Paul literally wrote the book on human weakness and God’s strength – or at least one of them (2 Corinthians). But he is certainly not the only example we have. Nor, you will be happy to know, is weakness necessarily synonymous with suffering. The “cracks” that allow God to shine through can also come from reliance on God and adherence to his commands. The more we rely on God, the more his strength is manifested within us.
Perhaps one of my favorite examples is on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God became evident not only to the disciples, but to the crowds around Jerusalem. After His resurrection and shortly before His ascension, Jesus commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the disciples were together in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon them like “tongues of fire.” They began speaking in different languages, and the crowds outside were drawn to this strange display. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” (Acts 2:7)
The answer, of course, is that it was not really these men speaking. It was the Spirit of God, shining through them. The disciples were ordinary men before Jesus commanded them to follow him. They were “sinners and tax collectors” when it was just them. But Jesus gave them something more. When they followed His command to wait in Jerusalem after His ascension, the result was far more than what any of them could have imagined. For it was on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended, that the church was born. It was on this day that men stood up for the first time to publicly testify that Jesus was the Son of God. Only it was not just men standing up, but the very Spirit of God.
Jesus had alluded to this help from the Holy Spirit earlier when he commissioned the twelve to go throughout Israel and preach that the kingdom of heaven was near. He warned them He was sending them out like sheep among wolves, but that they should not be afraid. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:19-20).
Again, Jesus was emphasizing not the human shell of his disciples, but the Spirit of God who would shine through them. It was up to the disciples to go. It was these men who needed to physically carry the message, but when the time came, it would be the Holy Spirit who would serve as the teleprompter.
Like the disciples in these two passages, we too have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. And as the disciples demonstrated, the Holy Spirit will be manifested strongest when we rely on God and follow his commands. We don’t have Jesus physically next to us to tell us to “wait in Jerusalem” or to “go throughout Israel”. But we do have the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And we have opportunities that open or close (sometimes against our wishes) to help guide us.
God is equipping us, right now, to face whatever is before us. He is sending us, right now, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth. He may be telling us to wait. He may be telling us to go. Either way, He is teaching us the same lesson: reliance not on ourselves, but on the Spirit of God within us. For it is Him, and not us, that has the power to get through the path before us.
It will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:20).