Body building competitions are always somewhat fascinating to me. You have people who have dedicated years of their life to developing and toning all the parts of their body. They strive to ensure that every ripple is seen and then spend an inordinate amount of time bronzing and oiling for the competition. The result: something that just appears unnatural. What is even better, sometimes you have the man who has dedicated to show muscles arm wrestle the man who had dedicated to true strength beyond show. The show muscles man confidently walks up to the table, having been fawned with attention from his puffed up visage. Yet the man who has worked at strength does not need to wear the mask, but instead, with confidence, soundly defeats the show muscles.
Our relationship with Christ is similar. We can strive through our own works and through our own hands to ensure that we are “doing enough” and look strong in our faith to those around us. Yet, we are only the strong man, putting on the mask of strength and true strength evades us. With this mask, we pretend to be strong but when truly tested, on our own, our weakness comes through. The mask is removed and our weakness is put on full display for all to see. When we rely on our own strength and hide behind the mask of false strength, we ignore the true source of strength, unable to do the tasks set before us.
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. 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 12:9-11
Removing the Strongman Mask
Our first instinct is to try and hide weakness and any indication of it to the world around us. We don’t want people to see our weakness or where we might not be the best. Not even in moral failings, but in accomplishments. Our strength must be on full display that we can accomplish anything by enough effort and by our own hands. Yet, the mask of the strongman is no actual strength, and efforts by our own hands are no efforts at all. The strongman’s mask looks at the hand of God and says “No thanks. I got this on my own.”
But, simply put, on our own strength, we cannot. For as much as we seek to strive in our own effort, we fall short of the mark that has been set before us. For a God-set standard of spiritual perfection, we cannot apply a human strength. It is simply not enough. My fleshly effort cannot produce a spiritual everlasting. One of the strongest things a person can do is admit their weakness. It shows a strength to know one’s weakness and give permission to a higher power.
Allowing The Strength of God to Flow Through Us
This is God’s goal. Not that we would sit in our weakness or wear the false mask of the strongman. We are to stand firm in the strength that comes from God’s strength. When we acknowledge our weakness and allow God’s strength to be our source and sustainment, we find a power beyond what we have experienced before; the grace of God. While we may crave power in our hearts, grace offers us everything we need through surrendering to Jesus Christ.
So we pray. We surrender. We fall before the foot of the cross. We lay ourselves empty before our creator and sustainer and we cry out “Save me!” In that moment, though we may be fully weak and fully vulnerable, the strength of God shines through us and permeates our inner core. When we give up our own strength for the strength of God, we allow His might to work through our hands for His purposes and to accomplish His goal of building an everlasting Kingdom. Our weakness is made perfect when surrendered to the hands of a Holy God.