Living the Christian life is a contradiction. Strength made perfect in weakness? When I think I am strong I am weak? When I think I am weak I am strong?
It is true, but it is a hard lesson. Reading in Numbers 13 this morning, I realize that the Israelites also learned it the hard way. They left Egypt for the land God promised them. When they got to the borders of the new land, Moses sent in spies to check it out. The spies came back with good news and bad news. The land was superb, but the inhabitants were formidable.
Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” These men later proved to be men of faith, men who looked at God instead of the size and power of either themselves or their enemies.
But the other spies gave a different report, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. . . . The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its in habitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
Seeing a threatening enemy before them, they forgot to look at God and remember His power to deliver, a mighty power He demonstrated not that long ago as they fled from Pharaoh in Egypt. Instead they made a judgment call on their ability to enter the land by what they thought of themselves and what they thought other people (the giants) thought of them.
What I just wrote is a description of today’s version of self-worth. A person bases their value on what they think other people think. If you can come up positive, then you can walk in confidence. If not, you are fearful and lack courage.
Christian living is not supposed to be like that. Like Joshua and Caleb, I’m supposed to look at God and have confidence. I’m supposed to base my worth and my ability on what He can do in my life, not put my confidence in whatever abilities I have or don’t have. My reliance and confidence is supposed to be in Jesus.
Looking at giants can make me feel like a ‘grasshopper,’ but looking at God can have the same effect, and even worse. His power and wisdom are so much greater than my puny abilities and efforts that before Him I feel helpless. So if the challenges before me also make me feel helpless, then what?
Paul learned the lesson that the Israelites took another forty years of wandering in the wilderness to learn. God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Joshua and Caleb were the only surviving adults from that original group that refused to enter the land of promise. They eventually led the remaining people into the land. They didn’t do it in their own strength. In fact, that first victory at Jericho was a total contradiction to human reasoning, never mind fighting power. God showed them that in their weakness, even in what seemed total foolishness, His grace and power could and would deliver them.
In my human sinfulness, I resist this truth. I dislike feeling weak. I want bold confidence, but life with Christ is not like that. He is the Lion, the bold One. I am only a vessel and the best that He allows me to feel about myself is something akin to a helpless lamb.