Rejoicing in Weakness

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. 15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”  (Acts 1:12-17)
1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. 4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.  (Judges 7:1-8)
1 In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Yesterday we noted that the first ever church in Jerusalem started in a place of pain. The twelve disciples had become eleven. The crowds who had followed Jesus had been whittled down to only a hundred and twenty faithful followers. Yesterday we learned to bring to God the pain of people that we have lost as a church during the past thirteen months of coronavirus scattering. Today let’s note what God seeks to achieve through that pain.

Did you notice the glorious observation in Acts 1:14 that the first believers “all joined together constantly in prayer”? Have you ever stopped to wonder why that was? It wasn’t that they were better at prayer than we are. Remember, Peter, James and John had fallen asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus told them to pray for him! No – the reason that they prayed so fervently was that the missing persons in their church robbed them of any illusion that they could accomplish the mission that Jesus had given them on their own. They felt their weakness acutely – that’s what always happens when people are scattered away from church – so they fell to their knees and prayed!

In Judges 7, the Lord tells Gideon that he cannot grant him victory over Israel’s enemies while he has 32,000 soldiers in his army because, if he did so, Gideon would attribute his successes to himself. It was only after whittling his army down to 300 men that the Lord was able to lead Gideon to victory. The same was also true for the Apostle Paul. Setbacks to his ministry made him plead with God to give him an easier ride, but the Lord said no. It is when we feel weak that God’s power rushes towards us the most perfectly. When the Apostle Paul grasped this, he stopped praying for an easy ride and started delighting in his hardships. He declared that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” It’s never easy to wave goodbye to good friends who are moving out of London, but we don’t need to worsen the pain by grieving the gaps in our church family. When we are weakened, we are strengthened.
  1. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord. How do you feel about setbacks and difficulties and friends relocating? Are you able to say with the Apostle Paul that you ‘rejoice’ over such weakenings?
  2. What are you finding hardest right now about the return from lockdown?
  3. Take some time to be honest with the Lord about that today. Ask him to give you the same attitude as the Apostle Paul so that you truly rejoice in God’s grace being made perfect to you in your sufferings.
Father God, this is hard teaching, but I surrender to it because I find it everywhere in the pages of Scripture. I confess to you that the past thirteen months have been hard. There is real pain, but I thank you that there is real meaning behind that pain. I thank you that you use all our weakenings for our strengthening. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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