A New Strength: The Power Paradox
Sermon for February 2, 2019 @ Harbor Church
Title: “The Power Paradox- A New Strength”
Texts: Isaiah 40:26-31; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Theme: Strength in the face of weakness: Whatever challenges we face, we can overcome them by relying on God’s power
“If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” Proverbs 24:10
Call To Worship [from Psalm 62]
Leader: For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from God,
People: God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Leader: On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
People: Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your heart before God who is a refuge for us.
Leader: Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion;
People: in the balances they go up; they are altogether lighter than a breath.
Leader: Once God has spoken, twice have I heard this: power belongs to God;
and to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love, for you repay all according to their work.
Unison Prayer: [from Psalms 18 & 26]
I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
Songs Leaning on the Everlasting Arms #640, Higher Ground #641,
for beginning of Communion Fill My Cup, Lord #202(RED)
Post communion Blessed be the tie that binds
Offertory O Divine Redeemer Megan Hennessy
Postlude Bridge Over Troubled Waters
26 Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. (2) I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. (3) And I know that such a person--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows-- (4) was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. (5) On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. (6) But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, (7) even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too conceited a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep my humble. (8) Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, (9) but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (10) Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities I have embraced all these things] for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
MESSAGE: “The Power Paradox – A New Strength” 2/3/19 at Harbor Church
During The Napoleonic Wars –a small city in Austria was Under Attack
The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn't know what to do. Napoleon's massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which was situated on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church. The pastor rose and said, 'Friends, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord's resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us.""
The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal of the bellls, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the enemy broke camp and left.
God’s Power often Prevails in the face of weakness
WHAT WAS PAUL STRUGGLING WITH?
“THORN”: We don’t really know what Paul was talking about, and scholars can’t agree on what it might be; I don’t think we are supposed to know. It leaves it wide open to what it could be, so that we can identify with him and find a parallel in our own lives:
“IN THE FLESH” term used extensively in the new testament: First, the physical nature of man as subject to suffering- Also, the sensuous nature of man, “the baser nature with cravings which incite to sin, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and temptation and contrary to God.
Compare PAUL? ~ US?...
- Physical weakness: infirmity, disease, malady, ailment - Most of us suffer w/health issues at some point in our lives, We have auto-accidents or operations; difficult periods when adjustments need to be made; sometimes for the remainder of our lives
- Metaphorical Weakness:
o Emotional/psychological pain- grief and loss, chemical imbalances in our brain, depression, instability uncertainty about our future and its prospects
- Spiritual inner conflict; recurring temptation, besetting sin, addictive or compulsive behavior, shame over past failures, full of baggage and guilt
- Relationship conflict: Enemy/opposition, adversary; human or spiritual attack/ do we need to pursue reconciliation in any of our relationships? Do we need to pray for those people with whom we have conflict, or difficulty getting along? Resentments, grudges. The people we are closest to often present the greatest challenge; the rest of the world we can take or leave. But those with whom we spend the most amount of time, can be the most taxing relationships. So, Sometimes families and co-workers present the greatest challenge here. T-shirt: “My mother really knows how to push my buttons…because she put them there!”
Regardless of what he was struggling with it is clear that “Paul views the thorn as a bitter reality that drew him closer to God” Martin WBC
WHAT WAS PAUL’S RESPONSE?
So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (10) Therefore I am content[have embraced my] [ have accepted] with weaknesses, … for whenever I am weak, then I am (can be) strong.
Paul knew the power of Acceptance. While he was in prison he wrote to the Philippians (Php 4;12-13 ) “I have learned the secret of being content in all things, [so that anywhere, at any time, I am content].” He goes onto tell what his secret is when he says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
How did Paul come to know that God’s power is perfected in our weakness.
- Paul realized that God’s power was pure dynamite! Root of the Greek word for power is the same root from which we get the English word dynamite! He recognized the boundless potential of God’s power for his life.
- “He realized that there was a reason for what he was going through, -God allowed him to experience weakness in order that Paul could experience God’s power. “ It says, This happened IN ORDER THAT” We may not understand why something is happening, we may never figure it out. Yet knowing that God is watching over us can be a source of comfort and strength.
- He relinquished his own power (or admitted his own powerlessness), and appropriated God’s power.
- Then He gave God the credit, the glory, and he testified (boasted) about the God who had done great things in his life.
He reached a point where he was able to say " So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE?
- Realize that there will be times when we reach the end of our resources, our own finite strength
- Become “entirely willing” to turn to God for help. -Its Hard to humble yourself to this degree . Men especially are taught by our culture that our own strength is an expression of our masculinity. Paul says, I could boast, I could be proud, but maybe this is happening to give me a dose of humility
- Asking God for strength when we feel weak is not weakness; it is like asking for courage in the face of fear, resolve in the face of uncertainty, , compassion when we feel indifferent , or faith in the face of doubt . Running out of gas. We’ve all had those moments when we wonder whether or not we will make it to the gas station before the car hits empty. Those times when we wonder if we can go the distance on the journey of life. Those are the moments to ask God to fill up our tank, to recharge our batteries. It is asking for God to supply what we cannot, and then appropriating it for ourselves; This act of the will, this choice that we make to call upon God when we feel weak can actually be seen as an expression of the strength of our faith- Paradoxically then, when I am weak, I can become strong.
During my morning quiet time, I recently found this reading from
Daily Reflections Devotional -
“I am one of the strongest-willed people on earth! but I now know that my incredible strength of will is not enough to save my life. My problem is not one of "weakness," but rather of direction. When I, without falsely diminishing myself, accept my honest limitations and turn to God's guidance, my worst faults become my greatest assets.”
Frailty & weakness are a part of the human condition. As we come to terms with our liabilities, then can be turned into assets when we turn them over to God. Invite God into your situation. Acknowledge His sovereign control, accept His compassion and care, rely on His grace, ask for His blessing, depend on Him for strength. Once we take this step, we can begin to truly see the paradox of God’s Power Perfected and appropriated in our lives. Then, along with the apostle Paul, we can say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Concluding Pastoral Prayer
-I’d like to conclude with the Prayer of an Unknown Confederate Soldier;
: “I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all people, most richly blessed.”