When the Church is Weak, Is God Still Strong?

If you haven’t struggled with the happenings of 2020 and now 2021, you haven’t been paying attention.

It’s been a rough fourteen months for all of us. And a powerful time of testing for the American church.

The Devil’s Schemes

When conflict rages, it’s so important for us to remember how our enemy operates (I’m speaking of the spiritual realm).

Initially, the enemy uses deception –  outright lies and half-truths – to keep people from entering a relationship with Christ.

When that doesn’t work, he switches mode and works to render us ineffective or joyless in our faith. Remember, he is a thief and he comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.

In stark contrast, Jesus came to give us abundant life. And He does.

So, the enemy sends trouble. He may devise specific trouble, or he may capitalize on the trouble we create with our own sin or that comes as a result of living in a fallen world.

And in the midst of the trouble, Satan accuses us – to one another and even to ourselves. Sounds like 2020 to me.

Pre-warned

James warns us about this and says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV

Peter also warns that we should not be surprised when we encounter “fiery trials.” You should stop reading this blog post and read that passage in full, but especially focus on these verses “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” 1 Peter 4:13-15 ESV

In other words, don’t allow trials to collapse your faith but allow God to use them to continue His work in you.

If you’ve harbored sin and are suffering for that – repent. If you suffer solely for Jesus’ name – rejoice. God hasn’t permitted these trials for your destruction because it’s the enemy who destroys – God brings life. He has permitted these trials for your ultimate good and for His glory.

Tough Training for Tougher Times

When I was actively practicing karate, I was often frustrated with our sensei’s methods.

Sometimes he would ask us to spar one another from our weaker side. Inevitably, someone would complain. “But, I’m right handed! I can’t fight from the left.” We’d groan because that opened a door for a lecture about how attackers don’t fight fair. Everyone has weaknesses. We must learn, not to trust in our strength, but to rely on our training. If a student admitted they were planning to baby their sore left foot that night, we’d have endless left sided kicking drills. Someone complained of a sore shoulder, we’d do shoulder-level conditioning drills – you get the point.

As irritating as it was, he was right, and his training methods were effective.

The church has weaknesses. The church develops sore spots and wounds. The enemy attacks in those places. But, God sends training to help us rely – not on our own strength, but on the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

We do well to allow the voices of Peter, James, and the Holy Spirit to ring louder in our ears than news anchors or influencers on social media. The past months have been an assault of relentless trial – pandemic, protests, politics, riots, racism, closed churches, mass shootings, fallen Christian leaders, #metoochurch, school indoctrination, gender fluidity, and the general inertia brought about by lockdowns.

It’s been brutal, but here’s the thing – we were made, like Christ, to rise up from the mats after beatings, after mocking, after betrayal, after abandonment, even after death.

Don’t be taken in by the magnitude of these recent assaults. Ignore those who whisper or announce that the church is on its last legs. Refuse to listen to the scoffers and the mockers. They laughed at Jesus on the cross.

Cooperate with the Training

It’s also important, though, to lean into what God has for us in the trials and hardships.

Take the correction where correction was needed. Have we grown lazy in our faith? Taken fellowship for granted? Forgotten our calling is to live lives that lead others to thirst after righteousness?

Did we think some other Christians were going to address hatred, racism, and God’s perspective on sex and gender? Are we so focused on taking stands we’ve become unloving? Are we so afraid of looking unloving, we’re neglecting to speak the truth?

And are we relying on circumstances to tell us who we are or are we so embedded with Christ that nothing can shake or deter us from fulfilling our calling in Him?

If we lean into the training and listen for His correction, direction, and reflection, we grow despite the challenges sent our way. Like a tiny seedling breaking through a granite boulder or a dandelion cracking pavement, we discover strength as we deepen our roots and seek the light of Christ.

Let us not give in to fear. Neither let us give up gathering together or proclaiming the truth of Christ.

Yes, in many ways these past months have weakened us, or at least uncovered existing weaknesses. But we have nothing to fear because God remains steadfast and strong. Lean into Him and say along with the Apostle Paul, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV


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11 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Karen White says:

    Of myself, I can do nothing! Thank you Lori!
    This is good direction! Keep encouraging, keep cheerleading, keep affirming for us that Christ is who we rely on.

  2. Cyndi says:

    Lori,
    Thank you for writing with such honesty.
    I got hurt at a church activity recently.
    I had been looking forward to attending this group for so long.
    At my first visit, I could not believe the hostile environment.
    I was so disappointed and hurt. Really hurt.
    Your article gave me a fresh outlook on how to deal with that.
    Many blessings,
    Cyndi

  3. Arlene Martell says:

    Thank you for your Word solid blog. These are trying times, and so few offer encouragement or guidance. I continue to hope that Pastors will lead their congregations to live 2Chron 7:14; that it will be more than th0se in prayer groups who are repenting and watching for our God to move. Being active in Civil Rights in the 60s and 70s, it grieves my heart to see the new levels of racial tension. W. are called to such a higher place,

  4. Carol McCracken says:

    What a great reminder that when I am weak, He is strong. I keep trying to fight in my own strength and “do my part.” If I am weak, the church can be weak because we are flawed humans, especially in our own strength. May we bolstered by your good word to resist the devil’s schemes and to be more aware of God’s power in our training.

  5. Rob McCullough says:

    Thank you for the encouragement Lori!

  6. Mark says:

    Lori, My wife, Karen, posted your article regarding Oaks of Righteousness on her Facebook page, and she told me that I would like it. As usual, she was right. Your writing sounds to me like some of the best thoughts in my head with some of the best feelings in my heart when I think about Jesus and desire to be with Him . . . and like Him. Thank you for writing, Sister. Karen and I are very happy to make your acquaintance and to let you disturb us for our good and for His Glory!