Weakness; March 29, 2021


Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

The last half of this verse is quite famous. It was actually used as a test sentence back in the early cays of computer translation software. The American researchers were going between English and Russian, because the Cold War was going on and translation from Russian was a priority. They ran it through both directions, first from English to Russian, and then ran that result back into English. What came out was, “The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten.” When we have such trouble between human languages it’s no wonder we have trouble understanding God sometimes! It has always struck me about this story of the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus didn’t condemn His disciples for their weakness. He was humanly disappointed, yes, but He knew whom He had called. He had just informed Peter that he was going to disown Jesus three times, and Peter was one of the three at this moment. It has also struck me that even though they went to sleep, they obviously heard and remembered at least some of what Jesus said as He prayed. Luke records that “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) Whoever saw that at the time probably thought they were dreaming, and only later realized that it had actually happened. What strikes me most about the whole Gethsemane story is that Jesus’ suffering didn’t begin when He was arrested, but before that with the awareness of what was going to happen to Him. Even Jesus multiplied His own suffering by anticipating it ahead of time! The awareness that He was going to be cut off from His Father, even for a moment, was probably the worst of it all. However, our sin cuts us off from God, so He had to take that on Himself to redeem us. God gave Paul a special revelation about weakness, when Paul had some sort of physical problem. “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.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10) It is when we acknowledge and accept that we have no strength apart from God that we allow His strength to flow through us. It is precisely when we think we are strong on our own that we are the most vulnerable. (1 Corinthians 10:12) We aren’t to condemn ourselves, but we are to repent, asking and receiving God’s forgiveness and cleansing. (1 John 1:9)

As I have written many times, conceit has been an enduring problem for me. I’m sure that in a number of ways it has kept me from accomplishing much more than I actually have, because my strength and wisdom can’t begin to compare to that of God. Like Paul, I need to boast of my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. I like to be “the one who knows.” Instead, I need to be at peace with not knowing, but rather trusting the One who knows everything. That’s not to say that I’m not to use the intellect I’ve been given, or seek to gain useful information, but rather to be at peace with the fact that in some ways it’s like an ant trying to grasp quantum physics. I’m reminded of the actual meaning of the word, “sophomore.” We currently use it to mean a second-year student in a four-year curriculum, but the Greek root means “wise idiot.” In other words, they’ve learned a little and think they know a lot, not knowing how much they don’t know. As I’ve grown with the Lord, I’ve learned more and more how much I don’t know!

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for Your continuing, overwhelming grace toward me. Help me indeed not trust my flesh in anything but lean totally on You, for Your strength and wisdom to be manifested through me for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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