The counterintuitive irony of the gospel is that God calls us to a place of weakness so He can perfect His strength in us. This perspective sounds good conceptually, but it hard to live out when you’d like to give someone a piece of your mind.
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Biff and Bud are next door neighbors. Biff is a Christian. Bud is not. Bud enjoys mocking Biff because of his Christianity. For the most part, Biff can ignore Bud, or at least that is what Biff wants his friends to believe.
The real truth is that Biff is bitter and angry toward Bud because of all the ridicule he has received from Bud through the years. But he has learned how to hide his real thoughts about Bud while masquerading as though Bud could never get to him. Biff’s response has always been, “He doesn’t know the Lord; let’s pray for him.”
Exploding in Strength
Everything was fine until three weeks ago when Bud borrowed Biff’s weedwhacker. Biff felt a bit smug in that Bud had a need and he was coming to him for help. Biff “graciously” loaned his weedwhacker to Bud. Later that day Bud brought the weedwhacker back to Biff’s garage but didn’t bother to tell Biff that he had broken the shaft and that nobody could repair it.
After the church meeting on Sunday, as Biff was parking the van in the garage, he noticed that something didn’t seem right about his weedwhacker. Upon closer examination, he saw the broken shaft. Though Biff never let on to anyone what he was thinking at that moment, he felt that he had the perfect opportunity to “let Bud have it.” And he did.
Needless to say, Mable, Biff’s wife, and their three kids were blown away by what they heard come out of Biff’s mouth as he was “letting Bud have it” in the cul-de-sac. Though Biff does love Jesus, he had forgotten a fundamental application of the gospel.
Competing with the Lord
Biff chose to demonstrate his strength, his rights, his knowledge, and his justice that day in the cul-de-sac rather than resting in God’s power. Biff was motivated and fueled by years of pent-up anger toward his neighbor, and in a flash, all his rage came gushing out in full display. Though Biff was repentant shortly after he exploded, he felt in that moment that his anger was the proper response to someone who had been a thorn in his flesh for so many years.
The Apostle Paul had similar tension in his soul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 as he wrestled with the stress of “his strength vs. God’s strength.” But Paul learned the lesson and began to boast in his weaknesses rather than his strengths.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
- Paul was intelligent (strength)
- Paul was gifted (strength)
- Paul loved God (a strength)
- Paul knew the difference between right and wrong (strength)
- Paul could easily win any argument (strength)
Paul had many strengths because God had blessed him. But his abilities were a potential trap (2 Corinthians 12:7). So God showed mercy to Paul by bringing him to a place of weakness so Paul’s strength would not get in the way of God’s power.
The Cause and Cure for Anger
Paul had to learn how to mortify his temptations toward the pride of arrogance and self-righteousness by embracing an attitude of boasting in his weaknesses rather than slipping into the trap of self-reliance. Self-reliance happens when we forget the gospel. Paul knew that his strengths could choke out what God could do through him if he did not assume the position of weakness.
Paul learned his lesson and found that it was wiser to embrace and boast in his weakness so that the Lord would perfect His strength through him. And God’s power was gloriously magnified through the great apostle to the Gentiles.
Though Biff loved God very much, somehow he had missed this very basic gospel understanding (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Being weak came across as foolish to Biff. He surmised that Bud deserved his wrath. And it was time for Biff to give him a piece of his mind. If Biff had understood and applied the gospel at that moment of trial, he would have taken the position of weakness, i.e., humility, serving, and kindness.
God’s strength would most assuredly have had an impact on Bud’s life. Bud, too, was responding in his version of worldly-wise force. Rather than the “weakness of God” thwarting the wisdom of this world, there were two worldly-wise men–one a Christian and one was not a Christian–going toe-to-toe, strength-to-strength in the cul-de-sac.
Call to Action
- If you were Biff, how should you respond to Mable and the kids? How should you talk to Bud?
- Describe a time that you were tempted to display your strength, but chose instead to model the weakness and foolishness of the cross. How was God’s power made perfect through you?
- Describe a time when you responded in your power by taking matters into your hands. How did your strength negate the power of the cross?