Saturday, May 07, 2011


Things are a bit hectic and time short so here is a word that might suffice for a weekend. This is from four years ago.

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


Bob Cleveland said...


And it also brings up the absolute need to know as much of God's word as we can. To incorporate it into our being. To follow not only His commands, but also His teachings.

And then to realize that every sin begins with a decision in our own mind, giving ourselves permission to do it. And that, to me, can only be cured by a renewing of the mind. Which, of course, God says He'll do.


Christiane said...

Psalms 73:26
"My flesh and my heart faileth:
but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."

Aussie John said...


A false accusation had been made against myself. Expecting support from denominational leaders, I was surprised to find that they simply wanted the problem to disappear as fast as possible to avoid any publicity by sweeping it under the carpet.

I resigned. Then began something I had never experienced in my life, two years of depression, so deep I remember very little of that time, except that my heart far away from God.

It was during that time whilst, I believe, I was at the weakest point of my life, that I failed (sinned) miserably.

God brought me out of that time, with the help of very dear brethren (the majority of the church from which we had resigned).

Then began twelve years of the most blessed time of our lives as we led an independent evangelical church from which I eventually retired through ill health (which I believe was exacerbated by the previous false accusations).

During that time, after my own experience, I saw enough in the lives of people to realize that failure comes whenever we take our eyes of Christ. It is then we are most vulnerable.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks. It's interesting that all three of you are saying, in different words, we are to keep our eyes on the Lord if we are to stand.

That reinforces the point of the post, I would think, as we are more likely to TAKE our eyes from Him in areas where we think we are strong. My experience has been one of growing to ALWAYS keep my focus on Him ESPECIALLY in areas of strength.

That "Pride before a fall" thing is a sure thing with out our proper focus isn't it!!

Anonymous said...

If you had one bomb to drop on the enemy, would you pick a foot soldier, or a tank?

I agree with your post when the devil chose the 'tank' – knowing Adam would follow like a puppy dog, but disagree with the other examples.

1. Would the human part of Jesus want food after a big meal or 40 days without food? Conclusion: Jesus was weak from lack of food when he was tempted.

2. “Jim Baker who could raise money out of scarecrows, and fall because of greed.” Conclusion: Maybe he was good at raising money because money was all important to him which made him weak.

3. “Jimmy Swaggert who was strong in condemning those who are immoral.” Conclusion: If preachers or anyone is continually preaching against a certain sin, it's usually because they are weak in that area. During my second year of teaching, at school assembly the band director was always giving pep talks (uninvited) to the kids to hang in there when the going got tough. He committed suicide before the year ended.

4. “Gordan MacDonald who wrote the finest book on marriage...failed in his marriage vow.” Conclusion: Again, he probable wrote what he was weak in.

5. When Peter was with Jesus, Peter was strong – walked on water, but when he was alone, he was weak – the rooster crowed.

6.“Moses who was obedient enough, after being taught by his mother of God's plan for him...” Paul, I've never heard this. I thought his mother taught him he was a Jew, and God told Moses his plan from the burning bush.
Conclusion: I agree Moses was disobedient in not speaking to the rock, but I believe he struck the rock because he was weak on faith.

7.David – weak on morals to the point of murder.

Paul, you mentioned honesty. I know people so honest – they squeak and they resent when 'darkness' confesses to steeling with the excuse “You do the same.”

“In Kingdom living our greatest weakness IS our strength.”

I believe that's saying our greatest strength is our weaknesses; which is almost saying we should sin more so God will show us more mercy.

Oh – it's so hard to be humble with us guys that are perfect. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I really agree with the...“In Kingdom living our greatest weakness IS our strength.” That, because it can be at that point that our awareness of His strength is so great. But our problem is our definitions of weakness are generally from our fallen thought processes also as Bob points out. We think in human terms only so often. Humility and deference seem to be thought of as weaknesses for example.

Kingdom living IS odd to many as you've pointed out. It does appear that, as one begins to truly understand what grace actually is about, it sounds like one would want to continue to sin to get more grace. In fact, Paul the Apostle saw the fallen human logic that leads to saying that very thing in Romans didn't he!!

