It seems natural to me that the longer you do a job, the more confident you should become in doing it. My father, for instance, is a carpenter. The longer he has worked in that trade, the more confident he has become on how to build things. I could probably guess the same thing could be true of you. The longer you do taxes, the more proficient you becoming in doing them. The longer you clean homes, the more you discover what works and what doesn't. And the list can continue . . . with more experience brings about more confidence.
I find this to be true in many aspects of my life, except the one that is my occupation. As a pastor, I find that with more experience comes more inadequacies. I feel I need to be clear. I am not talking about how to organize a sermon series or plan activities at a church. What I am talking about is the more I seek to impact people for the glory of God, the more I realize how inadequate to do it. Or maybe it would be better stated that with more experience, my inadequacies are magnified.
It is for this reason that a new book by J. I. Packer, Weakness Is the Way, resonated with my heart when I simply read the title. Ministry has exposed my weakness. But according to Packer, and he is simply quoting the Apostle Paul, that is a good thing. It is only in weakness that we learn to live our life with Christ as our strength.
This book finds its contents from Second Corinthians, where Paul had to defend himself against a group of people who did not think much of him. Paul agreed. It was only when he was found to be weak that Christ was powerful. The climax of his argument is found in chapter 12 when he confesses a "thorn in the flesh" had been given to him to keep him humble. Christ's response to him when he prayed for it to be removed was simply, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Packer does a helpful job of summarizing some major themes from the book of Second Corinthians. He speaks towards the Christian's calling, giving, and hoping. Much of what he writes is relevant to my life. He ends each chapter with how those topics apply to the concept of weakness. In the process, we are able to listen to the heart of a man towards the end of life on how he has witnessed weaknesses in his life. It is powerful.
In conclusion, these words are powerful for us as we consider our own weaknesses:
"Look to Christ as your loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord. Embrace him as your Savior and Master. and then in his presence resolve to leave behind the old life of conscious self-service, marred as it was by bitterness, self-pity, envy of others, and feelings of failure, in order that you may become his faithful--that is, faith-full--disciple, living henceforth by his rules under his care.
Love Christ, in unending gratitude for his unending love to you. Labor to please him in everything you do. Let his love constrain, compel, command, comfort, and control you constantly, and, like Paul, stop regarding human approval as in any way important . . . Live and love the way Paul did before you, and aspiring eagerness will replace gloom and apathy in your heart.
Lean on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength you need for his service, no matter how weak unhappy circumstances and unfriendly people may be making you feel at present . . . Lean on Christ, the lover of your soul, as Paul did, and in all your ongoing weakness, real as it is, you too will be empowered to cope and will be established in comfort and joy" (51-52).
I received a copy of Weakness is the Way by J. I. Packer from Crossway Publishers for review.