God, our Strength in Weakness

By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr

(Sabbath, 15th October, 2011)

Don’t Despair: God Gives Power to the Weak

Do you feel that you are inadequate?  Do you see in yourself a weak and impotent person in the face of life’s challenges? Are you worried that you are unable to turn your fortunes around or make any headway in life and work? It’s only human to feel weak, but don’t despair! There’s a Mighty One (God) who gives strength to the weak. The prophet says, "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength" (Isa. 40:29 ESV). These are the only people who qualify for His strength—those who are tired and weak!

If you can believe, God is on the side of the weak—on your side as long as you believe in Him. The Psalmist praises the LORD for His loving concern for the poor and weak:

"The LORD is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens.

"Who is like unto the LORD our God, that hath His seat on high,

"That humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?

"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the needy from the dunghill;

"That He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people.

"He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD" (Ps 113:4-9 RV).

If you can trust Him, “the only wise God” has deliberately made you weak so He can manifest in you His mighty power! When the Apostle Paul complained of an irksome “torn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-8), He told him: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (vv. 9-10).

So rejoice in your weakness! He’s about to manifest His mighty power in you.

Personal Testimony

I’m not preaching a mere theory! I’m a living witness to this truth of ‘divine strength in weakness’ in my life and ministry. When I was at the lowest ebb in my personal life to date – after the death of my dear mother two years after my dear dad’s – that was when I witnessed the mightiest power of God to date in my life and ministry; that was when I was on course to a steady ascent after all the persecution my siblings and I went through and the brouhaha in the church. I remember the very day my father passed on, the first thing I took as a legacy from him was his personal special edition KJV Bible which I still use. Since that day, I confess, I drew closest to God. Bible study took on a new meaning, and it since has become a daily staple of my life without which I could never do. My prayer life has improved dramatically too—it’s at an all-time high!     

And His grace has been phenomenal in my life and ministry. Today, I lead the largest 7th Day Pentecostal group in Ghana touching lives far and near, making ready for the Lord a people prepared for Him through sound teachings, literature distribution and evangelistic activities. And to think I began with nothing and with less than ten people. I was spurned and rejected by people. I stood only by faith (2 Cor. 1:24; Isa. 7:9).

And faith birthed the promises of God revealed to me and other brethren in visions and revelations. A set of musical instruments soon arrived; God’s people around the country began to retrace their steps, rallying to the truth en mass; we launched a nationwide evangelistic programme. Shortly afterwards, the Lord provided us with two buses for the work. And we continue to grow with more blessings on the way! "Out of weakness" the Lord has given me strength–the strength of His power (Heb. 11:34).

He can do the same in your life provided you put your trust in Him in your hour of weakness. Such is the promise the Lord makes to you in Micah 4:6-13.

Holy Suffering before Glory

In the passage stated above, God turns Zion’s weakness into strength; she moves from vanquished to victor according to His deliberate plan. But make no mistake, ‘Zion’ is a metaphor for you, the true believer (Zech. 2:7; Matt. 21:5; Ps. 125:1; 1 Pet. 2:6).

While Micah 4 is patently prophetic and anticipates the Millennial rule of the Messiah (vv. 1-4), that’s not the entire picture. It has present application, in so far as the pattern of affliction before redemption, persecution before promotion plays out.

In Gen. 15, God told Abraham as He ‘cut’ His covenant with him by walking between two rows of cut-up animals: “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance” (vv. 13-14).

Joseph’s life perhaps best illustrates this truth. For the sake of his future greatness, God purposely sent him into slavery and then sent famine on the land so He might exploit the famine to Joseph’s advantage. We read in Ps 105:16-22:

“When He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread,

“He had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

“His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron;

“Until what He had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.

“The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free;

“He made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions,

“To bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom” (ESV).

‘Holy suffering’ always precedes glory in the life of God’s people. But until the glory, the word of the LORD (in Joseph’s case his dreams of greatness) will test you—if you will unyieldingly believe in the face of all the grim adversity!  In this, you have your greatest inspiration in the ‘greater Joseph’, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! (See Gen. 37:28 & Matt. 26:15; Gen. 45:2-15 & Zech. 12:10). With absolute trust in His Father, He endured the pain and shame of the cross to death, and then entered His glory (Heb. 12:2-3; Luke 24:26; Phil. 2:5-11).  

Beloved in Christ, are you looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s Word in your life, communicated to you in a vision or prophecy or directly derived from the promises of scripture? Know that “the vision is for an appointed time” and that while it delays (Hab. 2:3), troubles will come your way to test your faith in God and in His promise.  I wish to assure you that you believe and wait not in vain; all the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:18-20). None of His promises to you will ever fail (Isa. 34:16).

