Jesus Christ tells us that He gives us weakness and that He does so for a specific purpose: that we may be humble before Him.
I give unto men weakness, that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 5:28)
Do you think of your weakness as a gift from the Lord? Should you be thankful for, even excited about the Lord giving you weakness? As you contemplate these questions, please consider the following points based on the accompanying scriptures:
1) God resists the proud, but He gives more grace to the humble.
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:5-10)
For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he who humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 14:11)
2) Being lifted up with pride is to fall into the condemnation of the devil (see Isaiah 14:12-15 with Ezekiel 28:13-18).
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (I Timothy 3:1-7)
3) God purposes to stain the pride of all glory so that no flesh should glory in His presence.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them who believe, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are chosen; For God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are mighty; that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (I Corinthians 1:19-31)
4) If we are not stripped of pride, we are not prepared to meet God nor to receive the happiness He has prepared for those who love Him.
Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, If ye are not, ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly, for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life. (Alma 3:50,51)
Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel: and he employeth no servant there: And there is none other way, save it be by the gate, for he can not be deceived; for the Lord God is his name. And whoso knocketh, to him, will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches; yea, they are they, whom he despiseth; And save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. But the things of the wise and the prudent, shall be hid from them for ever; yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints. (II Nephi 6:81-85)
5) Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and to give us a way of escape from the will of the devil and the flesh.
Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that continueth in sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:7,8)
Therefore cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves; to choose the way of everlasting death, or the way of eternal life. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; And remember after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. (II Nephi 7:40-42)
6) Jesus came to save us from our sins, not in our sins.
Now, as it is written, the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise. After his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a vision, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 2:1-4)
O remember, remember, my sons, the words which King Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world. And remember also, the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him, that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people; but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins. And he hath power given unto him from the Father, to redeem them from their sins, because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls. And now my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation, that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds; yea, his shafts in the whirlwind; Yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you, to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they can not fall. (Helaman 2:71-75)
7) Jesus is able to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24,25)
For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then it worketh death unto us, but life unto you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For we bear all things for your sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (I Corinthians 4:11-18)
8) It is only through the merits and mercy and grace of Jesus Christ that we are able to dwell in God’s presence.
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the holy Messiah: for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the first fruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him, shall be saved. And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; Wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him, according to the truth and holiness which is in him. (II Nephi 1:71-79)
9) Those who trust in the arm of flesh (e.g. trust in themselves) are cursed and will not receive everlasting life. Rather, they will receive everlasting punishment and shame.
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee for ever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm. Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss: therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall for ever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen. (II Nephi 3:61-66)
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not unto me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:42-47)
10) We must, therefore, rely wholly upon the merits of the only One who is able to save us from our sins by our becoming dead to sin.
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water: and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire, and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye enter in by the way, ye should receive. And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask, if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far, save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save; wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (II Nephi 13:24-30)
And if ye believe on his name, ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits. (Helaman 5:67)
11) Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith and we are the workmanship of His hands.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
12) Our Lord works in our lives according to His plan of redemption and salvation to the end that He may grant unto us the precious gift of eternal life.
And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying, The heavens, they are many and they can not be numbered unto man, but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine; and as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words; for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life of man. (D&C 22:23a,b)
13) We must be willing to submit to all things that the Lord sees fit to inflict upon us, including weakness.
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given, nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For behold, he judgeth, and his judgment is just, and the infant perisheth not, that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls, except they humble themselves, and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been, from the fall of Adam, and will be, for ever and ever; but if <unless> he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man, and becometh a saint, through the atonement of Christ, the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 1:116-120)
14) It is God’s will for us that we give thanks in everything.
Rejoice ever more. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Briefly understood, our Lord’s aim in giving us weakness is to prepare us to meet Him. More particularly, His aim is to present us unto Himself humbled so He may grant unto us the greatest gift of all, the gift of eternal life, which we receive through His Spirit dwelling within us.
Remember, Jesus calls us to take up our cross and to follow Him in meekness and lowliness of heart before God. He did not come into this fallen world to pave the way for pride to abound, to give us a gift of pride, or to even give us anything that would offer us a reason for harboring pride in our hearts. It is Satan who seeks our condemnation by temping us with pride and by attempting to build up pride within our lives.
Through the gift of weakness our Lord has prepared the way for us to be humbled and, in due time, to become strong in and through Him alone. Therefore, by our humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, which may be understood as submitting ourselves to whatever He sees fit to inflict upon us, we may escape the condemnation of the devil which, again, is to be lifted up with pride.
Jesus is the only one who is able to save us because He is the only one who is able to truly strip us of pride. If we could strip ourselves of pride we would not need Jesus as our Savior. Further, those who do not rely upon Him for salvation can only rely upon the arm of flesh (e.g. upon themselves). Consequently, they have no Savior because only Jesus Christ was (and is and will ever be) able enough and caring enough to have paid the price necessary to save us from our sins and from the wages of sins, which is death.
It seems rather evident, then, that we would be wise to receive with gladness and thanksgiving the gift of weakness which He chooses for and introduces into our lives.
If you are not yet convinced that we should be excited about our Lord’s gift of weakness, consider the life of the Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. His truly was a life lived in weakness. To illustrate, Paul wrote of a weakness which the Lord would not remove from his life even though Paul requested its removal three times. What was the reason it was not removed? Paul explained by saying it was “lest I should be exalted above measure.”
For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth; but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth of me, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me,lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong. (II Corinthians 12:6-10)
Paul understood the importance of being abased just as he knew how to be content in whatever state he found himself.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:9-13)
He understood the importance of not thinking more highly of himself than the Lord gave him the faith to think of himself. Therefore, he chose to rely solely upon our Lord’s grace, and he has encouraged each of us to do the same in thanksgiving.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
This then is the quality of life which Paul gave to us to emulate, that of a life lived by the power of God according to our Lord’s example, not by the strength or wisdom of men.
For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he lived by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (II Corinthians 12:4)
I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:20,21)
Perhaps you are wondering just how it is exactly that we are to enter into the humility which is to come of the gift of weakness? As Paul demonstrated, it is found in our yielding our lives unto God through doing His will in whatever place or circumstance we may be in. This kind of humility turns us from the pride of life. In fact, it turns us from all that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
Love not the world, neither the things that are of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all in the world that is of the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. (I John 2:15-17)
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (II Corinthians 10:3-6)
Thus it is the only form of humility whereby we may find grace to help in time of need. And so Paul both lived his own life according the example of Jesus Christ and taught others to do the same.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:1-16)
In conclusion, the gift of weakness is a gift of necessity, for without it we cannot be brought into the humility of Christ. If we humble ourselves according to His gift of weakness, our Lord promises to give us strength to live in honor before Him, a strength without which we will remain weak and destitute of His righteousness. For as Jesus has said, without Him we can do nothing.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended, is the same also who ascended up into heaven, to glorify him who reigneth over all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10)
Questions for pondering and discussion:
1) What would Jesus say about a person who removes or attempts to remove weakness from their own life or from the life of another person if the Lord Himself had elected (according to His wisdom and plan) not to remove it (as in the case of Paul)?
2) How important is it to ask the Lord what His views are with respect to the weakness we may find in our own lives or the lives of others, especially in the lives of those to whom we seek to bring ministry?
(Consider in light of Matthew 7:30-33 with II Corinthians 12:6-10)