But I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on the rest. That's alright. I'm sure we'll BOTH be set right on a few things when we stand in that day before the One who REALLY DOES know the inner motives and desires, [and true weaknesses] of all of us. [1 Corinthians 4:3-5]

Anonymous said...

Did God choose a strong or weak person when he challenged the devil with Job? “Though he slay me, yet I'll trust Him.”

Where did the poison arrow go that killed Achilles?

I'll bet neither of us would agree with our wives telling us where we are weak, but would say 'preach on' if they tell us where we're strong.

Paul Burleson said...


"I'll bet neither of us would agree with our wives telling us where we are weak, but would say 'preach on' if they tell us where we're strong."

My point exactly. Pride is at our point of strength so we're more vulnerable there to falling. Well said IMHO.

Christiane said...

A Christ-like humility is the model for Christian people.
A study of how Our Lord was with people, when He was among us, reveals His loving-kindness and His patience with suffering people. And He modeled how He with-held judgment from some, and pleaded to His Father for understanding for those 'who knew not what they did'. Seems to me that His calm humility shines, when we realize that he was at the same time in possession of a power so great that it could calm the seas, and quiet the wind, and call the dead forth from the grave.

And we asked to 'learn of Him'.

The promise we have is that 'God giveth grace to the humble'.

We need to take another look at how we define 'humility'. His humility does not seem to be connected to any 'weakness' in Our Lord at all.
Christ-like humility IS a paradox: from Christ, we learn that there is a mysterious power in it for good.

Paul Burleson said...


"We need to take another look at how we define 'humility'. His humility does not seem to be connected to any 'weakness' in Our Lord at all.
Christ-like humility IS a paradox: from Christ, we learn that there is a mysterious power in it for good."

Well said and bears repeating. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Will you agree a chain is no stronger than its weakest link?

If you think about it, your post is saying the weakest part of the chain is where it's the strongest.

Now if your post is saying the weakest part of a man is where he THINKS he's the strongest, then that's another matter.

You said: “Pride is at our point of strength so we're more vulnerable there to falling.”

I believe 'pride is at our point of weakness so we're more vulnerable there to falling.'

BTW sometimes the 'bigness' of a man is the ability to admit when he's wrong.

I remember the closest I believe Wade ever came to saying he was wrong was several years ago when he said, “Sometimes words don't convey what a person means.”

His words said Jesus was a Southern Baptist – and agreed by Belle who has a masters in English.)

Oh, I forgot. (I'll pull an apostle Paul when he forgot who all he had baptized.) Wade did say he had changed his mind on several things such as thinking it was OK for the firing of missionaries and some more items. I still think of your son as a big hero.

Paul Burleson said...


"Now if your post is saying the weakest part of a man is where he THINKS he's the strongest, then that's another matter." I'm always ONLY saying that. The weakest part of any person starts with their thinking.

What we "think" is not to be confused with what is "actual." That's why I encourage people to ask someone who knows them well and loves them enough to speak the truth. Most of us haven't a clue as to what is" actual" in us... for whatever reason.

The reason could be...other than that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?"...that we "think" about ourselves through the filter of our past experiences and that clouds reality about us so much and we're not even aware if it generally.

Most of my growth the past twenty-five years has come as a result of listening to people... about me... and being willing to accept as a possibility that I don't really see myself the way others do. Then, there comes a choice of admitting either I'm right and they are wrong...or...they are right and I'm wrong. This is the first lesson of learning reality that set me on a journey to growth.

Christiane said...

I think Christians are meant to be 'a listening people' for those who are alone and troubled in this world.

Paul Burleson said...


As usual with what you say.."could not agree more."

Anonymous said...

I had an uncle who would get a discussion going among a group, and before it was over many times he would switch sides and then argue that was what he was saying from the first.

Hmmmm That's harder to do when words are in writing. Sometimes it's good to let our words sit a day or two and then read them as a stranger and see if they say what we intended them to say.

Glad we agree and don't have to agree to disagree.