Weak Leaders

Weak Leaders
Rev. Tony Cooke

There’s a lot to be said for strength.  Given the choice, I think most everyone would say they prefer strength over weakness.  Everyone wants their health to be strong, their financial portfolio to be strong, their marriage and family to be strong, their church to be strong, etc.

There are also many great Scriptures about being strong.  Joshua was commanded six times to “Be strong and of good courage.”  Paul admonished the Ephesians to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10) and he charged his young protégé, Timothy, to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1).

Avoiding the Counterfeit

There is also a counterfeit strength that can masquerade as the authentic.  Only genuine strength—that which is rooted in the grace of God—will stand the test of time.  Counterfeit expressions of strength include arrogance, bravado, projecting an air of self-importance or an attitude of superiority, posturing, haughtiness, and intimidation.  These may produce certain results for a season, but they will ultimately crumble and fail.

Paul was speaking of counterfeit strength when he facetiously said that he was “too weak” to engage in a type of leadership that he deemed to be abusive and manipulative of people.  He was expressing concern over the gullibility of the Corinthians when he said, “For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.  To our shame I say that we were too weak for that!” (2 Cor. 11:20-21).

Believers, and especially leaders, often sense pressure to present themselves exclusively in a positive light—to project the image that “I’ve got it all together and I’m large and in charge.”  Such facades are often superficial veneers for deep-rooted insecurity.  To honestly acknowledge one’s weakness or inability can seem to be a violation of making and maintaining a “good confession.”

Finding the Genuine

So how do we find the genuine strength that God wants us to experience?  It begins with acknowledging our own limitations.  Only then will we be able to identify and possess true strength.  Paul was a strong leader, but he was profoundly aware of his weaknesses.  Consider Paul’s statements that reflect his transparency and his high level of self-awareness:

  • I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” (1 Cor. 2:3)
  • “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)
  • “For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.” (2 Cor. 13:4)
  • “…to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.” (1 Cor. 9:22)
  • “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” (2 Cor. 11:29)
  • “for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.” 2 Cor. 12:11

While these Scriptures need to be qualified and read in context, there’s no doubt that Paul was not full of himself or flippantly self-assured.  He put no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3).  He also said, “…we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). 

Paul was not consumed with his accomplishments or the fact that he had started a certain number of churches or that he had cutting-edge revelation from God.  Rather, he was humbled by an assignment that he knew he could never accomplish on his own and he realized that he was utterly and completely dependent on God’s ability.

Perhaps the comments of Luther and Wigglesworth shed appropriate light here:

Martin Luther said, “God creates out of nothing. Therefore, until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.”

Smith Wigglesworth shared this: “I believe that God wants to put His hand upon us so that we may reach ideal definitions of humility, of human helplessness, of human insufficiency, until we will rest no more upon human plans, but have God’s thoughts, God’s voice, and the Holy Spirit to speak to us.”

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30).  The Amplified version of that verse reads: “I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord — but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders].”  If anyone could have ever rightly trusted in Himself or have felt self-sufficient, it was Jesus, and yet He utterly and entirely relied upon God.  He did not carry Himself in a haughty manner to impress others.  Rather, He was “gentle and lowly of heart” (Matt. 11:29). 

Not only did Jesus exemplify absolute reliance upon God, but He let us know that we needed the same sense of dependence.  He said in John 15:5, “…for without Me you can do nothing.”

So if You Feel a Little Weak…

To me, this is one of the most liberating truths we can embrace!  We don’t have to prove to anyone how wonderful we are, how perfect we are, or how spiritual we are.  This is no invitation to sloppy living or an excuse for not growing, but it enables us to know that God accepts us unconditionally and chose us in spite of our imperfect-ness.

If you feel weak, that’s OK, because:

  • “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” (2 Cor. 1:27)
  • “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
  • “My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9, Message)
  • Of the Old Testament heroes of faith, we read, “…from being weaklings they became strong men and mighty warriors.” (Hebrews 11:34, Phillips)

It takes a very secure person to acknowledge his weakness and to rely totally in God’s strength.  It’s the kind of child-like faith expressed in the words of the song so many learned at a very young age: “Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.”  We’ve got to become comfortable with our inadequacy and His adequacy.

Some of these things may sound very paradoxical, and that’s exactly what they are.  Consider what Richard P. Hansenis said: “Paradox is the wild territory within which most ministers live and work. We see unseen things. We conquer by yielding. We find rest under a yoke. We reign by serving. We are made great by becoming small. We are exalted when we are humble. We become wise by being fools for Christ’s sake. We are made free by becoming bondservants. We gain strength when we are weak. We triumph through defeat. We find victory by glorying in our infirmities. We live by dying.”

I pray that you will be comfortable in your weakness and confident in His strength!