Recently I purchased a baseball bat, a tee, and a bunch of soft baseballs for my son, Leif, on his second birthday. I knew that he was a wise young son who loves baseball and the Chicago Cubs with as much passion as his daddy. (In fact he loves to sing the song, “Go Cubs Go!” after the Cubs win a game.) When I got out the bat and the tee and began to set them up in the backyard he was so excited to watch and wanted to help as much as possible. Soon I had everything set up and hit a couple of balls off the tee myself to show him how to do it (and probably to make sure I could still hit a ball). After showing him how to hold a bat and how to hit the ball I stepped back to watch with pride as my future slugger went to work on learning how to crush mammoth home runs. After watching him hit balls that went about 3 feet (with his speed that would be a nice bunt) I began to see the frustration setting in. Leif walked up to me with his bat and ball, and started chanting, “Daddy, do it! Daddy, do it! Daddy, do it!”
That phrase “Daddy, do it” reminded me of a passage of Scripture that was a source of encouragement to me a couple weeks ago. I love to try to make sure that everything I do is done well. I love trying to make sure that I have no exposed flaws, and if I do have a flaw I want to show that I have a plan to fix that flaw. I want to be strong. I want to start strong, I want to live strong, and I want to finish strong. The problem comes when I have a time of failing where I do not have an answer to my flaws, when I keep coming up short, or when I feel weak. This causes me to spend a considerable amount of time worrying about how to fix it, how to be pleasing to those around me, or even how to function now that I am vulnerable.
The Apostle Paul was one of those men who seemed so strong. He was confident, well-trained, and extremely passionate about everything he did. Paul started as a man named Saul who was convinced that those following Jesus Christ were leading others to false religion so he passionately led troops to ravage (the term used for an animal destroying its prey) the church (Acts 8:1-3). After his miraculous conversion (Acts 9:1-9) and name change Paul became an extremely passionate missionary for the church. In other words Paul was strong. In the face of persecution he still passionately preached the truth of the Gospel.
In 2 Corinthians we get a bit of a glimpse into Paul’s mental state and absolute dependence on God. “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. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 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. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, HCSB) According to this passage God intentionally allowed Paul to have a struggle so that he would not begin to exalt himself, but would be completely dependent on God.
In fact Paul takes the concept of strength and says that we are not strong until we are weak. We need to have weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and pressures because then we have no choice but to turn to God for our strength. In weakness we become strong.
As I realized that I was spending so much time worrying about being flawless, being strong, or being acceptable in everybody’s eyes I began to recognize that this really was all about me and my image. I need to attack those problems in my life with the help of my Daddy. God delights when I am completely dependent on Him and reliant on His strength.
I remember the feeling of joy that came when my son turned to me to help him become the best slugger he could be. We stepped up to the tee and with his hands on the bat and mine right under his we hit a towering drive that would have made Babe Ruth jealous. He was delighted at the monstrous hit and as we ran to pick up the ball, I saw the excitement that came because he recognized his weakness and the fact that things were better when he had Daddy help him do it.