Monday, March 26, 2007


I've always been amazed at that verse in Luke 4 where Jesus encountered Satan in that temptation experience. You remember Jesus had been forty days without food. There is no doubt that hunger was very real at the moment. You recall Satan said "Since you're the Son of God [no doubt in his mind about that fact] command this stone that it be made bread."

I think we are all honest enough to admit that wouldn't be a temptation to us because we couldn't have accomplished that if our very life had depended on it. But He could. After all He is the Son Of God. It would be important for us to remember at this point that Jesus DID NOT do anything during those thirty-three years on earth in the power/authority of His Divine nature. He willingly laid aside that authority and lived as man submitted to the will/ purpose of the Father. He was truly our stand-in. This is why He responded in verse 4 that "it is written that MAN shall not live by bread alone but by every Word of God." He was man submitted to doing the will of the Father.

My point is that the temptation came at the very point of the greatest strength in the life of Jesus. Temptation comes at our point of strength...not our weakness...who would have thought? I've aways been so sold on the idea that I've got to strengthen/guard where I'm weak because, if I don't, I'll wind up failing/falling in that area. Satan attacks me where I'm weak. Oh really? If pride comes before a fall then I must be proud of where I'm weak. No wait...pride is a possibility where I think I'm pretty good. Do you suppose we completely misunderstand this thing of temptation so that we guard our weaknesses but are vulnerable at our strength for the very fact that we don't think we'll fall there?

Add to this equation the seemingly overwhelming numbers of failures of ministers today at the points where they are teaching the most, as a Jim Baker who could raise money out of scarecrows, and fall because of greed. Or a Jimmy Swaggert who was strong in condemning those who are immoral. Enough said. Or a Gordan MacDonald who wrote the finest book on marriage I have in my library and failed in his marriage vow. By the way, I wouldn't even mention these men were their failure not public in nature. And even with that said...I do not in any way judge/condemn them at all. They are not my servants after all. They are my brothers.

We certainly could go to those in scripture who failed too. Peter, a man of extreme courage, remember how he charged that large group at the arrest of Jesus sword in hand, failed hours later fearful of being identified as a follower. Or Moses who was obedient enough, after being taught by his mother of God's plan for him, to choose to suffer the reproach of Israel rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt. Yet disobediently struck that rock the second time rather than speaking to it as commanded. Or David, a man whose heart was after God, in a moment of passion, gave his heart to another.

Add all this to that Luke 4 passage and we may be getting a picture that one would be wise to ask a friend this question. "What is my greatest strength?" Then, be open to the fact it could be at this point the enemy will gain a foothold in my life.

The answer to that question may be..."You're strong in doctrinal purity and Truth" or "You're strong in mercy" or " You're strong in the family" or "You're strong in honesty" get the idea. For the first, they may fail because someone disagrees with a minor doctrine or not say a Truth the same way [inerrancy] and the doctrinally strong one will separate because of pride in a position. For the second, they may need to stand for a truth at some point but for fear of hurting someone they capitulate. For the third, they maybe see a son or daughter divorce or a daughter get pregnant and cannot find it in them to embrace those/ that one in love and acceptance for the life of them. It would be [in their minds at least] a capitulation in standards for family life. For the last one, they may fail to report a gift to the government or twist a word or phrase to cover a mistake. The whole point is that failure comes because our eyes are tightly shut to our vulnerability at the point of strengths. We would never fail BECAUSE of our strength there...but we do. It is, after all, His strength that is made real in our weakness but, in Kingdom living our greatest weakness IS our strength, we just don't seem to get that fact down well.

May God never allow me to write something to anyone else without applying it to my own life first. I think I'll ask Mary, my wife, what she thinks my strengths are. She knows me better than anyone else and loves me enough to tell me the truth.

Paul Burleson


Kevin Bussey said...


Great words as usual. That is what scares me to death about all of these moral failures. Everytime I read about another failure I don't get mad, I get humbled and scared.

What is the answer to protecting our strengths from being hit by Satan? You are so much wiser than me and I really do want to finish well.

Paul Burleson said...


Wiser? I wonder. More experienced in failure? Maybe I have an edge there. :) But all I really know to do is described in James. One is to draw close to God. By definition I don't take it to mean a feeling or experience here. I take it to mean know what is real and done by Him on my behalf and rest in that being accomplished. This entails a preoccupation with who He is, what He's done and how He thinks about things in all of life.

Then, I have to be open to the patterns of behavior I've developed through the years to cope/face circumstances and trust Him to have destroyed the power of that comfort zone. In other words, I have to REALLY want to be whole hearted for Him to CHANGE me not just teach me truth. That accomplishes for me the second part of it...resisting the devil. You can see I would be resisting the tool in me the devil uses. The devil is not my problem. The stuff in me is my problem. But when I resist that he [the devil] hasn't got a chance. I don't know if I've helped or clouded the issue further...but there it is.

