Weakness Is the Way

Using 2 Corinthians J.I. Packer reflects on his experience of weakness and the Christian life in his new book, Weakness Is the Way. For a man of 86 years who has spent over 60 years in Christian ministry, writing, and teaching, I think we might want to stop and listen to what he has to say. Carl Truman commented in his review that, “The book is a devotional gem.” Truman goes on to say,

It is also a reminder that perhaps the most important voices in the church are not those of the young and the beautiful, of the middle aged who cannot accept that their teenage years are behind them, least of all of the Twittocrats who can reduce any profound and subtly beautiful truth to 140 banal and clichéd characters; instead, they are the voices of the old and the weak who know whereof they speak when it comes to the cross and suffering and weakness.

This little book of 128 pages and 4 chapters is indeed devotional in nature in which you will consider your own weaknesses. In the first chapter Packer starts by defining weakness as “inadequacy” (page 13). By this he means all kinds of inadequacies that confront humanity whether they are physical weakness, intellectual weakness, personal weakness, and even relational weakness.

In the next three chapters, Packer contemplates the Christian’s calling (chapter 2), the Christian’s giving (chapter 3), and the Christian’s hope (chapter 4), each in the context of weakness.

The one section that challenged me the most was when Packer discussed Paul’s motivations, that is, “what drives him in the risky, hazardous, and often pain-laden service of Jesus Christ.” His motivation is threefold: Paul wants to give constant pleasure to Christ; Paul wants to be found fully faithful to Christ on judgment day; Paul is controlled, claimed, driven, directed, set going, and kept going by the love of Christ. (page 30-42). That section was worth the price of the book. I can’t say I have grasped it all yet, but that is what makes the book the devotional gem it is.

But I have to say that my favorite passage of the book is:

The sense in which the Christian life is essentially a pathway of weakness along which God leads us, sustaining and strengthening us for service as we go, is now becoming clear. With regard to tasks and relationships, it is often right, and part of our calling, that we should embrace options in which we may easily find ourselves out of our depth, and in which we know that we cannot hope to succeed without God’s help. And with regard to circumstances, it is often the case that in God’s sovereign providence unforeseen difficulties arise, throwing us back on the Lord for support and subjecting our faith and faithfulness to very grueling tests. One way or another, God works out in all our lives the baptismal pattern of through-death-into-new-life-with-Christ, which the rite itself models as under-the-water-then-up-from-under. (page 61-62)

I just wish the book was a little longer. But then I say that about most books.

Chris Nyland

Click on this link to watch and listen as Packer give his rationale for writing Weakness Is the Way.

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