Pastoral ministry has taught me that I am weak—very weak. This reality daily shakes me to the core. It is a reality that I used to be ashamed of, one which made me fearful of being discovered for who I am. However, this weakness is not confined to my life as a pastor. God, in his goodness, has used pastoral ministry to shovel the dirt that I had thrown on myself in order to reveal the weaknesses in every area of my life. Maybe you’re a pastor, maybe not. Whatever the case may be, you too are weak and may find yourself trying to bury it. Let me challenge you with this: we are most holy when we are most weak.
The Apostle Paul knew this well as he had a weakness known as his ‘thorn’ in which he pleaded with the Lord to remove. What was the thorn? I am not convinced that knowing what the thorn was even matters, but what matters is that Paul had one, just like me. My thorn is my struggle with my identity. More often than not I consider what it looks like to win the approval of others before I ever consider that Christ has already won the approval of God for me. This makes me weak, so weak, because my temptation is to dance to the tune of human approval. The tension it creates is crippling, which literally brings me to my knees. However, in those moments I find that I am most holy. How can I come to this conclusion? Doesn’t holiness mean being set apart? Does’t it mean to not be like the world, but to be perfect like God? I argue that it does! Yet in my pursuit of personal holiness I’ve come to the understanding that I am not holy by my own pursuits and efforts, but can only be holy by the grace of God.
The apostle Paul, pleading with the Lord to remove his thorn, hears, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12). When we recognize our weakness before the Lord, it is then when he meets us and shows us that His grace is made perfect in and through our weakness. We then press in and find ourselves covered not in a holiness of our own, but in the holiness of the Jesus.
Do you find yourself weak today? Do you feel distant from the idea of holiness? Brothers and sisters, consider that this is where we are to be found holy. The grace of God meets our identity crisis and reminds us that we are approved by God in Christ, and the perfect approval of man is something we can never earn. For the demands of humanity constantly change, but the demands of God do not. God demands us to be holy, something we are not, and yet in our weakness he makes us holy through the blood Jesus. When you feel your weakness, when the thorn presses in and cuts deep, don’t cover it up, but see it as God uncovering the dirt you’ve buried yourself under. In your weakness boast in the grace of what God is showing you and boast in the fact that when you certainly cannot, He can. Will God ever remove my ongoing identity crisis? I don’t know. I pray he does. But if he does not, I shall go on boasting in my weakness, for that is when I am most holy and where his grace is perfected.
Nathan is married to his wonderful wife Jordan and they have four children. Trace, Lillian, Titus, and Judah are being raised as arrows to be shot for the mission of God. He pastors First Baptist Church of Trenton, Texas.