How To Be Weak To Become Strong?
Reading Tom Camacho’s Mining for Gold was refreshing, encouraging and challenging all at once. Refreshing because it locates leadership within each of our strengths (ironically, this means relying on our weaknesses); encouraging because Camacho reminds us that our identity is in Christ; and challenging because it requires full reliance on the Holy Spirit for results, nothing less will do.
I appreciate this book very much because it affirms a lot of what I’ve thought was essential to leadership. In that sense, it’s gratifying to know that my ideas about it aren’t that far fetched. As much as I enjoyed the reading, the questions it generated were thrilling at the same time. A couple of those questions are what I’m interested in covering here and hope to gain some answers from my readers. If not, then perhaps careful reflecting on these might bring some benefit.
The first question is related to the apostle Paul’s admonition to rely on our weaknesses.1 Because in our weaknesses we are strong. This is not some nice religious platitude that we simply tell one another for comfort. Yes, it’s that, but it’s more than that. It’s real power. It’s the dunamis from the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8 where we get the English equivalent of dynamite. This is the same power that enabled the Apostles to perform miracles to help the church. This is the power behind the “greater works”2 Jesus promised his followers would posses.
Camacho said “God is offering us that same power today. He loves to give us His power in place of our weakness. He loves pouring out His strength through weak people so that He gets the glory.”3 So the question is: “How exactly is this power manifest in our weaknesses?” It just seems counter-intuitive to expect anything of value coming from weaknesses. Here are some conversations that run through my mind. “You want me to preach? Me? Wait, I told you already that I don’t have the gift of speaking, and you want me to speak at your church in a couple of months?”
Alistair Begg has taught on this topic and challenges his audience by repeatedly asking this provocative question throughout his talk: “Have you ever considered the possibility that your limitations and your handicaps may prove to be the key to your usefulness in the service of Christ?”4 While it’s unsettling, I’m convinced this is the secret to effective leading. Begg is asking the right question. But how do we operate from our weaknesses? That’s like saying “I’m going 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and clinch the heavy weight title, oh, but I can do it 3 rounds.” Picturing that makes me chuckle. Of course that’s crazy—on the human level that is. But we’ve read and heard sermons on this, i.e., David and Goliath, Gideon and his 300 against 135K, etc.
I’m not sure how I can apply this “weakness to strength” principle in my current leadership role, but I can take a stab at it. Perhaps it’s during the times when I admit to my staff that I can’t perform this task without their help. Maybe it’s rejecting the temptation to be wracked with anxiety over a project I have no control over, after giving my best effort, knowing perfection is unobtainable. Or maybe it’s in being more vulnerable in my speech, not afraid to share personal pain and struggle with colleagues. Again, I’m not sure, but perhaps those are good starting points.
Another big question I have is: “Should leaders expect to be led by the kind of leaders that employ these “weakness to strength” principles?” We may be laboring under a boss who does not care about good leadership, routinely makes unwise decisions and demonstrates no care for the wellbeing of direct reports. What then? Perhaps we can imagine this happening in a secular work place but think nothing of it because we expect that. But in a Christian work environment we expect our leaders to be more Christ-like, don’t we. And if they are not, then we are sorely disappointed and disillusioned. What do we do then? I don’t think this is part of the “warning lights”5 Camacho alerts us toward the end of his book, but perhaps there should be a section addressing these kinds of issues. It’s one thing to observe yourself struggle through your own immature leadership skills, and quite another when you are being led by one with the same challenges. I don’t have an answer to this one.
I feel the reading has been affirming and at the same time left me with some questions. But in the end, in the midst of these questions and doubt, we must hear the words of our Lord afresh: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
1 2 Cor. 12: 10.
2 John 14:12
3 Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders Through Coaching (IVP, 2019), 80.
4 The Power of Weakness – Truth For Life,” Archive – Truth For Life, , accessed June 20, 2019, https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/power-weakness/.
