This morning I read Hebrews 11, which is of course the famous 'By faith..' passage, listing various Old Testament examples of faithful followers of God, from Abel to Rahab before skipping over Gideon, David and Samuel in a single verse.
There are all kinds of important verses in this chapter, but I think for me the most important one is this little clause in the middle of verse 34:
whose weakness was turned to strength
Hebrews 11.34 (NIV)
Almost universally these 'heroes of faith' were (from a worldly perspective) not high achievers. Abraham lived almost his entire life in a tent yet was blessed with huge riches and an even larger family. Rahab was a prostitute who saved herself and her family when Joshua conquered Jericho. Jacob was a pretty nasty piece of work yet the father of the twelve tribes. Moses was a posh boy who murdered a guard and fled to the desert for 40 years. The list goes on.
Yes the link between all these people is that they had faith, but more specifically it is that they had faith God could turn their weakness into strength and achieve mighty things through them. To put the clause I quoted earlier in context:
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Hebrews 11.32-34 (NIV)
Sometimes we may be tempted to feel we have a lot to offer God, perhaps railing against him for not using our talents to the maximum, for not making the most of our skills, abilities and passions. All those things are good, God-given and yes, he will use them in his service.
But first, we must recognise that we are weak, that we cannot do anything in God's kingdom in our own strength. We must recognise that for God to work in and through us, we have to learn to trust in his power to turn our weakness into strength, rather than try to prove ourselves strong.