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Weakness is the Way [Paperback]

J I Packer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: IVP; First edition (19 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844748715
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844748716
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.6 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the time 6 Oct 2013
By P. Dean
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This little book won't take too long to read, but it repays paying attention to the detail to learn from this elder of elders of the church. Satisfying food to the soul.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vital topic for every Christian to consider. 27 May 2013
By Trent M. Nicholson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).

We, as Americans, are an extremely proud people. Dr. Packer shows in his book Weakness is the Way how only through embracing the reality of our weakness and turning our full need to God can we start to glorify Him and allow change to be worked in ourselves.
The opening of this book is rock solid. Packer gives a detailed definition of weakness with both various biblical allusions and personal anecdotes that make the subject matter come alive for his audience. He uses, primarily, First and Second Corinthians to show the biblical example of God's people dealing with both spiritual and physical weakness. He augments this with a great deal of chapter-and-verse support. He concludes his opening points with his own "gloom and discouragement" in dealing with physical, and then mental, weakness in his own life.
Throughout the book, Packer manages his trademark smooth, conversational style making the whole experience more like having a conversation with a knowledgeable grandfather than a preeminent biblical scholar. Packer offers a clear, didactic structure to his audience. He regularly employs an organization of: definition, explanation (through visual, allusion, or analogy), and application.
He further educates his audience by using strong, descriptive, concise language that forces the audience to expand their vocabulary and understanding of the topic. He shows his audience the respect of leaving the academic bar set high but, unlike many biblical writers, takes the time to explain what he is saying in a way that makes his more complex ideas understandable. An example of this is how Packer explains the unique structure of both Greek and Pauline grammar and style in a way that is challenging to the novice or student yet is still approachable.
The second half of the book; however, lacks some of the vigor of the first. Packer uses the controversial topic of tithing to show our innate human weakness, sinfulness, and need to give over to God all of our weakness. He stresses how we must recognize our reliance on the Lord. It seems from the attention that Packer gives this subject that his position is that this is one of the greatest trials for most Christians, although he never really comes out and says as much. While the point is well taken (and apropos to the topic) he spends over a quarter of the book talking about it.
Packer then concludes his work explaining how through working with God through our weakness we have a hope that the rest of the world will never know. While again appropriate, Packer seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on the topics of tithing and hope without smoothly working them into the powerful first half of the book. It gives the impression that these were two separate essays and, while connected the topic, weren't exclusively created as part of the book as a whole. The last half of the book therefore lacks the focus, alacrity, and purpose that the first half of the book contains. While still good, and basically relevant, it leaves the audience feeling like they just watched the second-half of a Super-Bowl with neither side scoring a point: interested but somewhat unsatisfied.
While this book falls short of other works by Packer, like Knowing God and A Quest for Godliness, this is still a well-written, well-formatted work that ultimately belongs in every Christian's library if for no other reason than the importance of the topic itself.

Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President

Dr. Nicholson is a member of the christianaudio review program. To learn more, visit their website at: www.christianaudio.com.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars High Expectations Unmet 15 Jun 2013
By David Gunner Gundersen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Based on 2 Corinthians, Weakness Is the Way is a set of seasoned reflections about weakness and the Christian life. Packer first defines and explains weakness (12-21), summing it up as "inadequacy" (13). All types of inadequacies confront humanity: physical weakness, intellectual weakness, personal weakness, positional weakness (status), relational weakness. Further, weakness has many psychological effects, one main effect being the feeling of failure. But the supernatural power of Christ fills those who embrace their finiteness and find strength in him.

In three other chapters, Packer contemplates the Christian's calling (ch. 2), the Christian's giving (ch. 3), and the Christian's hope (ch. 4), all in the context of weakness. Like Paul, the Christian must look to Christ in the gospel, love Christ as the sole motivation for gospel service, and lean on Christ when buffeted by the challenges inherent in that service (50-52).

The first strength of the book is the topic itself: weakness. Like sickness, we don't choose to ponder weakness or talk about weakness until its yoke is upon us. Therefore, proactively sharing biblical reflections on weakness is a gracious ministry from a seasoned saint.

A second strength is the author's condition. This book is best written from a place of weakness, and Packer, by no choice of his own, has achieved that unenvied status. Yet he seems to have grown old graciously, a tribute to the transforming strength of Christ who renews the inner man even as the outer man declines.

