God’s Strength is Made Perfect in Our Weakness

By Mike Ratliff

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:31 ESV)

and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, (Matthew 1:5-6 ESV)

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:24-26 ESV)

How would you like it if your name was forever associated with the profession of prostitution? Rahab lived on the wall in the city of Jericho. When the two spies sent by Joshua entered the city, they stayed at her house. When the city officials knew of their presence, Rahab hid them then helped them escape. In return the spies promised to save her and her family when Jericho was attacked by the Israelites. Later, she was wed to Salmon of the tribe of Judah. Their son Boaz was the kinsman redeemer who married Ruth. Their son Obed became the father of Jesse who became the father of David the King.

This put Rahab in the genealogical line of Jesus Christ. However, she is still called Rahab the Harlot or Rahab the prostitute in scripture. Why? Rahab is a trophy of God’s grace. She is an example to us all that the good we do that is eternal is always by and through God’s grace. When we are weak, yet obedient, God is strong through us. That is why James can say that good works will always accompany genuine saving faith. As regenerate believers, we must learn this. Any works we do in our own abilities are not eternal. All of the work God does through us is eternal.

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 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 weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)

There are some who would say that if we are suffering then we must be out of the will of God because of  sin in our lives. We must not have enough faith because we are ill, or unemployed, or abandoned by a spouse, or injured, or crippled, or abused. I have always wondered how those who hold to these beliefs would address the Apostle Paul about the thorn in his flesh. Where did it come from? It came from God. Why? Paul had been given much, but to keep him from becoming proud, God sent him something to keep him humble. This caused Paul to be weak, but usable by God. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul would not have been nearly as usable to God if he had not been humbled. That goes for us as well.

Here is Charles Spurgeon’s take on this:

“A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory,” defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength. He who reckoneth on victory thus has reckoned wrongly, for “it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” They who go forth to fight, boasting of their prowess, shall return with their gay banners trailed in the dust, and their armour stained with disgrace.”

“Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way, and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. That which man doth, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth He casteth away; He will only reap that corn, the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love. God will empty out all that thou hast before He will put His own into thee; He will first clean out thy granaries before He will fill them with the finest of the wheat. The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength which He Himself imparts. Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give thee victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.” – Charles Spurgeon

If we have genuine saving faith, we will also be fruitful in the Kingdom if we surrender to the sovereignty of God and Lordship of Christ in our weaknesses while not relying on our own “strength.” The Word-Faith folks say the opposite. They say that any weaknesses we have are signs of our lack of faith while God tells us that we will only be strong in our weaknesses as He works through us.

15 thoughts on “God’s Strength is Made Perfect in Our Weakness

  1. Well said, Mike. So counterintuitive to the understandings of man.

    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…

    Paul had two choices. He could have said, “I don’t feel up to it. I just don’t have it in me. I can’t do any good when I’m this weak. This isn’t enough grace, Lord! Make me feel strong, confident, and assured in my abilities! Lord, I’m just going to wait on you until you have built me up so I feel strong and self-confident.”

    Or Paul could have said, “I am so weak that I am of little use. I stumble to Corinth in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message are not in plausible words of wisdom No good will come of my feeble efforts unless you make it happen, Lord. Demonstrate your Spirit and power, that the faith of those I teach might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)

    Oh, that I would be as Paul and go forward, even though I am too weak to have confidence in my own abilities. Lord, teach me to be as Paul, who for the sake of Christ, was content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

  2. Good analysis Dale! All of us are in the same boat as you. I too deeply desire to be like Paul in this. I fight it, however, when I come to myself I always am crushed and left a little less in love with this world and more in love with God.

  3. We can relate. How is it that your family or close ‘christian’ friends are the ones to say such hurtful things? I think Jesus said something about this one too. We couldn’t agree with you more Mike. Love the world less and God more is how it ends up. Thats a good thing.

  4. Paul,

    Who we are in Christ is not readily apparent to those in darkness. They see us as their family members instead of who we really are in Christ’s family. Come soon Lord Jesus!

  5. It’s amazing how self-centered we can be. There are times when I have done a poor job and feel low about my abilities. But God brings something good out of my feeble efforts. Do I rejoice? Naah… I’m actually a little let down that it wasn’t more of my doing; I’m disappointed that I can’t take credit.

    God is so merciful when He leaves us no doubt as to who is in control!

  6. Dale,

    When I write posts that seem to strke a chord I know that I didn’t do it. In fact, the posts that I put huge amounts of effort into belieiving they will be the ones that do that never take off. Then little posts such as “Dried-up Branches” that I wrote using a devotional by Martin Luther as the core, become one of the heaviest hit posts in WordPress. Eternal things we do are done by God through us. When we learn that it sure takes the pressure off, but it also lets the air out of our egos and pride. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Great article and comments and prayers! All of which are well noted by me. Perhaps we are kept humble when our efforts seem feeble to us. We won’t know how much of an impact we have made by our obedience to Christ and that is as it should be. We would get puffed up and forget that it was the Lord’s work through us that really made the impact. Rod Hembree once said that God uses the least likely to do His work. He gets all the glory in that. I can say that I am glad I am weak because then I am not prideful enough to take some of the glory from our precious Lord God.

  8. I also wanted to say that the story of Rahab gives encouragement to those who have an unshakeable reputation which came about prior to salvation. It does require the Lord’s strength in sharing the Gospel with those who would rather point out those awful sins that caused the reputation. If they should see the light in us, it’s all the work of God for granting it. And it’s the strength of God that upholds in such uncomfortable meetings.

  9. Thank you Mike for your faithful obedience to the guidance of the Comforter. Be encouraged dear brother in your walk for we are not of this world even as He was not of this world.
    This flesh is truely weak. It is dying from the moment breath is breathed into it by the Father. In sin at birth it is already dead and yet lives and resides in the death that permiates this fallen creation. But praise the merciful name (the character, nature and person) of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus the anointed one. The One that was and is and is to come, that gave himself so that we might dwell in Him and He in us if we will believe in and rely on and trust in Him. Praise His holiness and goodness that He would chose the base things of this world to confound the wisdom of men. Praise His holy name that He gives grace to the humble but oppposes the proud.
    Without Him we can do nothing but in Him and by Him and through Him we can do all things because it is He that strengthens us as we dwell in Him and He in us.
    Yes, it is good to know that one is weak, for it is the truth and so is He.

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