Author: Ron Graham
The Anchor of Weakness
—In a storm of tribulation
The second of five lessons on the theme “Anchors in the Storm”. In this lesson, we consider the paradox of our weakness as an anchor when we are buffeted by storms of tribulation.
1 Grace for the Suffering
Paul was enduring an affliction which he called "a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me" (2Corinthians 12:7). Satan gave Paul this painful problem, and Paul asked God to take it away.
But God declined; he said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness" (2Corinthians 12:9). Paul’s weakness forced him to rely upon God’s grace. So Paul was able to say, paradoxically, "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2Corinthians 12:10).
The weakness that Paul refers to is vulnerability to attack by Satan. God permits Satan to attack us. However "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will provide a way to escape, enabling you to endure" (1Corinthians 10:13).
God therefore turns our weakness to our advantage. When the storm comes, and we are buffeted by Satan, our weakness is not a broken rudder or a fallen mast, but God makes it an anchor that keeps us from shipweck.
It's not hard to see how grace turns our weakness to our advantage. James says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3).
When Satan buffets us, our faith is tested. When we resist, and by grace our faith stands, we prove our faith is real. If ever you doubt your faith, ask how many trials it has survived. That's a qualitative and objective measure of your faith supported by God’s grace.
That's why the “prosperity gospel” is false. God doesn't promise you prosperity. God will allow your faith be tested by poverty or pain. He promises providence by grace so that you will be able to endure the test. That will make your faith even stronger and more able to endure.
As Paul says, "We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope" (Romans 5:1-5, NASB).
2 Vision for the Blind
If you are like most people, you wish you could see things that your eyes cannot see...
- When a loved one dies, we wish we could see where they have gone.
- When we need help, we wish we could see the angels who come to our aid.
- When we want to believe in God, we wish we could see him on his throne in heaven.
- When we pray, we wish we could see Jesus listening.
- When we seek forgiveness of our sins, we wish we could see God's hand blotting them out of his record.
- When we think of our inheritance in Christ, we wish we could see the mansion that is reserved for us in the city of light.
If we could just see the unseen, how much easier it would be to have assurance in our hope.
Paul gently chides us however. He says (paraphrased), "Once you can see what you have hoped for, you no longer need to hope. Why would anyone “hope” for what is there in front of his eyes? So we hope for what we cannot see, and with patience we wait expectantly for it to appear" (Romans 8:23-25).
One of our greatest frustrations is the incapacity of our physical eyes to see spiritual realities. But that's what faith, hope, and love are all about. We believe in Jesus, we rest our hope in Jesus, and we love Jesus, even though we do not see him.
"Though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1Peter 1:8, NASB).
A blind man was given his sight after many years. His wife asked him, as he looked at her, "Do you like what you see?" He replied, "My darling I have always been certain you are beautiful. Now, at last, I can see with my eyes what I have always been sure of."
We must be content in our limited sight, knowing that we can't see what we seek. if we could see it, we wouldn't need to seek it. Seeking takes patience, and we, "By patience in doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life" (Romans 2:7).
3 Intercession for the Speechless
When we pray, we encounter another aspect of our weakness. The expressions of our earthly tongue seem shallow and wanting. There are hurts, and fears, and longings, and mysteries, that we cannot put into words.
"The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he intercedes..." (Romans 8:26-27, NASB).
When we come before the Lord, able to do little more than weep, the Holy Spirit speaks to God for us, offering a perfect prayer, as sweet incense from a golden bowl (Revelation 5:8).
Once again, we see that in our weakness we are made strong. There are unfathomable depths to God’s wisdom, providence, and grace; yet "we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2).
When the storm rages, we are forced to throw overboard all our earthly pride and self-reliance, and cry, "Lord rescue us! We perish!" (Matthew 8:25).. From our weakness, and from the depths of his grace, God provides an anchor through his indwelling and interceding Spirit.
4 Sacrifice for the Helpless
An anchor is only as good as the cable that secures it. This anchor of our weakness is secured by the cable of God’s love, in giving his Son to die for sinners.
Paul says, "While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).
Paul here speaks of the plight of those who were sinners and enemies of God at the time of Christ’s death. "...while we were still helpless..." (Romans 5:6). "...while we were yet sinners..." (Romans 5:8). "...while we were enemies" (Romans 5:10).
Paul found it poignant that there was Jesus, sinless, dying on a cross for sinners; while at the same time there was Paul, a helpless sinner, for whom Christ was dying.
¶“8God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him” (Romans 5:8-9).
This is not true for us as to timing. For us it would read, “...in that before we became sinners, Christ died for us.” Yet, in our own way, we still see the wonder.
On one hand, there were we, sinners, weak and helpless. On the other hand, there was Jesus, 2000 years beforehand, dying on the cross for us. Surely that also demonstrates God’s love.
God saw the plight of humanity, powerless to solve the problem of sin. Whether they lived in Paul’s day, or Adam’s, or ours, in their weakness they could be made strong through grace, by which at the right time Christ died for them.
We have various weaknesses: we suffer; we are blind; we are speechless before God. But our worst weakness is that we are helpless on our own to solve the problem of sin. Yet God has, by the sacrifice of his Son, perfected his strength in us.
Our anchor of weakness is strengthened by God’s grace, held firm by the rock of Christ, and joined to us by the cable of God’s love. When comes the fierce storm of God’s wrath, far more furious than any storm Satan may throw at us, the anchor will hold and we shall be saved.
Taught at Over 50's Retreat Kurrajong NSW, May 2013