humility that comes through humiliation.

I was going through my evening ritual this last week, which includes watching Sports Center.  I saw this video that I thought oh my goodness that perfectly displays what I feel like this passage wants to bring out—–and another package that we’re going to look at in a second.  This is a (video) clip of an Oregon runner who thinks he’s won a race.  At the very end he’s reminded he’s not as awesome as he thinks he is.  (Video–He tries to play to the crowd and gets comfortable and cocky and at the end he gets beat out by someone else!)  The Scriptures are going to make the same point you just saw.  The Proverbs simply say:  Pride goes before destruction and a haughty before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)  I think so many times God longs to reroute our lives to say you’re not as great as you think you are.  Your greatness actually comes…your power actually comes when you’re on your knees understanding you’re not as great as you think you are, rather than when you’re beating your chest going aren’t I awesome.  This is this counter-intuitive, paradoxical invitation of the Gospels and the work and the words of Jesus to say in your weakness you actually find what it means to be strong.

So the Apostle Paul, who arguably had one of the most fruitful ministries the world has ever seen, had an ethereal experience that had the potential maybe to puff him up a little bit.  He had this vision of heaven or was called up into heaven, he doesn’t even really know, and he goes this was so amazing! I was called up into the third heaven and I saw things and I heard things absolutely unspeakable.  And God, in order to sorta balance out Paul’s amazing experience, gives him what Paul calls a thorn in the flesh.  Listen to the way he interprets what God is doing in his life. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)  So to keep me from becoming conceited {Quite literally “puffed up.”}  because of the surpassing greatness of these revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh {I’m not going to unpack all that this means except to say that whatever it was was given by God and Satan was the UPS guy delivering it.}  ..a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  {So he says this twice.  This is what God wants to do.  I had this experience that may have had the tendency to puff me up and make me go I’m amazing and I’m awesome.  Look what I’ve been a part of, look what I’ve seen, look what I’ve done.  God says in order to use you I’ve got to keep you humble.}  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me {This is beautiful if we can get this.  It’s powerful.}  “My grace is sufficient for you.  {Just a quick timeout.  Not just to save you, friend.  That’s what I was taught about Christianity for years and years and years.  God’s grace is enough to save you and then YOU get on with it and work and strive and earn and if you don’t you should feel guilty.  Welcome to the party.  That is not Christianity.  This is Paul writing this.  Listen, even in my Christian journey, in my walk there was something given to me to keep me dependent on Jesus, even in light of all the amazing things that I’ve accomplished and experiences that I’ve had. What was more important to God was NOT to give me great experiences but keep me close to the heart of Jesus.  That was the most important thing that God could do for Paul.}   My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  ….. verse 10 For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Here’s the deal, friend.  You can either walk in your strength or God’s, but you can’t walk in both.  And a walk with Jesus, a journey with Jesus, a relationship with Jesus….it never gets to the point where we outgrow our need.  If it does, we’ve elevated ourself to a position of pride and we will not see His provision if that’s our position.  We just won’t.  We’ll rob ourselves of it.  I was wrestling with this this week because I go what does that really look like? what does it really mean?  How do we step into this weakness in a way that would honor and lift high Jesus and not just be self-deprecating humility.  Here’s what I sense God saying:  Ryan, even your strengths are only strengths in comparison to people who aren’t quite as good as you at certain things, but in reality how good are you in comparison to me.  I think all we have to do to operate from a position of “weakness or need” is get a picture from the Hubble telescope that reminds us we are……I don’t think God wants to tell us we’re small, He wants to remind us that we ARE!  Nobody in Heaven is going to be saying hey, Paulson, give us a sermon.  We heard you’re awesome.  I know Jesus is preaching on the other stage, but………NO WAY!!  I think operating from a position of weakness simply means that we operate from a position of honesty.  Good self reflection of who we really are in light of Him.  And then it’s being willing to step into that in a communal way, to say I don’t have it all together!  I’m far from perfect.

