When I Am Weak

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Victory in Jesus? I sang it almost every week while growing up. I’ve been wondering about the reality of it in this life….

Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, passed away recently after a four-month battle with cancer.  From his archives I have found a treasure…for me.  (I think it also states this was his favorite article…?)   Here’s an excerpt:

I fall down. I get up….and believe. Over and over again. That’s as good as it gets in this world. This life of faith, is a battle full of weakness and brokenness. The only soldiers in this battle are wounded ones. There are moments of total candor- I am a “wretched man” living in a “body” of death. Denying this, spinning this, ignoring this or distorting this reality is nothing but trouble in the true Christian experience. The sin we are killing in Romans 8 is, in a sense, ourselves. Not some demon or serpent external to us. Our battle is with ourselves, and embracing this fact is the compass and foundation of the Gospel’s power in our lives.

What lands us in churches where we are turned into the cheering section for personal victory over everything is denying that faith is an ongoing battle that does not end until Jesus ends it. Those who stand up and claim victory may be inviting us to celebrate a true place in their experience at the time, but it isn’t the whole person, the whole story, or all that accurate. They are still a mess. Count on it. This battle- and the victories in it- are fought by very un-victorious Christians.

I will be accused of a serious lack of good news, I’m sure, so listen. At the moment I am winning, Jesus is with me. At the moment I am losing, Jesus is with me and guarantees that I will get up and fight on. At the moment I am confused, wounded and despairing, Jesus is with me. I never, ever lose the brokenness. I fight, and sometimes I prevail, but more and more of my screwed up, messed up life erupts. Each battle has the potential to be the last, but because I belong to one whose resurrection guarantees that I will arrive safely home in a new body and a new creation, I miraculously, amazingly, find myself continuing to believe, continuing to move forward, till Jesus picks us up and takes us home.

Now, let’s come to something very important here. This constant emphasis on the “victorious life” or “good Christian life” is absolutely the anti-Christ when it comes to the Gospel. If I am _________________ (fill in the blank with victorious life terminology) then I am oriented to be grateful for what Jesus did THEN, but I’m needing him less and less in the NOW. I want to make sure he meets me at the gate on the way into heaven, but right now, I’m signing autographs. I’m a good Christian. This imagining of the Christian journey will kill us.

We need our brokenness. We need to admit it and know it is the real, true stuff of our earthly journey in a fallen world. It’s the cross on which Jesus meets us. It is the incarnation he takes up for us. It’s what his hands touch when he holds us….

I meant to publish the whole article, but wondered about the legalities of that. AND it’s really long. But don’t let that frighten you. Go read it. He has said what I’ve been thinking, but he says it perfectly well…

When I am Weak: Why We Must Embrace Our Brokenness and Never Be Good Christians

Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk, has reached his victorious life…may he rest in peace.

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10 responses »

  1. Dear Michelle

    I read this article with great difficulty. I didn’t read the whole one, just the part you put.

    I know it is true. I know about the brokenness and the pain. I see it all around me and I see it in myself. And I often ask God about it.

    But where is the hope? Is this all there is? Because then we are better off dead. Then death is our victory?

    My hope has been the promises of God. The promises that weren’t for death but for life. My sneaky suspicion has been that I have not done enough to live in victory. God has done it all. So my salvation is secure because of Jesus. But how much faith do I have? Not a whole lot. How often do I choose to believe God and His promises over what my own feelings and circumstances are telling. Not often. How much time do I spend seeking God humbly and earnestly? In 24 hours, not nearly enough. How much do I love this world and the things of it? Quite a bit.

    I love God. I am devoted and committed. I want my life to be a reflection of Him. I want my life to be meaningful for Him. I want Him to be alive in me.

    But honestly, my actions toward Him are casual. I can do so much more, but I allow the world to take up my time and energy instead. I allow my thoughts and ideas and feeling most governance over myself. Of course we were taught it is not about what we can do (so no-one can boast). I cannot save myself, only God can. And He’s already done that.

    But only I can choose my thoughts. Only I can choose how much time I spend with Him. Only I can choose to believe and trust Him. And I know that God is faithful to those who earnestly seek Him. I know He meets with them in ways that can only dream of. I know He is waiting for me.

