Introduction

I started writing this piece in trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses that we all have in varying degrees to determine what the bible might tell us about ourselves. As is often the case I fell at the very first hurdle. It became rapidly apparent to me when I started looking at the relevant scriptures that true strength in any respect can only come from our faith in God and/or what God chooses to give each one of us regardless of that faith. I found myself going back over my earlier Tough Guys paper (Tough Guys) and this notion is certainly confirmed for the bible heroes of old.

So, in trying to understand myself better in these terms, I once again find that the only factor of real concern is God’s strength in me rather than my own innate qualities. On reflection I guess I should have already known that, but I do not think we should ever take anything God gives us for granted. This now leaves me with the question of why do I feel so weak in many areas of my life despite my comments on having been toughened up in the earlier referenced paper? Is this a lack of faith or is it more a case of feeling my weaknesses accentuated in the knowledge that God will bail me out regardless? Well let us see what the scriptures have to say on the matter; quite a lot I expect!


 

God-Given Strength in the Old Testament

The first example of strength received from God that I came across is from the words of no less a bible hero than Moses:

2 My strength and song [is] Jehovah, and it happened, He was to me salvation; this [is] my God and I will glorify Him; the God of my father, and I will exalt Him. (Exodus 15 GLT)

However, a little earlier in the book of Exodus, we discover the following verses in which Moses complains to God of his speech difficulties which, we now know full well, God was able to fix for him. I use the King James translation as providing the most easily understood translation for current consumption:

10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I [am] not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I [am] slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. (Exodus 4 KJV)

Here we have one of the greatest leaders of God's people complaining to God that he is not up to the job because of his speech impediment. God effectively tells him that he WILL be up for it because He, Jehovah, will ensure that he is.


The writers of the second book of Samuel further emphasise the words of Moses in Exodus 15 in looking for their strength from God. I have used the Young’s Literal Translation here because it seems to offer a slightly clearer meaning than Green’s in this case

33 God -- my bulwark, {my} strength, And He maketh perfect my way; (2 Samuel 22 YLT)

In his first book, the prophet Samuel emphasises the importance of God-given strength over that innate to mankind in that the former will always overcome the latter. Unsurprisingly the Old Testament in this example seems to be concentrating on God’s physical power over his earthly enemies. Again, I have used the Young’s Literal Translation here:

9 The feet of His saints He keepeth, And the wicked in darkness are silent, For not by power doth man become mighty.
10 Jehovah -- broken down are His adversaries, Against them in the heavens He thundereth: Jehovah judgeth the ends of earth, And giveth strength to His king, And exalteth the horn of His anointed.' (1 Samuel 2 YLT)

Both King David and the priest Ezra go on to exhort us to continually seek out God’s strength thereby indicating that we should not, indeed we cannot, rely on our own resources in this life:

4 Seek Jehovah and His strength; seek His face without ceasing. (Psalms 105 GLT)

11 Seek Jehovah and His strength, seek His face continually. (1 Chronicles 16 GLT)

Of the same era, the governor Nehemiah writes that our very joy in the Lord provides us with our inward strength. Here Green correctly uses the word fortress for the Hebrew word
מעזכם which also indicates strength as well as a place of refuge:

10 Then he said to them, Go eat the fat, and drink of the sweet, and send portions to him for [whom] nothing is prepared. For this day [is] holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of Jehovah [is] your fortress. (Nehemiah 8 GLT)

10
  ויאמר להם לכו אכלו משמנים ושתו ממתקים ושלחו מנות לאין נכון לו כי-קדוש היום לאדנינו ואל-תעצבו כי-חדות יהוה היא מעזכם

(Nehemiah 8 WLC)

Indeed even the brave King David relied totally on his God to provide him with the strength to deliver him from all his foes:

1
[To the chief musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of Jehovah, who spoke the words of this song to Jehovah in the day that Jehovah delivered him from the hand of all his foes, and from the hand of Saul. And he said:] I love You, O Jehovah, my strength.
2 Jehovah [is] my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; [He is] my God, my Rock; I seek refuge in Him; [He is] my shield and the horn of my salvation, my high tower. (Psalms 18 GLT)

1 [A Psalm of David.] Jehovah [is] my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Jehovah [is] the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27 GLT)
2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart faints; Oh lead me to the Rock higher than I.
3 For You have been my shelter, a strong tower before the enemy. (Psalms 61 GLT)

5 Blessed [is] the man [whose] strength [is] in You; [Your] ways [are] in their hearts. (Psalms 84 GLT)

David clearly recognises God’s strength and His willingness to protect the meek of this world:

5 Our Lord [is] great and of great might; [there is] no limit to His understanding.
6 Jehovah relieves the meek; He throws the wicked down to the ground. (Psalms 147 GLT)

