The Lord Jesus said to the apostle Paul in his weakness:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for [my] power is made perfect in weakness.”
— 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NRSV)
Only where we cannot stand in our own strength can we depend fully on the all-sufficient grace of God to get us through.
We could choose to depend fully on this all-sufficient grace within some of our own strength—apportioned to our determined obedience of surrender to the Spirit of God. But this is a rarely taken option, when, from an instinctive viewpoint, we have strength to burn. Why would we depend on the all-sufficient strength of the Holy Spirit when we are already empowered by this same Spirit of God? This is the same all-sufficient strength, yet manifest through our joy. This is mature belief, yet not so routinely exercised, even in mature believers.
But we are more often plagued by the propensity to rely on our own strength—for too long and for too far. Our own strength is tantalizing to us—to use what we’ve been blessed with.
This can be our biggest problem; shutting God out because we have life sorted, “thank you very much.” This is the Christian’s battle of self-sufficiency.
We are not alone. It is uncharacteristic of our humanity to depend on anything unless by unhealthy dependence of clinginess. We rather fall to be dependent on others or insist upon being completely independent. Dependence on anything else than God and independence are two poles we fluctuate between.
But dependence on God—the all-sustaining power of the Spirit pulsating within us—is the superior choice. And the paradox occurs that when we are brought to our knees in life, our cries to God in no manner of our own strength redeem the almighty strength of the Spirit to get us through.
I present in my strength or by my weakness,
Only by one am I known in meekness,
Strengthening grace fills me when I’m bare,
This strength is my reason to solemnly dare.
If I could survive life all on my own,
By now I guess I’d have been shown,
But the grace in God gets me through,
This strength in my weakness is every bit true.
The Christian battle of self-sufficiency is common to every believer. When we subsist in our own strength we have no need of the strength of God that operates through our weakness. When we acknowledge our weakness we are empowered by the all-sufficient grace of God to get us through any and all circumstances.
Steve Wickham is a writer and pastor who holds degrees in counseling, science, and divinity.