Last weekend I had an absolutely terrible weekend.  I went to celebrate my grandmother’s life and her memorial, but I came back having seen my uncle battling for his life in a cancer center in L.A. and my grandfather turned 91 and he has dementia—-a brilliant man whose mind is just gone.  I come back going I love you, guys, but I’ve got nothing for you unless Jesus fills me.  I think so many times, I’ll just be honest with you, I try to cover my weakness and cover my need instead of just exposing it. And the beautiful words of Jesus in the Beatitudes….listen to what he says:  Blessed are those who mourn.  And it’s not try really hard to mourn.  It’s not try hard to cry and get upset about things.  We have this kids’ book called Tear Soup where Frog and Toad think of really sad things and they cry into this little bucket and they make tear soup out of it.  He’s not saying make tear soup, that’s not what He’s saying.  I think what He’s saying is be honest about your need, be honest about your pain and in your honesty you’ll find that He is sufficient and He is good.  But if you want to cover it up and you want to pretend like everything’s okay, you will never see his comfort and his provision.  Never will. The key to being comforted is to be vulnerable.

Friends, this is not a place {will you look up at me for a second}…this church is not a place where you need to hide your scars.  You don’t need to pretend like things are okay if they’re not.  In fact, Jesus’ power will be displayed through this body as we go I’m not okay, but praise Jesus, He is!!  And His grace is sufficient for us. That’s why we NEED to continue to have a Celebrate Recovery ministry—it’s not an option for us, I don’t think. Where we can walk in and go I am not okay.  Jesus is and He’s still on the throne and so we’re okay, but my life’s a mess.  Honesty opens me to receive from my community and it also puts me in the place to minister to others.  Have you ever walked away from a conversation from somebody who just nailed it and was awesome and thought I’m so glad I had that conversation.  Somebody who’s prideful and puffed up and actually ministers to you??  I haven’t.  It’s broken vessels that God uses.  Consistently all throughout Scripture and consistently in this church today.  I love the way that Pastor Rick Warren puts it:  “Other people are going to find healing in your wounds.  Your greatest life messages and your greatest ministry will come out of your deepest hearts.”  If we cover those, we prevent the strength of God from flowing through us.

Here’s the way the story continues, verse 3:  Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'”  Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.  {Are you kidding me right now?  If God says that to me and I’m Gideon, I’m like so you have another army somewhere that I’m not aware of…because our feeble attempt at victory just walked off.}  And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many.  Take them down to the water and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water.  And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself.  Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.”  {So he goes you’re going to make two categories.  There’s normal people and there’s weird people.  It turns out good news/bad news situation for Gideon here.  He gets the normal people.  Bad news is 10,700 of them are abnormal!  The normal people are the ones who go to the stream and pick up the water (to drink from their hands).  That’s how I drink out of rivers.  I never go down to the water’s edge and put my entire head in the water and (slurp sound).  I’ve never done that, but it turns out that 10,700 Israelites do!  And God goes you don’t get the weirdos, they’re all going home.  You get the normal folks who just cup the water and drink it.  Bad news is, Gideon, now you’re down to 300.  Are you kidding me?  Wow! }

Here’s what we start to see. Here’s the beauty and power of weakness: 1) it subdues our pride.  It gets us off of the throne of our life and 2) it increases our dependency.  Wouldn’t you agree that depleted resources always lead to increased dependency.  And anytime we feel like we’ve grown beyond…..anytime I feel like I’ve grown beyond that I feel like my 2-1/2 year old son swatting my wife’s hand away as he goes down a water slide unable to swim.  He’s like I got this, mom!  We’re good! And he’ll scream at the water and go nooooo! He’ll try to hit her hand out of way.  He goes down like a torpedo into the pool that he’s unable to swim in!  And I feel like God goes exactly!  Every time you think you nail it, Ryan, every time you think you got it you just grew further away from actually being in a place where I can use you.  The beauty and power of weakness is that in increases our dependency.  I love the way the great pastor Allister Begg puts it when he says: “If dependency is our goal, then weakness is an advantage.”     I’ll just be honest with you as I see in myself that self-sufficiency often leads me to a place of God deficiency.  When I think I can do it, God’s response is often let’s see it.  Go right ahead and try.  Some of you are in marriage cycles where you are saying God, I can do it.  And He’s going okay, but when it breaks down come back to me.  I love you.  Some of you are in job cycles where you’ve said over and over and over again I can do it, I can do it, I can do it and it just seems like the ground is giving way underneath you.

