God's ways are opposite
There is a pattern we find in Scripture. Things we assume to be one way, are turned upside down. It's the opposite of what seems natural. In human terms, we operate on conditions and assumptions of how we know the system typically works. Our experience tells us we can count on these assumptions; assumptions pressed into us from the world. Things like:
Religion makes life good and pleasant. Spiritual enlightenment guarantees a carefree and cleaned-up life. And if we are truly saved -- if we've been enlightened, then we will overcome our sin.
When bad things happen, they don't come from God. He's surely not in that. And the goal is to fix it and get yourself out of that situation as quickly as possible.
Being vulnerable and admitting your sin or sharing your heartache is not a good thing. Confessing weakness is unattractive and annoying. No one else struggles with this problem, so they couldn't possibly understand, could they?
You'll never be able to overcome your weakness. You've made such a mess of your life, what do you expect? You get what you deserve!
Despite the forcefulness and frequency of such messages, they are not patterned after God's Word. In fact, it's the opposite that is true for those who trust in Christ Jesus.
Faith is a fight.
Being a Christian doesn't mean we are sin-free and carefree. Consider the apostle Paul, who was a persecutor of Christians, a murderer! God radically transformed him on the road to Damascus, and yet, in Romans 7, we see that he has not entirely overcome his sin. When we know Christ, we still do the very things we hate (v.15) sometimes. Paul knows there is nothing good in his flesh (v.18); yet, he knows that he possesses the Holy Spirit. It's the Spirit's presence within him that enables him to fight against his sin (v.25). It's not the absence of sin that makes us right with God; it's knowing the One who was without sin and who took all our sins upon himself.
Bad things are meant for good.
Paul comes straight out with it in Romans chapter 8 -- NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! And he ends the chapter with the promise that even the worst possible things that happen to us can be a means of experiencing God's greatest goodness. The believer can rest assured that the bad things that happen to him and even that bad that he does, will be transformed with God's goodness and lovingkindess. God can redeem even the worst things -- abuse, abandonment, sickness, broken relationships -- and bring about healing, reconciliation, and a new way of living.
We don't bring about such goodness in and of our own plotting and efforts. It's not that a difficult situation suddenly gets fixed. No, it's that as a child of God we can have confidence that our hope is in the promised good that has already been secured for us in Christ Jesus. He is the goodness himself!
Weakness is power.
Ray Ortlund expounds on this phrase in a very helpful sermon. Having our frailties and sinful tendencies exposed is not a bad thing. In fact, the worst thing we can do is try to hide and cover those things up. In Romans 8:26, we see that the Spirit himself knows our weaknesses. He knows exactly what your particular tendencies are, what tempts you most, what provokes you. And he is sympathetic. He will help you. He intercedes, meaning he pleads along with you for deliverance and care from God the Father.
As Ray Ortlund says, "this means we don't simply endure our hardships, but we can delight in them because they are telling a story far greater than could otherwise be told." The best place to be is in need. I think we've all figured out (if we are honest) that we can't do it on our own. We'll always mess things up; we'll always ruin the good gifts God has given us when we try to manage them in our own strength. Ray Ortlund goes on to say, "There's no resurrection without death," meaning we must die to the idea that we can save ourselves or somehow put back together the shambles we have made of our lives. Weakness is really an opportunity. An opportunity for Christ to be our preeminent love and our exclusive power.
It's all ours.
The answer to our weakness is not found within; it's something outside of ourselves. SomeONE outside of ourselves. These verses from Romans provide a clear reminder that we won't find help or solutions by searching within for some mystical strength. We cannot tap into some deeper level of self-awareness. Plunge the depths of your soul, and you'll still end up making poor choices, falling back into old habits, or simply creating some new idol for yourself.
We need a greater affection in order to be transformed. Rehearsing how badly you've screwed up will not stop you from sinning again. You probably already know how bad you are. You know what you're capable of. Considering the threat of consequences is not enough to keep us from choosing sin. It's by setting our gaze upon Christ, seeing that he is far better than any other affection we could have. God created us in such a way that we would never find ultimate satisfaction outside of him.
If what I'm looking to for satisfaction, fulfillment, healing or lasting change is not rooted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, then I've stopped short. Because Jesus is risen from the dead and fulfilled his Word, our anxiety, our depression, our addictions, our anger -- do not have the final word in our lives! And we don't get what we deserve -- we get far more. We get it all!
God's ways are opposite of what we intuitively think. They don't make sense to us when we only consider the human vantage point. We must think with supernatural lenses to see the value of such statements. And we can't do that without knowing Christ personally, calling upon him in repentance and faith.
Faith is only a fight if you're on the battlefield. There's only good from bad if you've given your life over to the only good One, Jesus. And weakness is only power when you've accessed *the* power, which is the Spirit living within you.
If all you have to offer God right now is your inability, your failure, your discouragement, your weakness...then you're in the right spot.