“Weak, in a World that Fights for Strength”
What first comes to mind when you think of the word weak? Actually stop reading for a minute and think…
“Google” the word “weak” and here is some of what you get:
“1. lacking the power to perform physically demanding tasks; lacking physical strength and energy. “she was recovering from the flu and was very weak”
synonyms: frail, feeble, delicate, fragile; More infirm, sick, sickly, debilitated, incapacitated, ailing, indisposed, decrepit; tired, fatigued, exhausted, anemic; “they are too weak to move” antonyms: strong
more synonyms: inadequate, poor, feeble; More defective, faulty, deficient, imperfect, substandard more synonyms: unconvincing, untenable, tenuous, implausible, unsatisfactory, poor, inadequate, feeble, flimsy, lame, hollow; informal, pathetic “a weak excuse”
2. liable to break or give way under pressure; easily damaged.”
Let’s suffice it to say the default reaction to the idea of something or someone being weak is negative. While this is where our minds tend to go with consideration to this idea, what does the idea of “being transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2 ESV) look like when it comes to understand weakness? In Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians, chapter 12 verses 1 and 2, he “appeals” or asks, more like pleads with them for two actions. First he asks them to “present (their) bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is (their) spiritual worship”. This is a concept we can look at more at a later time.
The second thing he asks is in two parts. He says, “Do not be conformed to this world” and follows it by saying, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. This sounds pretty important, wouldn’t you say? Do you want to be able to discern what “the will of God” is? I would say most people would say yes. If you say no… well that would be a different conversation. Let’s assume your answer is “yes”, then we need to take this instruction seriously!
Where something is in the Bible is very important. The section we are talking about here is in chapter 12 out of 16 chapters. This is important to know because it gives context to the instruction. It is important to realize Paul is speaking to people who are “born again” or “reconciled to God”. These are Christians, not people who need to follow these instructions in order to be “saved”. Make sense? Paul is telling Christians this is something they should and need to do. He bases the instruction on God’s mercy (12:1), which he has spoken of throughout the previous 11 chapters. Paul is not teaching salvation by works, he is teaching about God’s mercy and what our response to God’s mercy should look like.
Let me help you to understand the difference between being “conformed” and being “transformed”. Imagine you are a caterpillar (stick with me here)… and it is time for the incredible process of metamorphosis to take place. You are going to become… a butterfly! I know, every guy’s dream right? Fine… pretend you are going to become a dragon. So what is going to happen for you to become…. a dragon? The process is from the inside out. The caterpillar is changed by experience molecular changes, cellular growth, and its very structure and appearance is changed. The process begins inside and has an affect throughout the creature including the outside. Make sense? Okay, so this is “transformation”.
1: an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed—see malignant transformation. 2a: genetic modification of a bacterium by incorporation of free DNA from another ruptured bacterial cell—compare transduction 2b: genetic modification of a cell by the uptake and incorporation of exogenous DNA. (Merriam-Webster. 2017).
Now I want you to consider the difference between a caterpillar become a butterfly (or dragon) through a cellular change from the inside out versus being “conformed”.
1: to be similar or identical; also : to be in agreement or harmony —used with to or with <changes that conform with our plans>
2a: to be obedient or compliant —usually used with to <conform to another’s wishes> <The building doesn’t conform to local regulations.> 2b: to act in accordance with prevailing standards or customs <the pressure to conform> (Merriam-Webster. 2017).
Does that help? If a caterpillar is reconstructed at the cellular level and experiences change from the inside out, it is legitimately a new creature! But… what if the caterpillar is only “conformed” to look like a butterfly? Imagine this. When you take some Playdo and mould it into a “snake” (because everyone can do that), did you really transform it into a snake or did you simply conform it to the shape of a snake (kinda)? If you take the caterpillar and put him in a butterfly mould and squeeze it in there… you get a mess… not a butterfly.
So this is what Paul is talking about. God wants to “transform” us, and not have us be “conformed” to “this world”. God doesn’t want us to look like those who have not been redeemed. We have been changed and made a “new creature”, so we need to allow our transformation process to continue through the renewing of our minds.
Well, let’s get back to the idea of “weak” or “weakness”. Independence is a big deal. Since we are small children there is part of us that wants to be independent, capable, strong, and able to… do stuff! I’ve never heard a kid say, “When I grow up, I want to depend on others.” No! They may say, “I want to be like my dad” or “I want to be a construction worker and build stuff”. There is desire inside to want to be able to accomplish things, to be admired, and to impress (even if it is just impressing me!). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be coupled with Biblical understanding. What does the Bible say about being “strong” or “weak”?
Romans 5:6 “For while we were still weak, at the right time christ died for the ungodly,”
Romans 8:26 “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought…”
I Corinthians 1:27 “… God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;”
I Corinthians 12:22 “…the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,”
2 Corinthians 11:30 “… I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses… for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The Bible is full of admonitions like these. I am “not to think of (myself) more highly than (I) ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,” (Romans 12:3 ESV). John the baptizer says, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” in John 3:30. John understood his role was to be in the shadow of Jesus so that Jesus would be glorified and seen as great. Paul encourages us to have the same mind of Christ Jesus and to “empty (ourselves), by taking on the form of a servant” and “in humility count others more significant than (ourselves)”. (Philippians 2:7 & 3 respectively) Weakness does have some negative connotations in the Bible as well, but it is typically in reference to being “weak in faith” for Christians or referring to things that are anti-Christ such as “worldly passions”, “lust”, or “philosophies” which are anti-Biblical. We as people who have been redeemed are encouraged to see ourselves as weak, needy, dependent, and qualifiers for the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not being a “negative thinker”, it is thinking Biblically and accurately. When you do not think you are proud, know this… you are being blinded by your pride.
In 2 Timothy 3:2 Paul tells Timothy, “… people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” If you are caught up with yourself, impressed with “who you have become”, or frustrated because others don’t realize how awesome you are… you are deceived.
“Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.” James 4:6-7
You need to confess (admit you are wrong), repent (change your thinking), and renew your mind with a Biblical understanding of God and yourself. Now is the time to change. You decide.
ReThink. Renew. ReGroup.
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