Those of us on Twitter may have come across “secure the bag twitter” – a community which esteems the self-made person. Their resounding message seems to be that you determine your own success. Everything you are and all that you obtain is down to yourself. Your efforts, your abilities, your talents, your money – YOU YOU YOU. But what about when despite all your skills and resources, you find yourself at ground zero? All that you supposedly built yourself comes crashing down and there seems to be no way back. You’ve crumbled under the pressure of trying to have everything figured out by your own power as you’ve exhausted all your resources. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us without aid in this helpless state. You don’t need to be strong. In our lowest points, God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Humbled when we’re self-sufficient
God humbles the self-sufficient, that’s a given. It’s just a matter of when He chooses to do so which is not made known to us. It may be in a year’s time, it may be decades later. He may do so in this lifetime, or perhaps in the next. For King Uzziah, God humbled him as soon as his head became inflated.
Uzziah was one of the commendable kings of Judah who enjoyed a prosperous fifty-two-year reign, marked by instruction in the fear of God through the prophet Zechariah (2 Chronicles 26:1-4). Despite all this, God struck him with leprosy which plagued him to the point of his death (2 Chronicles 26:21). So what went wrong?
In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skilful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.2 Chronicles 26:15-16
The acclaim and success which came Uzziah’s way puffed up his head. His success was founded upon divine aid. God had strengthened Him throughout his reign but withdrew His power from Uzziah the moment he became strong from which came pride. Pride is rooted in self-sufficiency. This caused Uzziah to think too highly of himself, his skill, power and authority to the point where he took it upon himself to carry out priestly duties instituted by God for those from the tribe of Levi who were consecrated to the priesthood (2 Chronicles 24:16-19). As he lost sight of the God who was the means of his success, he pridefully transgressed the limits of his authority and God gave him his dues.
Acknowledging our weakness
The demise of Uzziah should be a solemn warning to us all not to fall into the trap of self-sufficiency. We can start by acknowledging our weakness. God often brings us to our lowest point to magnify our weakness and bring us to total dependence on Him. This was evident in the ministry of the apostle Paul. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he tells us about the “super-apostles” at Corinth, a group of false teachers at Corinth who were rapidly gaining popularity. They undermined the gospel through their false teachings and set out to malign Paul’s character. Rather than choosing to confront them by boasting about the magnificent supernatural things God had shown him (2 Corinthians 12:1-4), he acknowledged his own weakness in which he boasted (2 Corinthians 12:5-6).
Knowing God’s grace is sufficient
Paul’s weakness was made all the more apparent through his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). This was a metaphorical thorn which God allowed a Satanic agent to afflict Paul with. A tool deployed by the Almighty to keep his apostle humble in light of the supernatural wonders he had experienced in the heavenly realm and his ongoing strivings with the false teachers. Paul cried out to God for Him to remove this pain from his life. Our Bibles tell us that Paul pleaded with God “three times”, but some scholars believe that Paul was using a Hebrew figure of speech which communicated the idea of doing something ceaselessly. In other words, he repeatedly asked God to remove it. Continually and desperately crying out to God to alleviate his suffering. Rather than giving Paul what he wanted, God gave him what he needed. God kept the thorn in his flesh for Paul’s own benefit. It enabled the apostle to acknowledge his weakness and open his eyes to the sufficiency of God’s grace to strengthen him when he was most frail.
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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9
Depending on God’s grace
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:10
When Paul acknowledged his weakness and the sufficiency of God’s grace, he was then able to confront the immense ministerial challenge in which he was engaged. As we live in total dependence on the grace of God in all aspects of our lives, His strength becomes available to us in the eternal power of Christ Jesus and through the Holy Spirit at work within us, making our weakness strong.
This is anti-cultural. Strength is not gained through self-sufficiency. It is worked in us as we realise our self-deficiency and humbly and draw from the ever-flowing reservoir of God’s grace by which Christ’s power which rests upon us.