A Strong Nation out of Weaklings

In the text, God’s plan is to make Zion a "strong nation" over which He will reign, but Zion’s present state is nothing to write home about. She’s weak (‘lame’), rejected (‘outcast’) and in pain (v. 6). She is like the rejected, grieving woman in Isa. 54:   

“… The LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.

“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.

“In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer” (Isa. 54:6-8).

As a pastor, I often witness people come to the Lord with bruises, problems and aches in both spirit and body, and my heart always thrills at what the Lord is about to do. While they grieve, I see it as a fresh opportunity for God to turn their lives around. Soon their countenances change from sad sombre faces to beaming smiles as they testify to the power and goodness of the Lord demonstrated in their lives. The sincere contemporary observers of Jesus really said it as it is: “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." (Mark 7:37).

Thus God does not write off the people of Zion as weak and useless but assembles them for His grand project of nation building. And He makes them the very nucleus of the new nation; they are the “remnant”, the survivors who outlive the strong (v. 7). 

Here is a secret you must always bear in mind: Without God, human strength counts for little.  In her songs of praise to the LORD for giving her Samuel, Hannah, the once sorrowful barren woman, declared: “The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased [to hunger]: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble” (1 Sam. 2:4-5).

What we would consider normal expectations have been overturned! The bows of mighty warriors have been broken, and the feeble bind on strength. Alas! Those who feasted like kings now hire themselves out for a piece of bread, while those who endured pangs of hunger starve no more. The barren woman has born seven lively children, but the mother of many children pines away in deathly silence.

This is what the LORD is able to do.  He is able to turn your life around beyond your wildest dreams! Where you are in life and what even you yourself consider yourself to be is immaterial (see Judges 6:11-16). You may be poor, sick and hurting or an also-ran, but once He comes into your life with His miracle touch, you will be “a crown of glory” and “a royal diadem” in His hand (Isa. 62:3-4).

God plants hope where there is abject hopelessness. He alone is able to make “a strong nation” out of the social ‘dregs’ He finds in Zion. Those who rely on themselves, the strong, make a poor material for Him to work with. That is why His selection usually leans towards the lower social classes:

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

“And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

“That no flesh should glory in His presence.

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

“That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”

(1 Cor. 1:26-31). 

God has a threefold purpose for choosing the low in society. The first is to shame the wise and the mighty as the contrast between the accomplishments of divine power and the failings of human strength become apparent; the second is to remove any grounds for human vainglory, and the third is to ensure that all the honour is exclusively His.

So, who will laugh at you if the Almighty has chosen you? Who will scorn you? You will excel, you will outshine and prevail but not by your own power. The power of the Living God will work mightily in you to silence all your detractors who pride themselves on their human strength and wisdom (Zech. 4:6-7; 1 Sam. 2:9).

So then, the secret of ‘weak’ Zion’s strength is that the LORD reigns over her (v. 7). The prophet Isaiah declares: “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (Isa. 12:6).

The LORD will not reign over you and still remain weak as before. He will gird you with strength on the basis of sheer mercy (Rom. 9:15-16).

As strange as it may seem to Zion, whatever God wants to do in her life is nothing new to Him; it’s nothing different from what He has planned for her from the beginning. The LORD plans to restore Zion to her former glory (“dominion”). And it’s guaranteed—“To you it will come” (v. 8).

As a child of God, you have been called to inherit a blessing, and it’s guaranteed in Christ (1 Pet. 3:9; 2 Cor. 1:20). This blessing does not belong to another; it’s your very own blessing, so far as “the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions” (Obadiah 1:17).  Although you may be in distress, the LORD will perfect what He has planned for you. David confidently declares in Psalm 138: “Though I walk straight into trouble, you preserve my life, stretching out your hand to fight the vehemence of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.  The LORD will complete what His purpose is for me. LORD, your gracious love is eternal; do not abandon your personal work in me” (vv. 7-8 ISV).

So, don’t despair because of your present difficulties; when the LORD begins a good work, He completes it (Phil. 1:6) because He is faithful (1 Thess. 5:24; 1 Cor. 1:9). He assures us in   Jer. 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV). Thus “Your beginning may be small, but [your] later years will be very great” (Job 8:7 ISV).

Waiting is Painful—Just before the Morning of Joy!

