I’m Weak. He’s Strong.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
For this message, I am indebted to the profound teachings of Watchman Nee. Nee helped found the local church movement in China. The Communists imprisoned him for the last twenty years of his life. Through these two decades, his wife Charity was the only person allowed to visit him. She died before he did, but he was not allowed to attend her funeral.
When his grandniece came to retrieve the ashes of his cremated body, she was given a note he had written and put under his pillow. “Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee.”
Rom. 7:25a (continued) “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
After the emotional outcry of verse 24, Paul seemed to rest his mind a bit by reflecting on our sanctified position and calmly thanking the Lord.
One question remains to be answered, “Why did the cry of a victim and the cry of a victor come almost simultaneously from the heart of Paul the Apostle?” Because we cannot have the latter without the former.
There can be no victory until God’s power is enlisted for us, but his power is not released to us till we recognize our own personal helplessness. The overcoming saints are always “victim-victors”, ever realizing their utter helplessness, and always reaching outside themselves for help.
When we can honestly cry out the words of Romans 7:24-25a, we will, as far as God is concerned, be singing the most beautiful song of our life. In the war against evil, no passage of Scripture is more appropriate.
Once we are totally crushed, we then reach out for help. Believers are not droids, drudges in slavery to sin. Victory is available here and now. Even if we do not enjoy it fully here, we will definitely have it in glory. “Am I always to have this dead man chained to my back, and sniff the pestiferous exhalations of his putrid body? No, no, no” (Spurgeon).
Total victory will eventually come. In the meantime, victory can be ours whenever we renounce self and reach out to the Lord for help.
Paul’s exclamation of thanks to God arose from the fact the Holy Spirit is the only one who can give deliverance from our old man, the body of this death. Since God provides the power, He must be given all the glory.
Also, since God is the power, victory is always available to believers. To be in Jesus means enough power is ever available to win in any struggle.
It does not matter how tough the battle is that we dread. By the grace and help of God, we can overcome it. If we do not win victory over a particular evil, it is because we are not trusting fully in God’s power.
There is no acceptable excuse for sin. The believers who yield to temptation are those who have not fully accepted the unadorned truth about themselves and their inner weakness and corruption. Sin results when we lean on our own strength rather than God’s.
The whole purpose of the mournful passages before our text was to convince us we are of ourselves totally weak. This realization must dawn on us before we can have the strength we need to overcome evil. Ignorance of the actual power of sin is revealed when anyone confidently asserts his or her own ability to resist and subdue it.
God lets us go through painful experiences to teach us this necessary lesson. The Law was given to prove to us we truly are weak. The Law has served its purpose once we have broken it.
“So we can say, reverently, that God never gave us the Law to keep; He gave us the Law to break! He well knew we could not keep it…The Law is that which exposes our true nature. Alas, we are so conceited, and think ourselves so strong, that God has to give us something to test us and prove how weak we are” (Watchman Nee).
God has made us free from the Law in the sense that we are not expected to keep it in our own strength. Keeping it is mandatory, but this can be done only with God’s power. We must cease trying to assert ourselves and must ask the Lord to live His life is us.
“Praise God, he is the Lawgiver on the throne, and He is the Law-keeper in my heart. He who gave the Law, Himself keeps it. He makes the demands, but He also meets them…As long as we are trying to do anything, He can do nothing. It is because of our trying that we fail and fail and fail. God wants to demonstrate to us that we can do nothing at all, and until that is fully recognized our despair and disillusion will never cease” (Watchman Nee).
We all sense our weakness in spiritual matters. Victory comes when we are reduced to a consciousness of total weakness in ourselves. We must share the prayer of Watchman Nee, “Lord, I am unable to do anything for Thee, but I trust Thee to do everything in me.”
Romans 7:25b “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God;
but with the flesh the law of sin.”
Paul had resigned himself to the unpleasant truth about himself. No matter how badly his better self yearned after godliness, there was a part of him that yearned after evil.
The flesh cannot be changed or improved. Our old nature is never going to get better or become more congenial with our new nature.
Paul did not let this truth become an excuse for sinning. He viewed himself as responsible for the actions of his life. Both natures are at his disposal. However weak believers feel, we are still to blame for our failures.
Depravity is a fact, and we are to blame for it. Our sin nature is not only something to be believed in, but also to be hated. “It is not my being corrupt that proves me a Christian, nor knowing I am corrupt, but that I hate my corruption. It is my agonizing death struggle with my corruptions that proves me to be a living child of God.” (Spurgeon).
Do we hate our own inner corruption? Are we struggling against it constantly, or have we instead made an armistice with it? Our warfare should be constant, and we should enter each battle with confidence.
The flesh is always with us, but can be overcome. There is power available, which if appropriated will provide triumph. Once we discover the principle of victory and act upon it, it will be as hard for us to sin as it is now for us to resist temptation.
Hence, we must be absolutely sure we understand the principle of victory. Successful Christian living results not from outward commands or inner resolve, but rather from Divine power. Repentance and surrender are absolutely essential at every step of the Christian way. Any time we try to obey in our own strength, we abandon the principles of grace and return to a life guided by Law.
The evil to be cured within us is beyond human strength to remedy. Example, philosophy, self-discipline, science, education, law, culture, human ingenuity and effort – none of these can deliver us from the body of this death. They are impotent to help and ultimately only give the evil nature more instruments for rebellion.
None of these things has been able to deliver us. Only the gospel can do it, has done it, does it, and will do it (D. Thomas).