But he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefor I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12: 9

We tend to like strength. It is something that is applauded, held up for praise, and sought after by most of us. It is natural to equate dominance and power to authority, and so, we put those who take charge and exert their superiority over others into positions of leadership without much in the way of question or challenge. Yet, we often fight against the forms that this power takes as it is put to use and exhibited, for the more authoritarian the person, the less that individual is likely to function in a manner that could be deemed as godly or Christ-like. The question, “Why is that so?” leads to consideration of sources and forms of real power and authentic leadership in our world.

Christ’s words for Paul give us some guidance in this question. Paul was remarkably well educated and trained, and he had then been instructed in all things that concerned knowing God and the fulfillment of that knowledge that had been established by and in Christ. Yet, all of this wisdom, position, and experience were of no use at all without God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit residing within Paul. So, everything that Paul said, wrote, and demonstrated by the way that he lived was the direct result of Christ’s redeeming grace, sacrificial love, and guiding presence. All of Paul’s authority to speak to others on behalf of God’s truth and for the sake of righteousness came about because of his submission to Christ; so, it was the outworking of Christ’s strength and the authority to rule over the world that the Father had granted to Him.

We can evaluate our world from this same perspective. Where do we see submission to Christ, and how is that form of spiritual humility expressed by people in positions of power and authority? These are important questions to ask, and this characteristic of boasting only in personal weakness is one to seek after in people who are entrusted with leadership in all aspects of life in our world. Reality informs us that there are no perfect people in our midst, and no leader will ever be fully and absolutely submitted to Christ in this life. Yet, we can seek after those that come close and that, like Paul, are striving to set aside their personal power in order to more fully embrace and live out the Spirit’s leading and God’s will in their thoughts, words, and actions. Paul proved himself worthy to be followed because of his weakness in Christ. Are we each likewise seeking to empty ourselves of strength in order to become weak in this same manner, and do we seek to place people into positions of authority because they, too, are following Paul’s model of strength that comes solely from Christ?    

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I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

Ephesians 4: 1

 

It is my belief that we all would like to be considered as being worthy. This goes for almost everything that we do and each position that we hold. Very few people seek out or strive for something less; for, this quality of aspiring to live in a manner that truly merits recognition is something that God designed into people when He made us in His image. Yet, none of us, no one, actually lives in a worthwhile manner. We all come up short of the standard that our Creator sets for us, and we do so with great regularity, and we do it out of a form of practiced skill, too. People, I am a true pack leader in this, fail to love, to show mercy, to care for others, to embrace truth, to live righteously, to be faithful to Christ, and to follow Him in ways that are numerous and on-going. As Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

 

Yet, that is not the way that God wants for us to see ourselves, and it is certainly not the manner that He desires for us to live. He made us for much greater things than that. God designed and created people to be the highest expression of Himself and of His creative nature. We are intended to spend our days in intimate relationship with God, and He calls us to express this relationship in the manner that we love and care for each and every aspect of the world and every one of the people that inhabit it. God has entrusted us with a very high calling and an immeasurably important set of tasks. There is no one else who understands all of this as well or who has the access to the eternal wisdom that is required for it other than people who know the Creator, Himself, through knowing the Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Christ is the answer to the great challenge of how we, unworthy sinners that we all are, can hope and aspire to actually be worthy in God’s eyes. We are not capable of living in this sinless and love-infused way, but Christ embodies all that is holy, righteous, loving, and pure, and as He enters into each of us when we believe in Him, His character and qualities become our own. So, as we become, like Paul, prisoners of Christ, we submit our lives to following His calling for us. We turn from serving our own will and from seeking what we want and desire to living as servants of the Great King and to seeking to bring the love, truth, grace, justice, and righteousness that are the center of Christ’s heart into every interaction and engagement along the road that we are traveling. It is through this continual submission to Christ that we become truly worthy of His calling, and as this worthiness infuses our being, the world will see the glory of the Lord standing before them in the form of human love and care.

 

 

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2: 1

 

The idea or the concept of strength and of being strong is a theme that runs throughout the Bible. It is a part of God’s nature that is desirable for His followers to grasp hold of personally, too. Yet, many of the images that we develop of what strength looks like are wrong. Personally, I can think of strength in terms of being able to stand up to everything that comes my way through my individual will and determination. I also see images of bulging muscles, rigid determination, a will that is clad in titanium and behavioral standards that are unyielding. This describes the sort of strength that leaves us vulnerable, standing alone, and often trying to make it all work without the deep and sustainable strength that Christ provides to us.

 

Strength that is based upon a person’s own ability, will, and desire to stand up to everything that life throws his way makes that person an easy target, and it is not what God has in mind when He tells us to be strong. Christ wants us to find our strength through the process of surrendering everything that we think equals might and power, and He wants us to find that strength by searching His word and by allowing His Spirit to sift our hearts. It is made known to us as we bend our will in prayers of confession and ones where we speak out our utter need for our Savior and Lord. This is a form of strength that out lasts the days of our youthful vigor and that is sustained by Christ well past the hour when our own reservoir of determination has been depleted.

 

True strength is found by residing in the center of Christ’s grace. As we yield to Christ, we can learn to apply His sort of sacrificial willingness to accept the weakness and the failure of others to every moment of our lives; then, we can allow Christ to be gracious with us during our inevitable times of personal failure. The might, the power, and the deeply rooted core strength that I need to truly live for Christ and to be effective in living for the sake of His kingdom is not found in the best equipped gym or even in my most disciplined moment. Rather, it is found as I seek out God’s face and allow myself to make my home in the center of His grace.

 

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

2 Peter 1: 3

 

Christ is a giver of gifts. He is a very generous one, too. The presents that He hands out to His followers are the most valuable of all things that are found in the universe. They are the gifts that come from God, the Father, and they are given to us without reservation, reserve, or condition beyond our commitment to love and to follow Christ. These are the gift of life, and its companion, the gift of living life in a righteous and a meaningful manner.

 

The life that God gives to His people comes through Christ, and it is only possible because of His power. In Christ we live in the presence of God, and we become citizens of His kingdom. This earthly and spiritual domain is our new home. It is a place where God’s rule of law is supreme and in which His Word is the standard for all aspects of life. God’s law is above and beyond that of man in that it is just, merciful, fair, and certain. God rules His kingdom from the perspective of love and with the goal of restoration of relationship as His primary objective. The Kingdom of God is a holy nation of peace.

 

However, peace is not what is always apparent on its surface. This world does not readily accept Christ as its Lord and is also reluctant to enter into His salvation. So, the peace of God’s land is found mostly in the spirits of its citizens. It is expressed in our ability to live with certainty, confidence, and hope in times of struggle and grief. This peace of God is gained as we, His people, yield ourselves to Christ and empty ourselves of our own human strength so that His greater power can fill us to the top with the magnificent gifts that God desires to grant to us. The strange and wonderful quality that this life of submission and surrender gives to us is that it is a life that is filled with excellence and is covered with the glory of Christ.