Those already strong will have their inward strength increased further through their faith in God:

24 Be strong, and He will make your heart stronger, all you who hope in Jehovah. (Psalms 31 GLT)

David goes so far as to tell us that even great kings and mighty men cannot fully protect themselves by their own physical strength; the King James version provides the strongest of statements in this context:

16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. (Psalms 33 KJV)

Isaiah continues in the vein of concentrating on God’s support of faithful man’s physical weakness:

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Jehovah, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth; He is not faint, nor does [He] grow weary; [there is] no searching to His understanding.
29 [He] gives power to the faint, and to him with no vigor He increases might.
30 Even youths are faint and fatigued, and young men stumbling shall stumble;
31 but the ones waiting for Jehovah shall renew power; they shall go up [with] wings as the eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint! (Isaiah 40 GLT)

To the rebellious nation of Israel, again through His prophet Isaiah, God confirms that He will give protection to those peacefully seeking it from Him. Conversely, to a nation striving to survive under their own steam and thereby rejecting Him, He will ensure their physical efforts will be inadequate:

15 For so says the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest you shall be saved; and in quietness and hope shall be your strength. But you were not willing.
16 For you said, No! For we will flee on horseback. On account of this you shall flee. Also, [you say], We will ride on swift ones. On account of this, those who pursue you shall be swift. (Isaiah 30 GLT)

So it would appear, as we have seen in previous verses, that God will also take away physical strength from His enemies. However, to the nation of Judah who kept faith with Him, God prepares them for war against all-comers as per this famous scripture:

10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weak say, I [am] strong. (Joel 3 GLT)

The notion of man’s innate fleshly weakness through his mortality is again touched upon by Asaph who, however, also seems to be acknowledging man’s immortal spiritual heart not just his physical heart I suspect, care of his faith in God. Again, the KJV provides my preferred translation:

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: [but] God [is] the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalms 73 KJV)

 

Spirit-Given Strength in the New Testament

Psalm 73 above gives an inkling of what is to come after Christ’s resurrection. Paul’s letter to the Roman congregation seems to give a very different sense of the provision of God-given strength from what we have seen thus far from the Old Testament. This strengthening would seem to be more all-encompassing than just purely physical and would come via the Holy Spirit interceding on the Saints behalf:

26 And likewise the Spirit also joins in to help our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf with groanings that cannot be uttered. (Romans 8 GLT)

That all-encompassing strengthening coming also from Christ:

13 I have strength [for] all things in Christ the [One] strengthening me. (Philippians 4 GLT)

And in Christ we also have one who has experienced the human sense of weakness Himself:

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. (Hebrews 4 KJV)

Paul continues in his first letter to the Corinthian congregation by telling them that God actually eschews strength in the world where that strength is not based on faith in Him:

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world that the wise might be put to shame, and God chose the weak things of the world so that He might put to shame the strong things. (1 Corinthians 1 GLT)

Paul continues along the same theme into chapter 2:

3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my word and my preaching [was] not in enticing words of human wisdom, but in proof of [the] Spirit and of power,
5 that your faith might not be in [the] wisdom of men, but in [the] power of God. (1 Corinthians 2 GLT)

In his second letter to that congregation, he confirms that even the strength of the saints’ is solely from God:

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not from us; (2 Corinthians 4 GLT)

Further on in this letter he writes that it was made clear to him by Christ that the Lord revels in man’s honest assessment of his own true lack of real strength, relying upon that provided by God:

9 And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will rather gladly boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may overshadow me.
10 Because of this, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in dire needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for the sake of Christ. For when I may be weak, then I am powerful. (2 Corinthians 12 GLT)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul confirms beyond any doubt that the strength required by the new covenant saints is that of the spirit not of the flesh. Again, the King James version provides the clearest meaning of Paul’s words:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. (Ephesians 6 KJV)

The final reference on strength in this section rightly comes from John the Apostle for those striving to be faithful to God in their weakness:

8 I know your works. Behold, I have given a door being opened before you, and no one is able to shut it, for you have a little power and have kept My Word, and have not denied My name. (Revelation 3 GLT)

 

Peter’s Denial of Christ

And, talking of denying Christ's name, before I even thought of writing this paper I was studying Peter’s denial of Christ, as a subject in its own right. Once again my true path was hidden from my sight as, before I put fingers to keyboard on that topic, I was re-directed along this current track to use Peter in an entirely different context and thereby perhaps finding the true purpose behind the writing of this paper.

