How Does God Use Weakness, Disease and Tribulation to Glorify His Name and Spread the Good News of Jesus in the Midst of a Pandemic?! #coronavirus #73
Shout out to Keith Heltsley and the guy in St. Louis that downloaded 83 episodes of the podcast today. Welcome aboard!
My own preference in bible translations are the ESV and CSB. I won’t claim to be fluent in Greek or Hebrew, but have studied both enough to know these two translations are both faithful to word order, but flexible enough to make sense to the English reader.
I like the use of Yahweh for the reason that uppercase letters to designate the formal name for God are lost on me. As a blind person who relies on reading through listening to the scripture being read, LORD is pronounced the same as Lord, or lord. It’s nice to use something different without the reader needing to stop and clarify every time, or to pause my text to speech software to set it to read by character, assuming there may be a need to stop and notice a difference… and it can be difficult to pick up on subtle differences in context to know whether I need to check.
KJV, ESV, CSB, NASB (and its update) are all excellent. They’re all good, but since the grammar, and certain words used in 1611 have drifted, the KJV is becoming cumbersome to understand. Literal meanings of words have drifted to the point that a modern reader has to continually filter “what did this mean to the original audience?” “What did these words mean to English readers in 1611?” “What do these words mean to modern English understanding?”
If nothing else, and the modern reader has no tools or knowledge of original languages, comparing multiple versions side by side give a more rich understanding of the underlying, original language, and a deeper meaning that translators can’t achieve with a single word for word translation. .The more versions to cross reference in parallel, the better.
Happy Friday, Everybody! We are still in crisis mode around the world – battling an unseen and terrifying foe – the coronavirus. I believe that this will be a worldwide fiery trial that will leave virtually no community untouched. If that prediction is accurate, then that will mean that the church – the Body of Christ – will go through extensive suffering and weakness over the coming weeks, and many of us will ask the question, “WHY” as loudly as we possibly can to God. I don’t think that this will surprise you, but even though I’m a pastor and host of a daily Bible reading podcast, I am not on the list of those who get explanations from Heaven as to why things are happening the way they are. Why are we facing this pandemic? I know as much – or less – than Job knew at the beginning of his fiery trial in Job 1. That said – we do have the Word to inform us and encourage us, so let’s turn there:
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you.13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.1 Peter 4:12
One of the major things we need to learn from the Word of God is that fiery trials/ordeals WILL COME. We aren’t supposed to be surprised by them. I usually am surprised by these trials – but I shouldn’t be. They are part and parcel of the Christian life. If somebody has told you that following Christ will protect you from trials, then somebody has lied to you. Consider 1 Thessalonians 3. Paul is writing to a church that was going through severe persecution, and he began his encouragement to them with these words:
And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience affliction, and as you know, it happened.1 Thessalonians 3:2-4
So – trials, affliction, troubles – they are coming. As Jesus promised us – In this world, you will have tribulation…BUT TAKE HEART – HE HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD! (John 16:33)
I have a love-hate relationship with 2 Corinthians 12. I love the truths found in there, and they are amongst the deepest and most profound truths in the Bible. When all of the American/Western way says to seek to be strong in wealth, health, security and popularity, the Bible – especially in the letters to the Corinthians – calls Christians to the POWER of WEAKNESS. Which is one of those divine paradoxes that make more Divine sense than rational human sense. The last time I preached on 2 Corinthians 12 at VBC in Salinas was in November of 2018. In November, I had been sick for about 4 weeks with a nasty case of bronchitis. It began to get better – a little bit, just long enough for me to develop a severely painful infected tooth – that had to be removed. A few days after that, I developed influenza A, which invited its friend bilateral pneumonia in the next week. I preached the following Sunday, and preached on the power of weakness, in about as weak a state as possible. I love that my church doesn’t depend on my strength to shepherd them and to save them from their sins. I love them very much, but do not have the power to save them, nor do I have the power to spiritually protect them. I love that my family doesn’t depend on me to save and protect them. I try my best, but I can’t. I am, in and of myself, insufficient to save a one of them. I want to be the hero…but I’m not – I’m far too weak, and so are you. Ironically, that is where the power of God meets us – in our weakness. Dumpster story.
A theology of powerful weakness.
1 Corinthians 1: 22 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 2: 2 When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, 5 so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.
This is Paul – a man who came to the Corinthians in weakness, fear and trembling. A man without persuasive and charismatic words of wisdom. Probably not a great speaker.
Later, in 2nd Cor. 10, he says this: 10 For it is said, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable.”
That’s what the description was of Paul – weak in presence, and low in public speaking ability. HE APPEARED WEAK, not powerful. However, He does note this in 1 Corinthians 4:20 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
So – if the Kingdom of God is not about talking ability, and it is not about wealth, nor good looks, nor human power..then what is it about?
2nd Corinthians 12:3-10 I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, God knows— 4 was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak. 5 I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses. 6 For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, 7 especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
A fundamental truth that we all need to grasp when we are talking about ministering to people and overcoming trials is that the power DOES NOT COME FROM US. When it does come from us, it is LESS POWERFUl.
2 Corinthians 4: 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 8 We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus’ life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh.
So. God’s power is made more manifest and active in our weakness. God has given us His good news to share to a lost and dying world and put His power IN US to accomplish His will on earth. Church, we might be about to go through some of the darkest days in our lifetimes. If we do, many of us will be made far weaker than we want to be. You might think that will DIM our gospel light and our ability to minister to a frightened, panicky, sick and dying world, but it WILL NOT! Our weakness is precisely the thing that God uses to manifest HIS power into the world. Lean into Him, dear brothers and sisters. If He so chooses to weaken you – I pray for your comfort, but also remember to pray for POWER in the midst of weakness. The light of Christ shines brightly in weak clay pots like ourselves, and this might just be our hour to brightly shine the light of Jesus in a way that the Western church has failed to do over the past decades. I’ll close with Daniel 12. It speaks of the end-times Saints of God brightly shining the light of Christ as they are persecuted and struck down by the enemy. I am not implying that we are in the end times, but I am sharing that we CAN and we MUST shine like the stars in the Heavens as we go through this pandemic – remembering that there is no power IN and OF OURSELVES to shine, except for the POWER OF CHRIST in us, the Hope of Glory!
At that timeDaniel 12:1-3
Michael, the great prince
who stands watch over your people, will rise up.
There will be a time of distress
such as never has occurred
since nations came into being until that time.
But at that time all your people
who are found written in the book will escape.
2 Many who sleep in the dust
of the earth will awake,
some to eternal life,
and some to disgrace and eternal contempt.
3 Those who have insight will shine
like the bright expanse of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness,
like the stars forever and ever.