Here’s what God knows….about his interaction with Gideon and his interaction with us.  The more He takes away, the closer He draws us to his heart.  And the best thing He can give you is himself.  So if He has to take things away, trinkets and shiny things away, in order to draw you closer to His heart, in His goodness and His grace He’s too good of a God not to do that for you.  And so some of us are in the position we’re in this morning and I hope our ears are open to a God who’s saying would you come home.  You’ve tried it on your own.  It’s failed you, but there’s a power in weakness, there’s a beauty in weakness because it leads you back to my throne and to me.  Here’s the thing: In weakness we find awareness that God is at work even when we’re unable to be.  If we have all the strength and all the power we will often overlook the fact that God is working.  Because we have more than enough to eat we very rarely ever pray “give me today my daily bread” with any sort of urgency.  But it’s in that weakness, in that dependency that we start to have an increased awareness.  I’ve talked to so many couples where they go we’ve walked through this insanely difficult season of life and for the first time we really saw God’s hand at work in our marriage.  Why?  Because they didn’t have anywhere else to turn.  The way we are as people is that we will exhaust all of our resources before we turn to Him.  And I think what we’re being taught this morning is simply don’t wait for Me to deplete all of your resources to back to My goodness and grace.  You need me now!!  Every hour you need Me!!  So just come!

It also increases our intimacy…..our weakness.  We’re pushed in and if the pinnacle of Christian maturity is Jesus’ invitation to his church, which it is, abide in me, what’s the best thing you can do as a follower of Jesus….abide.  Know that you’re dependent on the vine as the branch to bear any sort of fruit, not optional, not hey if you run out of resources on your own then run to Jesus, no!  The whole Christian life is found in one word….abide.  Walk with Him, know Him, receive His love, give His love to others, bear fruit.  He goes it’s not Plan A and there’s a Plan B and if you don’t bear fruit that way, you can bear fruit another way.  He goes no, no, no, no, no!  John 15:5 says: I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  I’m reminded that I can have the resources in my hand or the resources in Jesus’ hand and I often think I have more in my hands than He does!  I often do…..maybe you’re in the same boat that I am.  I think His invitation this morning to us is don’t be too ashamed of your deficiency to receive His provision.    Run to Him….in an honest, transparent way!  You need healing from a loss of a child, of a baby…..you run to Him!  You need healing from a marriage that hasn’t gone the way you’ve struggled with…..run to Him…He’s enough!  Has the job fallen through….have the kids left….whatever it is….run to Him He’s enough!  He goes my arms are open wide!  I love you!  Welcome home!

Judges 7:9 says this:  That same night {That same night after he lost his next 10,700 men and went from 32,000 vs. 135,000 to 300 vs. 135,000!}  That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand.  But if you are afraid  {I love that God makes provision for fear and Gideon takes him up on his provision}  …to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant.  And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”  Then he went down with Purah {Which means? He was afraid!  Heck yeah, I’m afraid!  I’m a normal man and you just took away the majority of my army and we’re fighting against somebody already bigger than us…..thank you very much for making this provision for fear.  I get to take my armor bearer with me against 135,000 people.  Thank you, God! Ever felt like that with God, though, where you’re thinking the giants on the horizon are far greater than the resources in my corner?  Listen to what he says.}  And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.  When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade.  And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of GIdeon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”       Can you imagine Gideon hearing this conversation and going to his armor bearer and going he’s talking about us.  He has no clue we only have 300 men!  Shhh! Go get the rest of the guys!  Are you kidding me?!  He hears this prophetic dream of the enemy saying they’re going to be defeated.  I was struck by the fact that had Gideon had an army equal to or greater than the Midianites, he never would have made 1) that journey and 2) he never would have approached the fight in a way that would have been any different than any other fight you’ve read about.  It’s the depletion of resources and the abundant need that causes Gideon to go alright if we’re gonna win, there’s gotta be a different way.

