At some point in most of our lives we go through the process of putting together a resume and filling out a job application. If all goes as planned we are called in for one or more interviews. And then, with sweaty palms and a pounding heart we sit before our interviewer(s) and try to sell them on the idea that we are the perfect applicant for the job; we boast of our education, our strengths, our experience and our overall qualifications. But rarely if ever, would the interviewee boast of his weaknesses and/or past failures. However, as I have sat in the seat of both the interviewee and the interviewer, I have learned that you can gain a bird’s eye view into a person’s true heart and character if you can discover how they view and acknowledge their weaknesses and prior failures.
Where I work we have a team approach to doing interviews, and one person in particular is really good at asking questions that help to reveal the applicant’s true self. Often this team member will start his part of the interview by acknowledging a few of the person’s strengths, and then he will say, “Now that you have shared about your strengths, if you will, I would like you to tell us about a few of your weaknesses and things that you’re not very good at.” This is perhaps one of the few questions that an interviewee isn’t usually prepared to answer. But this particular question can help an employer to gain valuable information about the applicant’s potential success or failure in the company. I have heard and witnessed some great reactions to this question. For the person who has any depth of insight into their own weaknesses and failures, all of the sudden you see them squirming a bit and calculating exactly how honest they should be, and exactly what and how much is safe to share. On the other hand, I have seen an applicant fold his arms, lift his eyebrows, and boldly proclaim, “I can’t think of any.” I had a hard time containing my urge to laugh at this response!
How about you, what if you were an interviewee and you were asked to share a few of your weaknesses, and perhaps even a few of your failures? How would you respond, and what would your response reveal about your heart?
Even the greatest of greats have weaknesses and failures. Billy Graham himself was quoted as saying, “I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently…” Simply put, weakness and failure are a part of living life on the planet earth. Some may be more realistic and willing to admit their weaknesses than others, but most people don’t go around boasting about how weak they are, or how they have failed yet again.
Recently I was reading in the book of Luke and I came upon a familiar passage where the disciples were gathered with Jesus for the Passover meal. Many topics of conversation were covered that night, but eventually Jesus turned his attention to Peter informing him that Satan had asked permission to sift him (Peter.) Then, much to Peter’s chagrin, Jesus predicted that he (Peter) would deny him three times. But Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death (Luke 22:31-34).” I hear the sincerity of Peter’s heart, but I also see that at this particular point in Peter’s life, he didn’t have a clue about his own propensity for weakness.
Peter’s response reminds me of the one job applicant’s bold proclamation that he couldn’t think of any personal weaknesses. When the applicant first said this I thought that the he was joking. But when I saw the look on his face I knew that he was dead serious. I am not sure if he really believed that he didn’t have any weaknesses, or if he just wasn’t willing to admit to them. Either way, his failure to recognize or acknowledge his personal weakness came with a cost. He didn’t get the job.
Peter’s failure to recognize or acknowledge his weakness also came with a cost. Jesus was Peter’s mentor as well as a dear and intimate friend and companion. But more than that, Jesus was the one that Peter recognized to be the Christ, the living Son of God (Matt 16:15-16.) Scripture records when Peter heard the third crow of the rooster, he realized that he had indeed disowned his beloved three times, just as Jesus had predicted. At this realization Peter wept bitterly, he was heartbroken over his failure (Luke 22:54-62.) I can only begin to imagine how disappointed Peter was in himself.
Sometimes, in our misguided thought that weakness somehow makes us “less”… less valuable, less desirable, less competent… we end up falling flat on our face because we forgo the very help that might be necessary for us to succeed. But most of us don’t like the thought of being weak, and we are very uncomfortable when our weaknesses and failures are exposed. Perhaps it’s out of fear that our weaknesses will be used against us, perhaps it is out of pride, perhaps it’s our immaturity or a lack of personal insight, or perhaps it’s from a wrong understanding of true strength… but the end result is pretty much the same. The truth is, denial compounds our weakness.
