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THE POWER OF WEAKNESS.
One of the most difficult lessons that the Christian has to learn is the power of weakness, the glory of being placed in positions where they can do nothing and when perhaps even God seems silent. Yet it is probably just here that the greatest victories are won and the greatest work accomplished for the salvation of souls. The accounts given in the gospels of the arrest of the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane are of great help in understanding this.
Matthew’s account contains the significant question, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26 v47-51). Why was that prayer never uttered? Because His Father had revealed to Jesus that only through Calvary could salvation be secured for a lost world. He had accepted this fact with all His heart, therefore He could neither call upon the armies of heaven, nor descend from the Cross when taunted by His enemies, and His weakness constituted the mightiest power the world has ever known.
Is it possible that God is to-day answering the cry of His people for a movement of the Holy Spirit by stripping the Church of all that she considers to be her equipment and armaments for conflict? Perhaps only in this way can He make her helpless enough to be mighty.
Ever since Calvary, the one factor which has been effective in overcoming the devil’s plans to blot out the witness of the gospel has been the individual life brought into living union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Are we prepared to share the suffering of a distracted world, leaving ourselves in the hands of God and not trying to insist on the appearance of legions of angels on our behalf? Can we, if necessary, leave our pulpits, our studies, our routine and quiet life of ordered service, and die to all these things that we may get next to the men or women who are driven here and there by the stress of modern life? Perhaps we shall even have to face the disruption of all that seems to make this life worth living. Can we forget our own needs in the great, burning purpose to be God’s instrument for the salvation of others?
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who . . . made Himself nothing . . . He humbled Himself, and became obedient to death - even death on a cross” (Philippians 2 v5-8). Paul also wrote, “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently . . . been exposed to death again and again” (2 Corinthians 11 v23-28). The apostle had learnt the lesson of power through weakness, and if the Church of Christ is to be an instrument in the hand of God to bring about a turning point in history we also need to learn this lesson.
We now turn to Mark’s vivid account. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus ”that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? . . . But the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Then everyone deserted Him and fled” (Mark 14 v45-50).
How quietly God, Who knows the end from the beginning, was bringing His gracious purposes to fruition. He also has His programme for His Church to-day. The earthly ministry of His Son was carried through under His Own eye with the protection of all the powers of Heaven, until Calvary. Then the protection was removed. But even so, all that happened, happened by “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2 v23). The ministry of the Church is also prepared beforehand by God (Ephesians 2 v10). What shall we say if, according to His purpose, we too must face our Calvary? Human nature neither understands nor can it face the Cross. His closest followers, not yet endued with power by God the Holy Spirit, all forsook Him and fled. There are differing ideas amongst Christians as to what constitutes the fullness of the Spirit, but of one thing we may be quite sure. If we are filled with the Spirit we shall infallibly be taught, guided, and enabled to walk the way of the Cross. If He, “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9 v14), we too shall offer ourselves when the same Spirit fills us. It will not then make any difference if our protection is removed and we find ourselves utterly alone for the sake of the salvation of others. The Holy Spirit who is aiming to conform us to the image of Christ will, if we are willing, finish the work He has begun.
Luke adds a striking detail not given by the other Evangelists. He leaves on record what Jesus said to the officers who arrested Him, “But this is your hour - when darkness reigns” (Luke 22 v53). He has just, by an act of sovereign mercy, healed the ear of Malchus, cut off in the impetuous attack of Simon Peter. Now He calmly faces the awful unleashing of satanic powers against Himself, accepting by faith the present position as well as the assured triumph to follow. The story of Job shows clearly that it is God who sets the limit to the extent of the devil’s activities and power. He may go to the very last inch of the bounds permitted to him, but he may not pass them. From the human angle the Cross looked to be a colossal failure. In it the victory of the powers of evil seemed complete. But the weakness of God is stronger than men or demons, and by the power of weakness “having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross” (Col. 2 v15).
Centuries have passed since then. To-day the Church of Christ stands at a place where her power and influence seem to have ebbed away. Even the civilisation that her triumphs won for the nations seems to be in the process of violent disintegration. How will it all end? Will God grant a great revival? Is the coming of the Lord imminent? Perhaps the real battleground is our heart attitude as Christians.
Can we stand firm and unafraid, facing the enemy, not pretending he is not there, nor becoming so occupied with him that his might fills our whole horizon? The conflict does not end here. Victory is with the Lion of the tribe of Judah and He will deliver countless souls. Surely we can afford to be radiantly triumphant. God is teaching us to use the power of weakness, and once we learn to wield it aright, we shall be moving on towards a mightier triumph than we can well realise.
Last comes John’s version. Here we find the majesty of almighty Kingship mysteriously interwoven with obedient Sonship. ‘’Who is it you want?” Jesus asks His captors. “Jesus of Nazareth” comes the reply. “I AM” declares the One who is indeed “God of God, very God of very God” and “they drew back and fell to the ground”. He “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”, and we too, if we are His, are ‘‘heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ”. We can and should rejoice greatly in such a relationship with the living God, and there will be times when others will have to recognise the reality of that relationship.
This manifestation of deity was soon followed by the rebuke to Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?” (John 18 v11). What a wealth of love lies behind this question. The Father had put a cup into the hand of His dearly loved Son. That cup was bitter, full to the brim with a world’s sin and woe, but it came from the Father’s hand. That made all the difference. Since that was so it could be drunk without fear or doubt. The Father’s purposes were bound to end in untold blessing. Fallen human nature might have fretted and fought to be free from the suffering and darkness that lay ahead but He would not attempt to save Himself. He loved the Father too greatly for that.
Does not the Father covet our love too? Does He not value it more than all our knowledge and activities in Christian work? “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13 v7-8). Does not God plan every detail of the lives of those who yield themselves to Him? If He grants us peaceful surroundings, religious liberty, and useful spheres of service, do we not praise Him for His goodness to us? What shall we say if He permits us to be placed in circumstances of strife, persecution, or seeming lack of opportunity for Christian work?
I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might;
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So shall I choose aright.
Take Thou my cup and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.
This is no passive attitude, but one of active ambition to see the pleasure of the Lord prospering in His hand, under any and every circumstance. A radiant spirit, thoughtful for Him and others, is of priceless worth in these days. Such a spirit will always triumph. It will have learnt the central lesson of Christian service, the power of weakness, the way of the Cross.
From: “The Spirit of Calvary”.
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