5 Camacho, 119.
9 responses to “How To Be Weak To Become Strong?”
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Great Mike Tyson reference Harry . . . one of the most unique and transformative athletes of a generation!
Thanks Jacob. When I think of David’s courage against Goliath when he said: And David said to the men who stood by him, “…who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
David couldn’t tolerate that and he decided to do something about it. I think of our culture today and the constant mocking that takes place against Christianity and wonder why not enough of us stand up against this? Perhaps we feel week or unqualified? Not trained? No experience?
Those seemingly poor qualities in someone who’s willing to serve seem like the perfect candidate to make a difference. But who will go?
Harry…this is excellent processing. Wow. I am grateful to hear your practicalities of applying this to your current role. What a gift to be on the journey with you. Cheering you on!
Our culture emphasizes strengths to such a degree that it makes it difficult to know how to appropriately handle our inevitable weaknesses.
Thanks Andrea. I read or heard somewhere that God won’t place us in tough leadership situations that we ourselves have not gone through. That’s how I look at difficult leadership situations now. They’re training for future situations when I might have to deal it.
Whereas in the past I’d apply all my knowledge and experience to leadership challenges, now I try to rely on my weaknesses. It’s still hard to say that because it sounds like an empty platitude; or like a cop out, or like settling for mediocrity. And perhaps that’s what’s amazing about this. Basically, I do my best, keep learning from mistakes and just let God handle the rest. This helps minimize anxiety and is super freeing.
Harry, you remind me of such an important Christian principle of finding strength in our weakness. It’s not easy in a world that celebrates the human strength and despises human weaknesses. This is the key to being a great leader in God’s kingdom, it was the same message that Jesus told his disciples that whoever wants to be greater has to be the servant. I pray that this truth will become more clearer to us as leaders.
As ususal you ask great questions and process your thoughts and wonderings in a thoughtful, honest, open manner. A thought that occurs to me is we often think of our life in the snapshot of this moment rather than the video of our whole experience. The strength out of weakness construct seems to speak to God’s redemptive powerful use of what we (perhaps personally and culturally) think is (a) weakness in ourselves. Who knows what God will do and how he will use each of us? While we all pursue improving our skills and craft, there are those times and seasons when God undeniably does so much more (like for our friend Gideon), that we know, and all we tell will know, that it was not us but God. Sometimes coaching helps us to look back over our life and realize this. Hope this helps and see you in London!
Harry, I always imagine God’s priority is his glory. And so if something amazing happens (always do) because God chose to use us to complete a task we’re incapable of accomplishing in our humanness, then it quickly becomes evident that God was in it all along.
I imagine just being happy and content that he allowed me to witness such things.
I have always loved this verse Harry! My understanding of the blessing of weaknesses is that these are the places where we best depend on God. When I am able to do things out of my own strength/giftedness, I often do. But in areas where I am less gifted I am better at being dependent. I think the another key is that we need to be called to serve in those places. I once had a leader assign me to a particular area of the camp because I had said it was an area of weakness and she thought it would be ‘funny’. I was exhausted from a tough week earlier and just cried. She relented and switched me. I think we should hope to be led by people who are trying to get the gold out of us. So sometimes that will mean inviting us into spaces of weakness so we are exercising that dependence, and sometimes that will look like learning to be dependent in the midst of operating in our strengths and giftedness. As followers, I think we should accept our responsibility to pray for our leaders, and work to draw out the gold in them. There is certainly a point, (hopefully a prayerfully discerned) where leaders must be confronted and occasionally even removed. I think there is a difference between surrendered weakness that God is using, and incompetence or abuse. I actually wonder if we were more open to welcoming surrendered weakness if we might actually be able to decrease the incidents of incompetence and abuse. Thanks for your thoughts!
Thanks Jenn for sharing your story. I’d be interested to know if you ever heard amazing results from that experience that might have surprised you.