God’s undisclosed, yet to be fulfilled plan produces two opposite responses (vv. 9-11):

Zion finds the waiting period emotionally unbearable: she cries out loudly as if she has no Saviour ("king", v. 9); she agonizes uncontrollably like a woman in labour as though she has no comforter ("counselor").  Zion’s birth pains grow worse and worse—she goes out of the city, roughs it in the field, and then goes into captivity (in Babylon, v. 10). But it is good that Zion increasingly writhes in pain; it’s at this point that she’s rescued, that the LORD redeems her from her enemies (v. 10b).

Meanwhile, Zion’s enemies are in a jubilant mood: They gang up against her and gloat over her ‘plight’ (v. 11). Their mood, however, betrays their ignorance of God’s plan for Zion and against them (v. 12).  

The enemies are massed up not that they might crush Zion, but that they might be bundled up like sheaves meant for the threshing-floor. And God gives Zion the honour of pulverizing the enemies herself.  She is renewed in strength (armed with ‘iron horns’, ‘bronze hooves’), and she thoroughly threshes the enemy and puts their wealth of oppression to godly uses (v. 13).

There’s a saying that when it gets darkest, it’s only just before morning, just before the light of a new day! So it happens in the life of God’s people in the throes of transition from suffering to glory and from oppression to deliverance.  Thus Israel was hurriedly delivered only when its burdens became unbearable under the oppressive rule of the Egyptians and the people lifted up a cry to God (Ex. 2:23-25; Deut. 26:6-7). “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;  And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites” (Ex. 3:7-8; Deut. 26:8-9).

Similarly, in Isaiah 66 Zion merely remained an expectant mother and not the mother of a newly reborn nation until she travailed: “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (v. 8).

In verse 9 God asks the doubters of His promise: “Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God”.

The answer, of course, is that God who has brought Zion to the point of birth will let her deliver!

In fact, even before the onset of the birth pains this was the IREVERSIBLE OUTCOME—the foregone conclusion—and so Zion was presumed to have already given birth before actually doing so! Hence verse 7 says: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child”.

Dear brother and sister, what is your present emotional state? Do you feel the pain of your predicament more than ever before because you are still jobless or unmarried despite all your prayers and fasting? Do you feel quite hopeless because your business is teetering on the brink of collapse?  I am here to tell you, ‘cry out loudest, cry out to God in pain, but know that you are in travail.’ God won’t delay any longer; you are about to give birth to your long-awaited blessing SUDDENLY and AT ONCE! “For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children”.

Your case is no different from that of the long-suffering Israelites in Egyptian bondage. Just because the fulfillment of God’s promise of deliverance drew nearer, their suffering grew worse and worse, as Deacon Stephen points out in Acts 7:

“But as the time was drawing near, of the promise which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,

“until another king arose who did not know Joseph.

“Dealing subtly with our race, this one oppressed our fathers, causing their infants to be exposed, so as not to be left alive.

“In this time Moses was born, and was beautiful to God…” (vv. 17-20 Modern King James Version MKJV).

Likewise, your breakthrough is around the corner—it’s about to break out of your worsening travail! The faithful God, who has brought you to the moment of birth, will make you deliver.  In case you have forgotten in all your needless anxiety (Phil. 4:6-7), He has the singular ingenuity for bringing riches out of hardships: “Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire [trials] and through water [troubles]; but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Ps 66:12).  

Meanwhile your enemies who gloated over your so-called ‘misfortune’ (for there is no such thing as misfortune for those of us who love God and are called according to His purpose, Rom. 8:28) will be laughing on the other side of their faces! They will soon realize they had gathered against you to no avail. Be encouraged by the Word of God in Isa. 8:9-10:

“Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.

“Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us”.

Know for certain, child of God, that the heavenly Father has not destined you for wrath (like your persecutors and detractors) but to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ (Thess. 5:9).  For this reason, your night of affliction is only for a moment, “but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps 30:5)!

If so, you are never truly weak, for when you are weak and assailed by the enemy, it’s an opportunity for God to display His infinite power in you. Therefore rejoice that you encounter trials (Jam. 1:2); those trials furnish God with golden opportunities to demonstrate His power and glory in you. And He will so bless you that you will be surprised—as Zion was—at what His power is able to accomplish in you—an otherwise weak, pitiful and helpless fellow:

“Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, declares the LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does.

“’Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land– surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. 

“The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: ‘The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’

“Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?’" (Isa. 49:18-21 ESV).

Such is the wonderful result of making God your strength in your hour of weakness and of trial. He is able to accomplish in you more than you could ever consider or imagine possible (Eph. 3:20; 1 Cor. 2:9). Trust in Him at all times, especially in your hour of need, and you will give personally testify that He alone “doeth great wonders” (Ps 136:4). Halleluiah!