However, the book did not meet my high expectations based on Crossway's appetizing promotional video, Packer's reputation for insight and clarity, and the inviting title of the book itself. The book often settles on unexpected topics for extended periods of time before drawing them back into the theme of weakness. I didn't expect one out of the four chapters to focus on finances and generosity (ch. 3), but 2 Corinthians 8-9 gives rise to just such a reflection. Finances are certainly a primary area of perceived strength or weakness in most people's lives, but more nuanced insights regarding physical weakness or spiritual weakness would have filled out the book. Many aspects of weakness went unexplored, as did many scriptural texts from outside 2 Corinthians, so that my high expectations for the book were mostly unmet. The inviting title Weakness Is the Way seemed to write a check it couldn't cash.

The main takeaway is simply that I am thinking more about weakness and its role in the Christian life, which is a welcome contemplation. I only wish this book had stretched and deepened my insight as I had hoped.

* Thanks to Crossway for providing a free copy for an unbiased review.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Resonates With MY Heart 2 July 2013
By Thad Bergmeier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Practical Exposition of Strength in Weakness through Christ from 2 Corinthians 19 July 2013
By D Glover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Anyone who has seen the publisher's promo video for this book might be forgiven for thinking it is a brief autobiographical sketch of the life of J.I. Packer. It is not. This is a relatively short but very practical, devotional, and edifying exposition of the main themes and thrusts of Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church.

2 Corinthians is usually considered the least understood of Paul's letters, perhaps because it is his least didactic and most intimately personal letter. 2 Corinthians has typically received less attention that Paul's other epistles, but for the student of Scripture willing to dig deep it is a gold mine, especially for someone involved in or contemplating pastoral, church planting or any type of missions ministry. It is also a work of great comfort and encouragement for the Christian who feels ineffective or ill-equipped for the gospel work God has placed them in or called them to. Conversely, 2 Corinthians should provide a sobering warning to anyone who never faces opposition or affliction in their Christian life. This is a letter of encouragement in the midst of weakness, knowing that God himself provides the strength to do all that which he calls his people to do.

This book was compiled from course lectures but in spite of this, it nowhere feels choppy or disjointed. There are tiny tidbits of Dr. Packer's life experience mentioned in the book, as well as some other illustrations used to flesh-out the various points of teaching, but not so much as one might have expected from the publisher's promotion. This book is accessible to new believers and lay people and is not intended to be a deep, scholarly treatment for students and pastors only. (Having first received this material in a lecture setting, I know that Dr. Packer's intention is not to teach to the intellectual top 20% of the class and leave the rest behind. Packer teaches so as to leave none behind.) That said, his very accessible treatment of 2 Corinthians is nevertheless based on thorough and careful exegesis of the Greek text and deep theological and pastoral reflection upon it, all in light of Paul's other writings and in the context of the Bible as a whole. Weakness as the way of ministering the gospel in particular and living the Christian life in general is variously, and sometimes simultaneously, the subtle underlying theme of the whole epistle of 2 Corinthians as well as in places the overt and direct focus of Paul's teaching. Packer opens up Paul's running theme of personal weakness but strength in Christ faithfully and applies it helpfully to today's church context.

Of particular note is the very helpful section on Christian money-management and giving. While all parts of this book are eminently helpful, this particular section itself is well worth twice the price of the book, partly because money is seldom taught on in the church today and partly because, when it is, so much of the modern church's teaching on money is patently unbiblical. Paul deals with the very ticklish subject of money in this letter and Dr. Packer boils his teaching down to some very succinct, very practical and applicable principles that the wealthy North American church would do well to put into practice, especially in light of the easy access we have to information about our poor and suffering Christian brothers and sisters in churches around the world.

All in all, I highly recommend this small book. It would make a great small group or Bible study guide and for anyone preaching or teaching through 2 Corinthians, this would be an excellent supplement to more scholarly treatments. And as with all of his teachings, Dr. Packer's modus operandi comes through loud and clear: that theology is for doxology (that studying Scripture in depth ought to result in a response of worship). I'd give this 4.5 stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not on our own 13 Jun 2013
By Book Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Weakness is the way is a little book with a lot of truth. It's a short read with content that will stick to the soul for a quite a long time.

Dr. Packer presents a great paradox from 2 Corinthians and he pens this book with great wisdom, sincerity and pastoral tone. You will find your soul being whispered to with the turning of each page.

The encouragement gained from the text will leave readers with the longing to finish well and endure life through the strength of Christ in all weaknesses.

An implication gained from the text is that we as humans, no matter what age or season of life we are in, are frail and fragile beings. It doesn't take much for a person to get sick, therefore missing work or other obligations and realizing that while we are down, the earth continues to rotate and life moves on without our help. This is a humbling truth that if accepted, can change the perspective of a person so that Christ is their dependence, strength, and treasure.

This book could very well be used as a devotional through the theme found in 2 Corinthians.

Thank you, Crossway Publishers, for providing this text for the purpose of review.
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