Sunday, August 19, 2012

We are weak but he is strong

2 Corinthians 13:3b-4, 11

He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. … Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
“Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but he is strong…”

“I am weak, but thou art strong; Jesus, keep me from all wrong…”

Those familiar lines from familiar songs present humans as weak and reliant on the strength of Jesus. But the writings of Paul remind us that as Jesus was fully human, he was crucified in weakness and it was God’s strength that conquered death. And while we believe Jesus was both fully God and fully human, it is important to remember his physical act of human suffering. He endured because he knew the full extent of God’s power, and his story is all we should need to be endowed with the same knowledge.

Yes Jesus loves us — the Bible tells us so. I read a wonderful picture book of that song to Max tonight (all three verses) then had to sing it to him when he noticed the music on the last page. It has wonderful purpose as a children’s song, yet I think adults are far too quick to put the tune on the shelf as part of putting away childish things. Some years ago, perhaps more than once, a minister started singing the song during the adult sermon and invited the congregation to join. Such a sweet sound to hear hundreds of grown ups, softly singing, impromptu and a cappella, lyrics indelibly etched in their souls.

Certainly the other song I mentioned is not quite as well known — it’s very popular, sure, but “Jesus Loves Me” is ubiquitous. Yet consider these lyrics, even without the beautiful melody they function wonderfully as a simple prayer worth offering whenever no other words come to mind:
I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.
I often pray for strength, either in a specific moment or as a general character trait I’d like to develop. To me it’s important to remember my weakness as a way of making sure I don’t lose sight of how much I need God’s influence. While it is wonderful to feel I’ve been emboldened with strength through prayer, I can’t ever assume it is my own strength. When I refer to God as the giver of all good things, I am thinking not just of health and loving family, but also spiritual gifts that hopefully allow me to make the most of my time on Earth.

To paraphrase something a friend shared online tonight, we don’t go to church because we are good, we go precisely because we know we are not. We cling to the Lord because we know what we are (or would be) like without God’s presence and influence. We are weak but he is strong.

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is the last few verses of each of the letters in the New Testament. Many are used for well-known worship songs, and they make excellent benedictions. They also are the kind of things I would like to tell my kids when they are old enough to understand. “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” I’m not sure when in life it will be the right time for me to use those words, or something similar, when communicating with my boys, so until then I simply apply them to myself.

That closer walk with Jesus is all I’m striving for because of everything it entails. It is passages like this, songs like this, ideas like this, that convince me if I stick as close as I can to God and what God wants for me, everything else will fall into place accordingly.

A prayer for Aug. 19:

Lord, you have been a wonderful presence for me today, from the words I heard and sang during worship this morning to the way you communicated through Scripture tonight. Continue to be with me daily, let me see and respond to the world in a way that glorifies you. Grant me the strength I need to walk along the path you would have me follow. As I walk, let me walk close to you always. Amen.

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