By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Have you ever considered the impact that your strengths and weaknesses can have on your life? Most people have a very good knowledge of what they believe to be their strengths and what they believe to be their weaknesses. However, is it possible that these can matter more than you realize and possibly in a way you may not have thought-about?
To help you understand this better, let’s look at two characters from the Bible, Samson and Paul, and examine how they dealt with this issue.
Samson’s Strength as a Weakness
Many are familiar with the story of Samson. You can read all about his life in Judges 13-16. Samson was born as the result of a miracle birth. His mom, who we only know as Manoah’s wife, was unable to have children until an angel appeared to her and told her she would conceive and give birth to a son. He was to be raised as a Nazirite. This was a special separation to the Lord and two of the main tenants were that the Nazirite would not drink wine or other alcoholic drinks and they would never cut their hair. The full description of the vow is found in Numbers 6:1-21.
As a result of this vow, God used Samson as a judge over Israel and he ruled as a judge for twenty years. When the Spirit of God would come upon Samson, he would be endued with tremendous strength that would allow him to do great exploits for the Lord.
Samson had a weakness and an affinity for beautiful women. It was this that led to his downfall. The scene plays out in Judges 16, which I encourage you to read. The Philistines, who are tired of Samson defeating them and making them look silly, are using Delilah to attempt to discover the source of Samson’s strength. As this cat and mouse game plays out Delilah would ask Samson, what is the source of your strength? Samson would lie to her. He would instruct her to do something he knew would not work.
Delilah would do what Samson told her and when the Philistines attacked, Samson would prove that what he told her was not true and he would drive them away. This cat and mouse game went on until finally Samson gave in to Delilah. I believe Samson allowed this scenario to continue because he depended on his great strength to rescue him from whatever he told her. Because he depended on his great strength it became his weakness. In fact, when he finally told Delilah the truth, the Bible tells us his strength had left and he didn’t even realize it.
Leaning on Our Own Strengths
You and I are very similar to Samson. We too have strengths. If we are not careful, we may lean too heavily upon them. This problem can develop when you become really good at doing something. By the way there is nothing wrong with having strengths. Strengths are good. They only become a potential problem when you begin to trust your ability more than you depend on God’s ability to work through you. It’s like you are telling God, don’t worry, I got this one. I don’t need your help anymore.
Think about any position you may serve in, any skills you may have. Maybe you are a leader in an organization. Remember when you first started? You were probably nervous. Maybe you were a little unsure if you could do the job. Your inexperience or weakness caused you to depend on God to help you every step of the way. However, over time you got better and what was unfamiliar was now feeling very comfortable. You became so good at what you were doing that what you once considered an area of weakness, you now look at as an area of strength. Because you felt strong, you no longer felt the need to seek God’s help like you used to. When this happens the thing that is your greatest strength can become your greatest weakness, because you leave God out. In John 15:5 Jesus said “…apart from me you can do nothing.”
As you continue to grow regardless of your role – whether you are a parent, spouse, worker, manager, church leader, pastor, or in whatever capacity you serve or work – be mindful that as you get better you still need to depend on God to help you. If he’s not helping you then you are operating in your own strength. When this happens you may not realize it at first, but like Samson, God’s strength has left you and you are actually becoming weaker.
Paul’s Weakness as a Strength
In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul is caught up to the third heaven and had the opportunity to see and experience things that few people on this earth experience this side of heaven. Here are Paul’s own words about this encounter.
2 Corinthians 12:3-4 - And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
I know in my life I have experienced the presence of God, and you probably have as well. However, I have never experienced the presence of God like that. As a result of this experience God did something very interesting.
2 Corinthians 12:6-7 - Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Paul recognized that encounters like these can impact the way people view you or see you. They can also impact the way you view or see yourself. When God begins to use you in ministry or service, or when he begins to give you a greater level of influence or impact in people’s lives, there can be this tendency to think you are greater than you are or more important than you are. To keep this from happening, God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to help keep him humble and dependent on God. The Bible tells us that Paul pleaded with God three times to remove this thorn in the flesh and God did not do it. Instead, he told Paul the simple secret to maintaining and sustaining strength throughout life.
2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul may not have realized when he first prayed. I am sure he realized it after but the thing that made him weak, the thing that made him depend on God’s grace for help is the very thing that became the source of his strength. In other words, his greatest strength flowed out of his weakness.
What About You?
As you look at these two men, I have a question for you, what about you? Are you depending on your own skills, abilities, wisdom, or knowledge and not trusting God enough? Or are you depending on God’s grace in spite of all of the skills, knowledge, and experiences you have had.
What’s fascinating about both men is that they both experienced things in their lives that very few people have ever experienced. They were both given a platform to have influence over the lives of God’s people. The difference is how they dealt with them. One relied on his strength and got weaker. One acknowledged his weakness and got stronger
I hope you see the irony here. The things that are your strengths if you become too confident in those things will actually make you weaker. However, the things that are your weakness, because you trust God’s grace to help you in those areas, can actually become your greatest strengths. I hope today that whether you feel weak or strong, that you would always rely on God’s grace. Ultimately, he is the source of your strength.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Bulat Silvia
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a rising speaker, teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book called The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.