    This is what I have believed. This is my hope for this life. Because if this world is nothing but suffering and pain, if there is no victory, then I’d rather be dead.

  2. Dear Rain, I’m so glad you shared your feelings. I can hear your frustration and maybe(?) desperation for a better life. (Or, I could be projecting. 😕 )

    It really wasn’t fair of me to only share a bit of his article, and a chunk from the center, at that. I do hope you’ll read the whole piece. He has made an excellent point, that we will not reach perfection on this earth…that we are being led to death through our life. And the victory over death does come…when we leave these earthly tents that groan for our heavenly clothing.

    “My sneaky suspicion has been that I have not done enough to live in victory.”

    That is his point, Rain. That we have bought into a recipe for victory…that we haven’t “done enough” and if we’ll just do more, then we’ll feel it.

    We do have victory. We are sealed in the Holy Spirit and will be glorified after death. Until then, we are being sanctified with each day of our lives. We are going through the fires for the purging of all those impurities. And the stuff of this life will lead us to more and more death as we “put to death the deeds of the flesh”…but that ain’t easy and may not lead to much “cheering”, yet it can lead to a deep settled peace with the knowledge He is working in us…causing us to cling more tightly to Him as we see more and more of self which needs to die. When the flesh is gone, the battle is over.

    Please, Rain. Read all of the article. As I said, he says it perfectly well.
    Grace covers a multitude.

  3. I read it now Michelle. And he does say it well. There are some really comforting parts as well. I loved the story of the woman with the twisted mouth and how Jesus is to us.

    And he is right you know. Everything is messed up, everyone is messed up.But I just can’t accept that that is our lot in life, that that is all there is? Am I just too proud or something? He mentioned Piper, I always think of how Piper described God as an intensely joyful being, genuinely happy, completely satisfied within Himself. I believe this is true. And this is where my struggle comes in. God is beautiful and created the most immense beauty on this earth which was amongst other things to fill us with joy when we look at it. I really truly believe God’s plan for us is to be joyful in Him. But how can we be joyful when we are always messed up. And Michael is right. We are all messed up and broken, and everything seems to be getting progressively worse. Where is the joy? I’m ok with trials and suffering, I understand life cannot be all sunshine and roses, but to struggle constantly- consistently? It doesn’t seem like the will of God to me. He used the example of the pastor who was consistently unfaithful, time and time again. I understand that we are messed up. But please tell me that if we get down on our knees before God and seek Him and plead with Him to change our hearts, will He not answer?

    This is again why I believe that if we really seek God we will be less and less messed up? We must be? How can we look into the face of God, or come to know more and more of Him and not be changed by it? I know we will never be perfect on earth but if we mean business with God, surely He will meet with us?

    Thank you for allowing me to just put this all out there. Maybe there are no answers. But there has just been so much bad news on this earth lately, there must be some hope as well? And not just hope for the sweet here-after… 🙂

  4. I started the post with the question, “Victory in Jesus?” and I must have come across as saying there is none. I didn’t mean to sound so negative, Rain, for I do believe we can have victories in Jesus…in this life. However, I also see we live in a fallen world and we are dying people…just like the rest of humanity. We do have wonderfully rapturous moments on this earth. We do. And yes, we are given “joy unspeakable that won’t go away and just enough strength to live for the day” (as my daughter was just singing).

    It’s when we talk as though we do not struggle…when we won’t share the difficulties, addictions, sins from fear of being judged or shunned, or just not having a “positive Christian message.” This is not what we’ve been told to do in the body of Christ. We are told to “confess our sins one to another so that we may be healed.” Yet, we’ve not made it possible to do so. We’ve shut the door on those we deem too screwed up to walk with…and, unfortunately, I’m speaking from personal experience. And yet, Jesus was always found fellowshipping with sinners.

