by Andrea Graham
I, like many, struggle with the huge pressure exerted on us to measure success by the numbers-oriented, if not dollar-signs-oriented, measures the world uses.
Let me start by laying it all out. I am not effective, and I am not wise. I am not the sharpest debater, and shun apologetics. I am weak, foolish, lazy, prone to self doubt, gullible, easily tossed about by the winds of emotion. I lack confidence, self-esteem, endurance, and patience, especially with faults in others. I am not good at making friends, indeed, I’ve lived in Boise about three years now, and still wouldn’t know who to call in an emergency, other than 9-1-1 and the Church office, who would send whoever happened to not be too busy. I find it difficult to trust in God, let alone man. I’m prone to coveting, especially babies. Take the worst traits of the extrovert, combine them with the worst traits of the introvert, and you’ve got my temperament. Only in terms of overcorrecting, am I Queen. When I’m not being bossy, manipulative, and controling, or just obstinately opinionated and all too eager to share my beliefs, I’m huddling in the corner, terrified to speak at all.
In school, I was not the popular child, the smartest child, the prettiest, or the most athletic. You want to find who I was, slip out to playground. See the little red haired girl, the only one, sitting alone on the bench, watching all the other children? See her pretending she doesn’t care as her classmates tear her to shreds, mistaking freckles as a symptom of the AIDS virus (it was the eighties, coodies had a new name). That little girl, that was me. I had no friends, until a friend of my mom’s took us to church, where I met a Man who wanted to be the friend of a rejected little girl. His name was Jesus. He was a King and God Himself. He was my only friend, the only person I knew beyond doubt cared about me. To this day, He bears the scars to prove it.
With that in mind, let’s remember what the Lord said at the end of first chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, starting in verse twenty-six:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish
things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of
the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in
His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from
God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written,
“He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
Let me propose a question we need to ask ourselves. This is entirely between you and the Lord. We say with our lips we glory in the Lord, but do we honor him in our hearts? Yes? Good! That's important, because, at least for me, the heart has a way of ending up on paper whether I intend it to or not. Too often, though, I find myself relying on my knowledge, and slipping into worldly thinking, all the while patting myself on the back for my cleverness. True, the Bible says, "be wise as serpents," but are we using God's wisdom, or the widom of man, which God, speaking through Paul, declares foolishness? I can't answer that for you personally, but I'm sure we can all think of such in a world where even Christian publishers balk at putting the name "Jesus" on the cover. Let's consider what Paul had to say about wisdom:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or
of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know
anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in
weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were
not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit
and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the
power of God.
Wow. How did Paul accomplish so much? He sounds about as marketing-savy here as me. Guess that gives us hope, doesn't it? He continues, though:
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
So we need to rely on God? I suppose we already knew that, those tacky bracelets made sure of it. But I spend way too much time trying to pretend I'm not shaking in my boots, so I opened with my own version of Paul's why-not-to-hire-me-as-a-public-speaker query above, taking in consideration Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 12:6-10:
For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the
truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be
or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to
buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with
the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace
is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore
most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may
rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs,
in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am
A challenging passage, in a world that compels us to boast of ourselves! Yet scripture teaches we’re strongest when we’re weak. Why? Because when we think we’re strong, we rely on our own strength and instead of His, and he is by far stronger, wiser, funnier, more clever, than any of us could ever hope to be. So when I rely on my own limited strength, I cut myself off from a much greater strength. And in my weakness, his strength comes with an added bonus, as in Isaiah 55:11, He promises His word will not return to him void. I guess that's why it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. Like the sower, we scatter our seed, never knowing where and when it will take root. Thanks be to God, that He can speak through one as weak and foolish as I.
Let me leave you with a few more words from the Apostle Paul to meditate on.
1 Cor 3:18-20:
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age,
let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is
foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own
craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are
1 Cor 4:10-16:
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you
are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we
both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And
we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the
world, the offscouring of all things until now.
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not
have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Therefore I urge you, imitate me.