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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Power and Perfection

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is not an incidental, one-off observation from God to the apostle Paul about his personal situation; it is a principle evident in God’s dealings with man from the very beginning.

A sociable, charismatic, intelligent and attractive person who is active in the service of God can be loads of fun to be around, but one can never tell whether he or she is winning over hearts with personal charm or by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Shaming the Strong

In contrast, God generally prefers shaming the strong with the weak things of this world.

That’s not because God hates smart people, or pretty people or appealing people. He made them, just like he made the rest of us, and his desire is the same for them as it is for us: to remake them in the image of his Son.

It’s just that conflating being liked with being righteous is really, really easy. When you’re constantly told how great you are, it takes a pretty grounded person not to start believing it just a little.

“The People Were Scattering”

So when King Saul, for instance, surrounded by Philistines and deserted by his people, decided to usurp the position of Samuel the prophet and offer a sacrifice, he was just doing what popular people everywhere do: playing to the crowds. What was his excuse when Samuel arrived? “I saw that the people were scattering from me”. So “I forced myself”, he says, and offered the burnt offering.

Basically Saul couldn’t handle being liked a little less, being trusted a little less, or least of all being thought incompetent. So he tackled a job for which he was unqualified and in which he had no business involving himself, and he lost the kingship because of it.

Now far be it from me to suggest that a few more beatings in high school might have been of benefit to the king, but I found that surviving epic teenage unpopularity had the rather beneficial consequence of rendering me largely immune to the seductions of being adored as an adult. But while Saul was enjoying the applause of a nation and simultaneously learning cowardice and pandering, David was in the back forty fighting lions and bears by himself to save a few of his father’s straggly sheep to no applause at all.

Who do you think turned out more useful to God in the end?

The popular, statuesque Saul was useless against Goliath. David, a teenager with a sling, showed up and got the job done.

The Lowest of the Low

How common is this principle of perfecting power in the lowest of the low?

·         Moses couldn’t speak eloquently, yet he ended up not only leading the Israelites to Canaan but writing much, if not all, of the first five books of the Bible.

·         Isaiah, by his own estimation “a man of unclean lips”, was arguably the “majorest” of the Major Prophets.

·         Paul, by his own account the “foremost of sinners”, became a minister to the Gentiles. It was not his idea, I can assure you.

The greatest works of God have been done by those who, in the eyes of men, brought the least to the table.

What’s your excuse?

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