    My pastor says we’re not sinners who sometimes do good, we’re saints who sometimes sin. Another friend says it a bit differently, we’re saints stranded in skin and bones. Until this life is over, we will continue in this battle of spiritual warfare. We can overcome…in Him. If we choose to fight in our flesh, we’ll lose. But in Him we can reach higher ground…and will, ultimately, reach “perfection” when we see Him in glory. But to declare ourselves “good Christians”…a Christian is one who knows he’s bad and needs a savior…

    I might just be repeating myself. Forgive me for possibly muddying the waters more. I do hear the frustration in your words “…there has just been so much bad news on this earth lately, there must be some hope as well? And not just hope for the sweet here-after…” I believe our hope is in Jesus. In Him we overcome. In Him we have redemption. In Him we are kept for the Day He returns (which I happen to think will be very soon). In Him we do have the victory.

    And yes, we will have some beautiful moments in this life…but really…it will be nothing compared to the one to come. Praise Him.

    “Thank you for allowing me to just put this all out there.”
    You are very welcome. I love hearing your thoughts. You always make me think. Love you, Rain. I hope I’ve finally made sense. 🙂

  5. I hope Michael Spencer his final victory.

    I agree that ever day we fight a new battle of faith. At the end of each day we will feel happy when we win, or sad when we lose, and each new day brings the opportunity for a new win, or a new challenge that may defeat us.

    The more confident our faith, the more joy we will feel in our wins, and the better we will be able to endure the pain of our losses.

    Living life to the fullest means finding a way to embrace each new challenge, no matter the outcome of the last one.

    Of course it is a lot easier to get out of bed when we are winning. When we are losing we may feel more like crawling back under the covers. 🙂 However, over the years, as I have experienced both wins and losses, I realized that just being able to play the game of life is a victory in it’s.

    Rain and Michelle, I hope you two kids 🙂 don’t take as long as me to learn this lesson. As Christians just keep focusing on that final victory promised by your Lord, as Michael Spencer did, even as his body was failing him.

  6. you know, i know all the “christian” answers, and still its a struggle..

    i know that when i am weak HE is strong…

    but the beauty of this passage for me is the reality that there are wounded soldiers…then we must be going in the right direction.

    thanks for this

  7. Oh…he’s got the victory, Ed…no need to doubt.

    It is MUCH easier to get out of bed when we’re winning. Bed has become my best friend, with the covers pulled way over my head! 😆

    No, really I’m beginning to enjoy the days again. And know, I’ll get to meet Michael Spencer once I’ve achieved the ultimate victory! He is faithful even when I am not…I’m sealed in Him.

    It sure would be great to meet you there too, Ed. 😉

    You’re very welcome, Darla. 🙂

  8. Thank you Michelle. It does make sense. I see that his main focus was on being able to be weak as leaders. I can see how it must be very diffcult to have to act as if everything is ok when it is not. And you are right, we do have a responsibility to confess our sins to each other.

    I’m not a church leader or anything, maybe that is why I am not completely aware of the pressure to be ‘perfect’. For me it is a hope to be perfect and I do still hope that through the grace of God I will be able to deal with my weaknesses that I may become stronger in Him.

    Thank you for your patience, you always do make me think too! Lots of love 🙂

  9. Excellent find Michelle. I think we put undo pressure on ourselves and others to live “strong” or “unscarred” or whatever we’re calling it these days.

    “They are still a mess.” So real.

    A good, well intentioned friend commented once that he could not wait to see and hear about the victory God is going to pull from the proverbial hat called my life.

    But IRL here on planet earth, there will never be a victory speech and a cheering crowd concerning the trials I and my family have endured. For that, we will have to wait for the final victory in heaven.

    And,as Michael points out, there is great hope in both of those truths.

  10. Thank you for challenging me, Rain.

    “I do still hope that through the grace of God I will be able to deal with my weaknesses that I may become stronger in Him.”

    He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…be encouraged, Rain. Love you. xo

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    I know this place, Ric
    “But IRL here on planet earth, there will never be a victory speech and a cheering crowd concerning the trials I and my family have endured. For that, we will have to wait for the final victory in heaven.”

    I wish I didn’t, but I do. It will be an amazing day when He explains all that we’ve wondered about…to let us see what good came from the evils done…when now, in the flesh, it’s so hard to get a glimpse. He knows. And He will make it known. Let’s hold on to that promise, Ric.

    FYP

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