So here’s the beauty and power of weakness:  not only does it subdue our pride and increase our dependence, but it also stimulates our creativity.  Where you go God, I don’t have the resources to do it the normal way, so You’ve got to show up and You’ve got to make a way.  I always tell people in premarital counseling to embrace seasons of being poor.  I meet so many young married folks that run up credit cards trying to do things awesome, instead of embracing the season that they’re in.  Of saying we don’t have a lot of resources, but maybe, just maybe we don’t need them to have fun and to make some memories and to actually have a season of life that’s filled with God and His goodness and His glory.  I can remember being in college dating (my wife) Kelly where CSU would have these coupon booklets that had “2-for-1” Qdoba burritos in them.  It was one per customer per visit.  Well, Kelly and I made a lot of visits!  I went with my backpack…..I loaded up with these coupon books and riding my bike home I’m like…BOOM!….dates for a year!!  How do you feel about Qdoba again? Awesome!  We were poor, we didn’t have anything and it was one of our best seasons of life.

Depletion of resources often points us in directions that we wouldn’t normally go.  Coming to the end of your rope {will you look up at me for a second?} is not the end of the road.  It’s just the end of what you envisioned your life to look like and be, which is a beautiful position to be in because that’s where God meets you and says: oh, you thought the goal was THIS, but I have so much more for you and if you hadn’t of run on empty you may have never asked the King of Kings and Lord of Lords what He thought.  I’m convinced that God is looking for more weak people to use for His glory.  More people who are in need and understand it that He can use for His glory because that’s who He shines through.  And friend, your greatest asset, the thing that you bring most to the Kingdom of God, may very well be your greatest weakness.  Because those are the things that God shines through.  Those are the areas that God fills.  In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes this:   But we have this treasure {This Gospel treasure. This glory of God, His sufficiency treasure and we carry around this beautiful treasure in these really crazy, normal, everyday bodies.  He calls them jars of clay, earthen vessels.  To show…..so why does God put His glory and power in people like you and me?}  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Cor. 4:7)  That’s why! That’s why he chooses to use frail and broken vessels.  I was reminded this week that light is displayed many times out of our weaknesses and the cracks in our life far better than it is out of the strengths of our life.

{Lights were turned off in the sanctuary for demonstration}  Two similarly sized pots.  But one of them has a bunch of holes in it.  And the other one is the way that many of us want to live our life.  We want to live under this sorta false front that we put out for everybody that says everything’s okay.  And when we do that, what we do is we cover some of the greatest cracks that God, in His glory and grace, could shine through.  So I think when God calls the church to honesty, when He says I will work through your weakness because in your weakness I am made strong.  Here’s what He’s saying: You carry around the glory of Christ in your body, in earthen vessels, and the way that His glory gets out is not through our strengths but through our cracks.  We must be willing to say I don’t have it all together and I’m completely imperfect and I’m struggling with sin and I’m struggling with doubt and I live in shame and I live in guilt; there’s a lot of these things that have their claws in me and God says alright when you do that, when you share that, and you stop pretending and playing the game, those are areas not only that I can NOW heal, but that I can shine through!  I long for us to be a place, friends, where we say it’s okay to not be okay.  Because in what we’re doing when we say that is I’ve enough confidence and trust in Jesus to remember that He’s okay and that His grace is sufficient for me.  So I wonder if, in some ways, we’ve been covering our weaknesses and they’re the very things that God wants to shine through.  Because we can pretend like we have it all together or we can be honest and say that we don’t.  There’s a way that Jesus is made much of through our life and it’s saying He’s healed…..the marriage, healed the kids….His grace is sufficient for us.  It wasn’t easy, but I clung to Him with everything I have and I found that He is enough!  To quote the great modern hymn:  “I will not boast in anything; no strength, no power, no wisdom.  But I will boast in Jesus Christ, his power and resurrection!” (In Christ Alone)  I won’t boast in anything, but I will boast in this He is sufficient, He is enough by His grace and His mercy.  I pray that you’ll believe it and that you will step into that life.  The weak is the new strong!

Let’s pray.  So King Jesus we come to you not pretending like we have it all together.  Not pretending like we’re even close to being amazing or awesome or as amazing or awesome as we hope people think we are.  But we come to you…people who are in need.  We never want to grow beyond that, Jesus.  We never want to mature beyond bowing at your throne to find grace and mercy in our time of need, which we freely admit is more often than we like to freely admit.  So as you bring us low, Jesus, in order to exalt us, would you remind us that the position of power is actually on our knees.  Pride subdued, dependency increased, creativity heightened because of the fact that we need You.  And because of the fact that in your people’s need You meet that need with your provision.  We love you, Jesus, and we lift high your name.  In the powerful name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.