Malcolm Gladwell, early in his book Talking to Strangers, tells a story of how Cuba duped the CIA, feeding false information to the US with a couple dozen double agents. Interestingly, over the course of the years while they were being duped, CIA agents would have opportunity to administer lie detector tests to the Cuban double agents. On a number of occasions the Cubans failed the polygraphs and the Cuban scheme could have been found out, but the American agents were so sure of their own tradecraft that they dismissed the lie detector results that contradicted their own beliefs. Pride, they say, goes before a fall.
In contrast to the cocksure agents consider Dr. J.I. Packer. Dr. Packer passed away about a month ago at the age of 93. Over the years he has helped many to know God better through his teaching, preaching and writing. But far from arrogance and pride, listen to these words, from one of his last books, Weakness is the Way:
“When the world tells us, as it does, that everyone has a right to a life that is easy, comfortable, and relatively pain-free, a life that enables us to discover, display, and deploy all the strengths that are latent within us, the world twists the truth right out of shape. That was not the quality of life to which Christ’s call led him, nor was it Paul’s calling, nor is it what we are called to in the twenty-first century. For all Christians, the likelihood is rather that as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware, so that we may learn with Paul that when we are conscious of being weak, then—and only then—may we become truly strong in the Lord. And should we want it any other way?”
Let me repeat his thought, “as our discipleship continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-conscious and pain-aware”. This, of course, is not an end in itself, but rather it is the path to knowing God. It is the path to understanding and appreciating His strength. God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong and the foolish things to expose those who think themselves wise (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-30), it is only when we are weak that we truly are strong (2 Cor. 12:9,10) therefore Paul says that he will boast only in his weakness (2 Cor. 11:30). These are hard lessons to learn. May God help us along the way.
One way that he helps us is through his word. This week we will continue meeting outside on our grounds. Bring a chair to set up with your church family or stay in or near your car, either way, we gather together as God’s people to worship and to be fed from his word. Going forward we plan to continue these outdoor services along with our online worship guides for as long as we can into the fall (see Session Summary update in bulletin). In the word this week we will look at an intense story from the life of Elisha found in 2 Kings 6:24-7:20. It is a story in which the strong and mighty are eclipsed by the unclean and unnamed, as God’s word through the prophet once again brings life. I can’t wait to unfold it with you!