and i was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [1 corinthians 2:3-4]
one of my biggest fears is appearing weak and/or foolish. from the time i was very small, i was taught the “american way” to be strong, to be resilient, to be “the man in the arena,” to overcome. it infiltrates every part of our culture and parenting, and even the phrase “i’m tough” was something i taught my kids to say instead of crying when they took a spill and skinned their knee.
when i am tough, when i am resilient, when i can pull myself up by my bootstraps, i have something to boast in–myself.
it would be radically counter (american) culture to admit to weakness, foolishness, and vulnerability–and to truly rely on Christ for strength.
i feel so inadequate because i compare myself to other men and women who are so much better at preaching, teaching, and discipling than me, but i am using the wrong comparison! earlier in the letter of 1 corinthians, paul states:
for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men [1 corinthians 1:25]
God is not foolish, and God is not weak–God is infinitely wise and strong, but paul’s point is this: we, at our wisest, are still laughably foolish. we, at our strongest, are still pitifully weak. we will never measure up–instead we should look to Christ–and when we do–in our weakness we are strong. [2 corinthians 12:10]
how are we strong? we are strong because our old man, our flesh has been crucified with Christ [galatians 2:20] and it is he–the infinite God of the universe with strength in unceasing supply–who lives in us! we continue to crucify the old man through our continued vulnerability and confession of our weaknesses.
this is ludicrous to the the world and will look foolish. i am often awkward in social situations, i mumble. i use the wrong tone and say the wrong things. my attempts to tell my neighbors or friends or acquaintances about the gospel are often not “plausible words of wisdom”, but i shouldn’t spend time beating myself up for what i should have said and feel guilty for my lack of eloquence of speech. that neighbor coming to Christ in spite of me would be a true demonstration of the Spirit working, his power exerted over an idol-worshiping stone heart, so that i could not boast that “i won!” my neighbor to Christ. Christ wins my neighbors, friends, acquaintances and enemies to Christ–and in his grace and infinite wisdom, he uses weak, broken, mumble-mouthed, awkward, foolish people to do it.
i am a man of unclean, foolish lips and a weak will. let me tremble at your awesome throne. let me fear you alone, and not fear what man can do to me, or what man thinks of me. use me in spite of me, let me glorify you and point to your precious Son for what he has done. not to us, but to your great name be the glory!