On the other hand, there is great news for those who are disheartened by their weaknesses and failures. Jesus knows exactly how we are made, he knows our areas of strength and our areas of weakness. Peter’s denial came as no surprise to Jesus. Not only did Jesus know that Peter was about to fail miserably, he also knew Peter’s heart well enough to know that this failure would shake Peter in a very deep place of his heart. I believe Jesus knew that Peter would feel like a failure and that he would wonder if he could ever be forgiven and useful in God’s kingdom again. Listen to Jesus’ words of encouragement to Peter, “But I have prayed for you, Simon (Peter), that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:32.)” Jesus knew the right words to speak to Peter’s heart, words that would strengthen Peter and help him to get beyond the heartbreak of his failure. Not only would these words show Peter that he was loved by Jesus, both before and after his failure, these words would ultimately renew Peter’s purpose and invigorate his zeal to follow his Savior, even unto death.
When Peter turned back, as Jesus had prayed he would, Peter became the first great voice to share the gospel message. Empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-7; Acts 2:1-16,) Peter led 3,000 to faith at Pentecost. Peter devoted the remainder of his life to spreading the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. And just as Jesus had warned the apostles, Peter’s zeal led to his persecution and eventual death. According to legend, like Jesus, Peter’s death was also on a cross at the hand of his Roman persecutors. But Peter chose to be crucified upside down because he considered himself unworthy to die the same way that Jesus did. What a turn-around from the distraught Peter who wept bitterly over his failure!
The same kind of strength is also available to you and me. Our weaknesses and failures do not have to limit God’s work in and through our lives. And even if we fall and fail, it doesn’t necessarily mean that God is done with us or that we can no longer be of use in His Kingdom. God is not surprised when we are weak or when we fall. Instead, when we acknowledge our weakness and inability to do things on our own, we open a door for God to do some of His greatest work. I see this lesson lived out in the life of the Apostle Paul as well. Paul had a pesky thorn in his life that tormented him. He begged the Lord to remove it, but the Lord answered him by saying that His grace was sufficient for Paul, because God’s power is made perfect in man’s weakness. When Paul wasn’t trying to stand strong in his own strength, then he was able to lean hard into God’s mighty power. Paul went so far as to say that he boasted about his weaknesses and difficulties because when he did, it allowed God’s power to rest on him. Paul’s experiential knowledge of this truth lived out in his life led him to say with confidence that when he was weak, it was then that he was strong (2 Cor 12:9-10.)
So where does this leave you and me? We may not be all that thrilled about revealing or acknowledging our areas of weakness, but our weakness come as no surprise to God. He invites us to turn to Him to be the strength in our weakness. But how does this relate to you personally? As you have read today’s article, what has God been saying to your heart? Have you been trying to stand strong and face life’s challenges in your own strength? Is there an area of weakness that you have been afraid to acknowledge? What might God be asking you to do, even in this next week?
As for me, once again I’ve been refreshed by the sacrificial, all-encompassing, unconditional love that God has for you and me…
…We are wrapped in the arms of a tender Father who loves us so much so that He sent His only begotten Son to walk in our shoes and bear the unimaginable pain of our sin. This was the only way for us to know the joy of God’s forgiveness and the comfort of His intimate presence.
…We are held tightly in the grips of a Savior who, being totally God, was willing to become totally man and submit to the weakness of death on a cross (2 Cor 13:4.) Because he knows and understands our every weakness, he sits at the right hand of his Father interceding for us (Rom 8:34), just as he prayed for Peter’s restoration when Peter was about to turn his back on him.
… We are offered strength for our weakness. Just as Peter was empowered by the Holy Spirit, you and I have the same power available to help us in our weakness. God’s Word says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, praying for us when we don’t know how or what to pray (Romans 8:26-27.) There’s been more than once in my life that I’ve been so overwhelmed or distraught that my mind couldn’t formulate words to pray. It’s a great encouragement to realize that God’s Spirit takes over where I let off!
#feelingloved… for when I am weak, then I am strong!