Thanks for commenting and, for what it's worth, I see this in you. I'm a little bit glad you don't see it there yet and will keep growing toward it.

Paul Burleson said...


One other thought. All I've said is preconditioned on the finished work of the Cross Jesus has already done. I am just faithing it all as I talk, learn, experience, grow. It is His victory we are contemplating here. We just get in on the done deal. Isn't that fun to think about and uplifting to experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks brother Paul,

In the last year or especially since I retired from the military two years ago, nothing has been more humbling to me than the overwhelming task of finishing strong. To have seen careers ruined by senior officers close to me and to witness those in the ministry fall due to moral issues is indeed sobering. "There but by the grace of God go I" is a daily reminder. Thanks so much for the words from the epistle James that you shared with Kevin. The enemy, though defeated, never takes a day off and is pleased to bring us down at the point of our strength when we forget where our source of strength lies. We did not receive His strength on our own nitiative, why should we think we can sustain it in the same manner. This is indeed pride. Staying close to the Lord and all that it means as you eloquently shared earlier is the only proven way to resist the enemy. Many years ago you shared with me about staying clean with the Father (1 John 1:9)and keep short lists. It works. The blessing to finishing strong is to hear the words well done good and faithful servant. As always, thanks much brother Paul.

Steve in San Antonio

Paul Burleson said...


As usual, you have pin pointed a tremendous truth. It isn't our ability to get it or keep it...whatever that "it" is. Whether it's victory or purity or holiness or whatever. "It"...has been acomplished for us and given to us. Someway it is that Grace/Love He has for us that drives us to faithfulness like it "constrained" Paul the Apostle. I think we opt too often for our performance and fail miserably every time when we do.

Writer said...


Excellent point. If you will allow, I will reproduce my comment on Wade's blog today. I believe it has merit here as well.

"There is no sin in the Bible from which any of us are immune. When we believe that we would never commit a certain sin, that is when we are most vulnerable. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit in us that causes us not to sin. It is never our "righteousness" that prevents sin.

Praise God for His keeping us from whatever sins we have not committed today. Praise God for forgiving us for all of our many sins today. In all things, may God be glorified."

Kindest regards,


Paul Burleson said...


I had already read your comments on Wade's blog and thought then how we were saying very much the same thing. I appreciate them being said here and really appreciate what your posts have said of late. Good to have this connection with you. Keep us updated on your dad.

Clif Cummings said...


A close friend of mine has recenty written about the Forceful Mercy of God on his own blog. Unfortunately I do not know how to type a direct link - but it can be found at The post is from last Friday, March 23.
I read it this morning, and wept thankful tears for God's Forceful Mercy in my life. In light of this post and Wade's, I commend it to all of us in the ministry to read and know "but by the grace and MERCY of God there go I".
In His Grace, by His Mercy

Cecdaddy said...


At first, I thought, "No, my weaknesses are pretty good spots for attack; it seems I am constantly attacked in them."

Then I thought about what you were saying. As I consider it, I think that my weaknesses are recurrent enough that I am always working on them, and I am aware of the attacks in those areas. Since I am aware of these weaknesses, I fight them daily.

On the flip side, I can see how a strength, say my assertiveness, could lead to failure. I am assertive and I expect others to be as well, so I do not understand people in the church who are not looking for a place to serve, and I am so used to doing things myself that I struggle to delegate. This could easily harm me, a church, and others quite easily.

Yes, after further consideration, you are right. Our strengths are a primary zone for attack. Not necessarily in our daily skirmishes, but the destructive assassinations.


Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for the link. I really like your phrase "God's Forceful Mercy." It is really descriptive and says a lot in a couple of words.

I'm in Texas getting ready to go to the evening service so I'll follow the link and read it tonight. Looking forward to being with you guys in a couple of weeks.


What an excellent comment. I like it when someone describes their journey to seeing something and you've done that quite well. Thanks for commenting. By the way, great insight into your assertiveness. Interestingly, I have the same strength/weakness and have had to learn exactly what you have described.

Bob Cleveland said...


Brother, this one made me think. It also made me change the lesson plan this morning and spend the first 20 minutes discussing this ... I think the class could identify in one way, very easily, since one of those pastors referred to is right here in our county. And the interesting thing is that the idea of strength runs so deep that, when it was threatened to become public, he pleaded for her not to, as it would ruin his ministry.

Even in the depths of the sin, he still thought he "could handle it".

Don't mean to hack on that one, but as I told the class, it shows just how cancerous the idea that God makes US strong enough to simply carry on, can be.

Thanks, brother. I owe you one.

Anonymous said...

Great food for thought because you are correct that we often want to focus on our weaknesses; meanwhile, Satan doesn't want us being strong at all. Ken Sorrell posted recently asking whether our names are known in hell, referencing Acts 19:15. If they are, then we should be looking to God for strength because I am quite sure the powers of hell would love to take us out.