Why is God's Strength Made Perfect in Our Weakness?
By Carter Conlon
How would you like it if I told you today that you are foolish, weak and base? Well, perhaps by the end of this message you will gladly welcome the thought!
Consider the words of the apostle Paul: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Corinthians 1:26?29).
Paul could write these words because he understood the truth that God would allow no flesh to glory in His presence. Remember, Paul received many incredible revelations from the Lord. At one point he was even taken up to a place he referred to as the "third heaven" where he heard something so divine that he was not permitted to repeat it. Now knowledge can "puff up," potentially causing one to become unteachable and no longer able to represent God. Lest that happen to Paul because of the abundance of revelation, he was given a thorn in the flesh-a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him. This so troubled him that he petitioned the Lord three times to take it away. The Lord's response was a profound statement to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Why is it that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness? I believe we will have a deeper understanding as we consider the story of Isaiah when he was about to be brought into ministry.
"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord…" (Isaiah 6:1). Uzziah was a king who died in pride, diseased in his mind. He had entered the temple and offered incense on the altar, although he was strictly forbidden to do so. Uzziah mistakenly thought he could be as God-doing whatever he pleased and suffering no consequences.
The year King Uzziah dies represents the year that pride dies. It is when we finally realize we don't have any strength in ourselves-when our natural tendency to do our own thing, even in the name of God, dies-and we understand that we don't have the right to chart our own course in life. That is when we see the Lord!
At the time Isaiah had his vision, it was likely that he was already, at least marginally, a prophet. However, God was about to commission him-just as I feel in my heart the Lord is about to commission us as His church. We are going into revival, and God is on the verge of commissioning us to represent Him in our generation. Many might argue, "Oh, God, I have walked with You for so long, but I am so weak. I am not as smart as other people, I don't have a budget, and I don't have the pedigree of others. Don't I need to have it all together to be effective? How are You going to use me?"
When we are tempted to look in dismay at our weaknesses, consider what followed in Isaiah's vision. "…I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1). We must remember that the Lord truly is high and lifted up. That means He is above every name that is named, every kingdom that ever will be, every power, every principality, every circumstance, every trial-He is above it all! Nothing escapes His attention, and nothing is allowed to happen without His permission.
"...And his train filled the temple…" (Isaiah 6:1). What an incredible picture, especially in light of the story in Matthew 9:20-21: "And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole." This woman had to press through the crowd to get to Jesus, but when she finally touched the hem of His garment, immediately she was healed.
At that time His garment was only on one physical body, the man Jesus Christ. To touch it, you would have to travel miles and press through crowds. However, Isaiah said that the hem of His garment filled the temple. In other words, there was nowhere in the temple where you couldn't touch Him and be healed!
Consider now how you and I are the temple of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament church. The presence of Christ is within us, and what Isaiah saw is now a reality in the actual body of a New Testament believer-the hem of His garment fills the temple! That means there is no area of your mind, your body, your past, present or future that God can't touch. In other words, the healing of Jesus is in every part of you!
IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE
"Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly" (Isaiah 6:2). Notice that the seraphims were not looking where they were going, for they covered their faces with two of their wings. Secondly, they were not traveling in any amount of natural strength, for they covered their feet with two wings as well. They were flying by divine power.
It is incredible to imagine that there are perhaps hundreds, maybe even thousands, of these created beings flying around the throne, yet they never crash into one another! Where God is, everything is in divine order. All that is created and remains in subjection to Him knows its course in life and moves together in harmony.
Paul said, "For in Him we live, and move and have our being…" (Acts 17:28). We are not crashing into things; we know where we are going because He is the One leading us. We are not walking by sight nor by power, but by the Spirit of Almighty God. We don't have to see it with our eyes, nor do we have to achieve it with the strength of our own labor. God, by the Holy Spirit, has promised to carry us and make us into everything that He has ever promised we would be.
FULL OF HIS GLORY
"And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isaiah 6:3). Holy-it was the only word they knew. Its meaning in Hebrew conveys the thought of being separate from all sin and death; without any equal; completely perfect; free from moral imperfections and all the failure of humanity. It also means that God is absolutely faithful to every one of His promises.
Now how could the earth be full of His glory? It is clear that the heavens declare the glory of God, as does the order we find in nature, so there seems to be a partial fulfillment of the verse. But as we read today's newspapers and look around at society, how can we possibly conclude that the whole earth is full of His glory?
The truth of the statement lies simply in this: The church of Jesus Christ (you and I) is still here on earth. The glory of God abides in us, His temple, and there is a church of Jesus Christ all over the earth. That is why the earth is full of His glory. The main problem is that we don't know who we are in Christ. We don't truly understand Who is inside of us.We live so much of our lives trying to be what only God can make us, in our own strength, trying to go where only He can lead us.
Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory. It is important to know and believe this when we pray. We come to a throne that is above every other throne, a place of absolute and complete divine order, a place where healing flows. We come to a holy God who is absolutely faithful to all His promises, the One who has commissioned us to be His representatives on the earth until the day He takes His church home to be with Him forever.
I AM UNDONE
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah came from perhaps the most religious, scholarly people on the face of the earth, yet he concluded that they were all unclean. "We claim to be smart and learned, but we are ignorant. We claim to be strong, but we are weak. Now my eyes have seen the King, and I know all our boasting is worthless. We claim to know what God is like, how He feels, what He thinks, but it all falls short because my eyes have finally seen His glory!"
By then Isaiah might have rightly wondered, "What do I have to offer this kingdom? It is so far beyond me. This place is holy, operating in divine order with absolute truth and perfection. How in the world can I ever be part of this in my condition?" However, it was actually at that point that Isaiah was about to be given the greatest revelation of all.
"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged" (Isaiah 6:6-7). That coal speaks to me of the cross of Jesus Christ. He has come to touch us and take our iniquity away. I believe the "great" iniquity is human effort-the thought that we can add to the kingdom of God. However, the kingdom of God will not advance because of anything we promise to be or do for Him. It is about His promises to us. So don't tell God you are going to pray more and do better, because you won't be able to do so in your own strength. Instead, go into the prayer closet and bring God's promises back to Him. The Lord says, "I have touched your lips; I have given you my redemption. Now come to Me, knowing who I am. I am above your weakness; I am above your frailty; I am above your circumstances."
WHOM SHALL I SEND?
The next thing Isaiah heard was the voice of the Lord asking, "Whom shall I send?" Now take into account that in this whole scene, Isaiah was the only one who didn't have it all together-the only one who was not operating in divine power; the only one completely undone. Yet when the Lord asked, "Who will go?" it was as if this little hand in the back row came up, exclaiming, "I'll go!" You would almost expect all of heaven to gasp.
You see, Isaiah was the only one there who needed mercy, and he had come to the revelation that the kingdom of God is about mercy. Standing in the presence of God, he finally realized, "I'm undone; I'm finished. We are all finished, and if God is not merciful to us, we are doomed."
Suddenly Isaiah was touched with the mercy and cleansing of God-with everything that Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. He had the incredible revelation that God wanted to show His people mercy. That is why he said, "I'll go!" Isaiah knew that the people needed to realize all of their righteousness was as filthy rags. They needed to understand that the only way they would ever get through was if God were to come and touch their lips and their lives.
IT'S ALL ABOUT MERCY
Judgment was coming, and Isaiah knew it. However, he was given a clear vision that the ministry of the church on earth is mercy. Mercy-that is our message when somebody asks the reason for the hope that we have. It is not because we have memorized verses or because we go to church. We stand by the mercy of God!
Once you grasp this truth, suddenly you will become an evangelist. You will be able to open your mouth because you understand that God has not chosen the strong but has chosen those who know they stand by mercy. It is the mercy of God that has given us hope, broken our sin, and made us brand-new creations in Christ Jesus.
What did Isaiah have to do? No more than the prodigal son had to do as he returned home, only to find his father running to embrace him. God is the One who does the work in our hearts-it is just up to us not to resist it. When the seraphim came with the coal, Isaiah could have moved his head and said, "Oh no, not me." It may have had an appearance of humility, but he actually would have been resisting the power of God.
We must let the power of the cross touch us and allow the sacrifice of Calvary to become sufficient for our sin. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; there is nobody righteous. That is why the Christian life is a life lived in mercy.
Paul said that God allowed the weakness in his life to protect him from pride, assuring him that, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is perfected in weakness." So if you feel weak today, you can give God praise for it. You can say, "Lord, thank You for protecting me from spiritual pride and keeping me in a place where I can speak for You. I can go to anybody in the city and say to them, 'The Lord has been merciful to me. I am not the strongest of people in His kingdom, yet He has touched me. His healing is beginning to flow in my life and He is changing me sovereignly by His power.'"
Why have you held back from opening your mouth and telling others about Jesus? Is it because you have been very aware of your weakness? Remember, it is that very weakness that God will use to bring glory to His own name. Of course I am not suggesting that our whole testimony is that we fall and fail. I am talking about the source of our strength coming from God because of our frailty.
Beloved, the time of being silent is over. It is not the Lord's will that any city should perish in its sin. Isaiah was given only roughly one in every ten souls that he spoke to, but was it not worth it for the one? Society in his time had become very opposed to truth. We may be living in a similar time today, and the Lord simply asks, "Who will go? Who will start speaking? Who will not be ashamed or triumphed over? Who will understand that his strength is in God and not in himself?"
In this late hour, God is commissioning His people. He is looking for those who are willing to say, "Here am I, send me"-those who will believe that, despite their own frailties, the Holy Spirit will guide and speak through them. Do you know how God gets glory? He sends you and uses you, perfecting His strength in your weakness. That is how He gets glory, and that is how His glory fills the earth! Hallelujah!