This famous account starts off with Peter expressing his desire to follow Jesus and pledging to lay down his life for Him. At this point Jesus prophesies to Peter that he will deny Him, not once but thrice. But, in fairness to Peter (and the rest of the disciples), Jesus made it clear that he should not follow Him now but should await Jesus’ return since this was a journey that Christ had to make on His own:

36 Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, where do You go? Jesus answered him, Where I go you are not able to follow Me now, but afterwards you shall follow Me.
37 Peter said to Him, Lord, why am I not able to follow You now? I will lay down my life for You!
38 Jesus answered him, Will you lay down your life for Me? Indeed, I tell you truly, in no way shall a cock crow until you deny Me three times. (John 13 GLT)

2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places. But if it were not [so], I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you!
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14 GLT)

So, was this a matter of Christ reading Peter’s own strength of heart or was it a case of knowing the future in detail? Well according to the ambiguity principle (ambiguity principle) of the True Bible Code both would have been the case. Either way Jesus’ words were to be proven correct:

54 And laying hold of Him, they led [Him] away and led Him into the house of the high priest. And Peter followed at a distance.
55 And lighting a fire in [the] middle of the courtyard, and they sitting down, Peter sat in their midst.
56 And a certain female slave seeing him sitting near the light, and looking intently at him, [she] said, And this one was with Him.
57 But he denied Him, saying, Woman, I do not know Him.
58 And after a while, another seeing him said, You also are of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not.
59 And about an hour intervening, a certain other one boldly charged, saying, Truly this one also was with Him, for he also is a Galilean.
60 And Peter said, Man, I do not know what you say. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crowed.
61 And turning, the Lord looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the Word of the Lord, how He told him, Before a cock would crow, you will deny Me three times.
62 And going outside, Peter wept bitterly. (Luke 22 GLT)

Now there are many things one can gain from this important account. The first thing to note is that, of all the disciples, Peter was the only one that at least followed Jesus to His fate. He must have known that he was endangering his life by even going this far, so I think it would be harsh to accuse Peter of cowardice by his denial:

50 And leaving Him, all fled.
51 And one, a certain young man, was following Him, having thrown a linen cloth about [his] naked [body]. And the young men seized him.
52 But forsaking the linen cloth, he fled from them naked.
53 And they led Jesus away to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together to him.
54 And Peter followed Him from a distance, to the inside of the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the under-officers, also warming himself toward the light. (Mark 14 GLT)

However, Peter was not as spiritually strong as he had hoped, given the denials of his knowing Christ. This even as he was effectively the outspoken leader of the apostles which is indicated in scripture as Satan himself had asked, and received, Jesus’ permission to test Peter to the limit.

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold! Satan asked for you, to sift [you] as wheat;
32 but I entreated concerning you, that your faith might not fail. And when you have turned back, confirm your brothers. (Luke 22 GLT)

Satan knew the important role that Peter was later to play in setting up the early church:

16 And answering, Simon Peter said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And answering, Jesus said to him, Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal [it] to you, but My Father in Heaven.
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and [the] gates of Hades will not prevail against her.
19 And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. And whatever you bind on earth shall occur, having been bound in Heaven. And whatever you may loose on the earth shall be, having been loosed in Heaven. (Matthew 16 GLT)

So, this apparently weak and frightened leader of the apostles was to be the very foundation upon which Christ’s early church was to be established after His death. What are we to learn from this massive lesson? Going back over this paper we saw that God loves the meek, mild and weak people among His earthly creation. His Son continued on that path that His Father had set. Whilst it could be argued that Peter failed at the last hurdle by denying Christ, that failure was through his human weakness and fear which, we have learned, are the very qualities that God loves in faithful mankind. Since he had put himself in harm’s way, despite Jesus’ warning that he should not follow Him, this may well have not have been judged as a fair test of Peter’s faith anyway. So, what does this mean for the rest of us?


 

Conclusion

I started writing this paper since I feel that I am a weak human being judged both in human and in spiritual terms. In this context, since I consider myself a committed Christian, I thought that my heart and mind could not be set on the right course. What I have learned through the writing of this paper is that my Christian beliefs are opening my eyes and giving me the true picture of who I really am with no frills attached. My acknowledging of my weaknesses is an early but important step along the way that Christ has set for us all. Without both displaying and recognising those human traits and learning to embrace them by asking for our strength to come from our Lord we will be unable to follow Christ on His journey.

The example of Peter who went so far as to deny he knew Christ, in an admittedly hostile public arena, should give us all a massive boost of confidence in what the saving grace of Christ means for us all whose hearts are set in the right direction. If such an apparently weak and fearful character can become the very foundation of the First True Christian Church then there is hope for us all. Perhaps even this weak and fearful member of the Fourth True Christian Church may even be able to rise to his hoped-for establishment at Christ’s second coming as a Second New Covenant King in God’s Kingdom. Amen


  

 

Jewish Lords' Witness

The second Denial of Saint Peter, from The Life of Jesus Christ by J.J.Tissot, 1899

Image provided by www.BiblePictureGallery.com.

​​Weakness and Strength