I just read a marvelous little book by J.I. Packer called Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength. It is easy to read and applicable to life. He leads the reader through a study in First and Second Corinthians. In these to Bible letters, the Apostle Paul speaks of weakness—his weakness and even the weakness of Christ.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT, 2 Co 12:9–10).
Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you, we will be alive with him and will have God’s power. (NLT, 2 Co 13:4).
We live in a culture that banks on power and strength. From childhood on, we want our children to grow strong and self-reliant. But Paul says that in our self-assurance, we lose sight of our real strength—Jesus Christ.
Packer reflected on a humorous Peanuts cartoon when Lucy asked a gloomy-looking Charlie Brown what he was worried about. Charlie answered, “I feel inferior.” “Oh,” said Lucy, “you shouldn’t worry about that. Lots of people have that feeling.” “What, that they’re inferior?” Charlie asked. “No,” Lucy replied, “that you’re inferior” (14).
The perception of being weak, which everyone feels at times, leads to feelings of inferiority, which Packer calls the Charlie Brown syndrome. We can feel worthlessness and wonder what benefit we bring to our families and churches. “Original sin in the form of pride, ambitious independence, and deep-level egocentricity has infected everyone, we all crave to be admired for strength in something, and the expectation that it is not going to happen makes one feel like a punctured balloon and plants bitterness in one’s heart,” says Packer (50).
When we discover the fact that we really are weak, Packer advises that we LOOK to Christ as the “loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord.” When we receive Him a Savior and make Him Master of our lives, we can legitimately leave behind our self-pity and feelings of failure.
Then we can LOVE Christ, find our worth in pleasing him with our lives instead of looking to others for their approval. Consequently, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide” (NLT, 1 Co 4:3–4). How freeing it is to depend on Christ for our commendation, not other people or even ourselves.
Lastly, Packer says we should learn to LEAN on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength we need to serve Him. As Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us to do God’s work. Why would we even bother relying on our own strength when He who is stronger wants us to lean into Him?
I want to encourage you to take a look at J.I. Packer’s excellent work. I know you won’t be sorry.
Packer, J. I. Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. Print.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Eric grew up in the little town of Gibraltar, PA with his grandparents. He met his wife Cheryl while working at Good’s Greenhouse in Bowmansville, PA. He has three adult children and values watching them grow into the people God wants them to be.