Priscilla's Friends
Carry Me on Your Shoulders

But by thy saving power, 0 God, lift me high above my pain and my distress,
then will I praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

    My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and
my portion forever...

    I was given a painful physical ailment... Three times I prayed to the
Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: 'My grace
is all you need, for my power is strongest when you are weak.' I am most
happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection
of God's power over me.

    My brothers, think what sort of people you are, whom God has called. Few
of you are men of wisdom, by any human standard; few are powerful or highly
born. Yet, to shame the wise, God has chosen what the world counts folly,
and to shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness.

    Through faith [they] conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received
promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the
edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness...

    Then one of the elders said to me, 'Don't cry. Look! The Lion from
Judah's tribe, the great descendant of David, has won the victory, and he
can break the seven seals and open the scroll .' Then I saw a Lamb standing
in the centre of the throne, surrounded by the four living creatures and the
elders. The Lamb appeared to have been killed.

(Psalm 69:29-30, NEB; Psalm 73:26, RSV; 2 Corinthians 12:7b,8-9, TEV; 1
Corinthians 1:26-27, NEB; Hebrews 11:33-34b, RSV; Revelation 5:5-6a, TEV)


Scripture is the record of God in his great grace reaching out to us who in
our weakness are powerless to save ourselves and restore lost communion with
God. When redeemed we are most at risk when we seek to live and serve in our
own strength. Weakness, whether it be physical, emotional, or a deliberate
acceptance of risk as God's people, is more likely to enable the power of
God to work in our lives. The implications of such a theology of weakness
are most profound.

    For us, like Jesus, suffering and helplessness are risks involved in
pursuing a vision of God's love and justice. As we are prepared to 'lay down
our lives for our friends' we discover that such deliberate weakness becomes
a source of creativity.

    We do not have to rely upon our own strength; rather we should make 'I
can do all things through Christ' a rule of our lives. To cultivate a
dependence upon God will mean far greater resources are available to us than
our own.

    Church life should be firmly based upon God's strength, not ours. How
easy it is for us to organise God out of his church! Our expertise -- or our
schemes -- can mean that God is not really needed.

    The life of prayer and meditation will help us to depend upon God's
strength. Otherwise we are likely to lose our awareness of the divine and
find ourselves simply relying upon our own planning and busyness.

    When suffering comes to us in any dimension we are able to acknowledge
it as a positive experience. We can know God's presence and be covered by
his power.

    We must all descend into weakness sooner or later. A theology of
weakness will help us see that even the ultimate weakness, dying, is
opportunity for God to work in our lives. The process of growing old need
not hold so many fears for us if we accept the presence of his strong


In God's topsy-turvy approach to power, he takes weak, scarred, scared,
struggling, failing and ineffective people and accomplishes his mighty work
with such miserably inadequate tools.

Robert Girard, My Weakness: His Strength

This is the answer -- that always it is upon human weakness, not human
strength and confidence, that God chooses to build his kingdom; and that he
can use us, not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and
disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them...

J.S. Stewart, Thine is the Kingdom

When we were poor, lost and separated from God, we were able to appropriate
his grace to cover our sin. It is therefore no surprise to find that this
strength is available for his people in any kind of weakness. Our confidence
in the ever-present strength of God is based upon that initial work of God
in Christ when the Strong One took our weakness, our sin, upon himself.

John Helm, Weak But Strong

Behold the tiny Babe in cradle small,

He lies so helpless at our lady's side,

New born to filth and stench of cattle stall,

His heaven reflecting eyes are open wide.

This scene's revived each Christmastide.

See Christ with crown of thorns on gibbet raised,

Too weak to need to suffer broken bones,

In dereliction hung with sad eyes glazed,

Unheard by him the weeping women's moans,

This sacrifice for sin atones.

Regard yourself, O Man, weighed down with sin,

Such that the sacred heart was made to bleed,

Receive Christ's strength and rich new life begin

And all the wisdom of the scriptures heed.

God's grace suffices for your need.

Charles Povey, The Paradox of Weakness

Again we heard across the silent night the roaring beasts. One of the men
held his cup toward the ceiling. 'To the great lion,' he said, 'the lion of
Judah, the lion of St Mark.' We all brought our cups together in the thin
clanking that tin makes on tin. We drank.

'This is the blood of the New Testament!' said Publius. We smiled at the
distant roaring.

Calvin Miller, The Philippian Fragment

When we compare the strength and vigour of the Spirit-filled early church
with the confused and  sometimes feeble performance of the church today, we
might perhaps conclude that when man's rigidity attempts to canalise the
free and flexible flow of the Spirit he is left to his own devices.

J.B. Phillips, Young Church in Action

There are many people who, through long training, have reached a high level
of competence in  terms of the understanding of human behaviour, but few who
are willing to lay down their own lives for others and make their weakness a
source of creativity. For many individuals, professional training means
power. But the minister, who takes off his clothes to wash the feet of his
friends, is powerless and his training and formation are meant to enable him
to face his own weakness without fear and make it available to others. It is
exactly this creative weakness that gives the ministry its momentum...

Henri Nouwen, Creative Ministry

The great mystery of ministry is that while we ourselves are overwhelmed by
our own weaknesses and limitations, we can still be so transparent that the
Spirit of God, the divine counsellor, can shine through us and bring light
to others.

Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder

Old age, with all its acknowledged handicaps and limitations can, however,
open up new horizons of joyous possibility to us. The very realisation of
our own finiteness that comes with the gradual waning of our powers affords
us the opportunity of proving in our own experience the validity of Paul's
paradoxical claim: 'When I am weak, then I am strong'. We, too, can know the
thrill of discovering that our inadequacy is complemented by God's

J.O. Sanders, Your Best Years

Christian faith, I said to her, does not involve repressing one's anxiety in
order to appear strong. On the contrary, it means recognising one's
weakness, accepting the inward truth about oneself, confessing one's
anxiety, as my sister has so movingly done, and still to believe; that is to
say that the Christian puts his trust, not in his own strength, but in the
grace of God.

P. Tournier, Learning to Grow Old


When I am weak, then I am strong,

Lord, help me sing this triumph song.

Your grace is promised for each day,

Your power upon me, this I pray.

Lord, I do not easily risk myself for the sake of others. Stepping out of
the boat as Peter did is scary and I usually opt for greater safety. Yet
Jesus spoke about losing oneself for the sake of the gospel and he set the
example of suffering servanthood. So help me to be willing to count the
cost, to take up my cross, to be less concerned with my own security and
more concerned with the Kingdom.

Lord, forgive me that in my ministry I have often relied upon my bright
ideas and my carefully laid plans rather than on your guidance and your
empowering. Your heart must ache as you see so much 'politicking' and petty
ambition in church government. I pray for Christians in countries where the
church is under suspicion and your followers must stay close to the Spirit,
to survive. But I also pray for your work in countries like mine where there
is little external pressure. Many of our problems come from unregenerate
desires which are often carefully covered up under the guise of bringing
about your will.

Lord, suffering is something which I don't handle well. There are so many
negative aspects about it that ] find it hard to discern any value in such
experiences. As soon as I find myself in a hurting situation l quickly ask
you to rescue me. Help me to realise that healing is not always your will
and let me be prepared to accept suffering and find in it opportunity to
know your perfect strength. All the time l have before me my ultimate
weakness -- death. May my living day reflect a willingness to depend upon
you in all things.


A Benediction

Go forth in the strength which God is able to supply. May God's grace which
is brought to completion in your weakness go with you throughout this day.

Rowland Croucher ed., Still Waters, Deep Waters (Albatross/Lion), chapter 12

rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland