Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When You Feel Weak and Powerless

Leslie Basham: If you feel weak and powerless, then you're right where God can use you. Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When we've come to the end of our own resources, when we have no strength left, no ability left, no love left, no anything left to meet the demands and the needs that we are facing, then we realize that His power, His grace is sufficient, and it's displayed in our weakness.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

No matter how talented or skilled you think you are, something will come along and challenge your ability. Will you be tempted to give up? It's during times like these when we realize how dependent we are on God. Here's Nancy to explain, continuing in the series "Don't Lose Heart."

Nancy: I love ministry. I love serving the Lord, but I will also be the first to say that ministry has its share of challenges. It has hardships.

There are things about ministry that I find very difficult, and the things that I find difficult about ministry are not so different probably from the things that perhaps you find difficult about wherever you're serving the Lord—in your home, in your church, in your school, in your situation.

You say, "I'm not in vocational ministry." But you are a servant of the Lord. If you belong to Jesus, you are in the ministry. Maybe that's not what you get a paycheck for doing, but you are His servant.

To be a wife is to be a servant of the Lord. To be a mom, a grandma is to be a servant of the Lord. To be in the workplace is to be a servant of the Lord. That's why the Scripture says that we should work diligently as unto the Lord.

And so I think of some of the challenges that I face in the particular service the Lord has called me to. I often, for example, feel an enormous sense of inadequacy. I'm just not capable of doing what God has called me to do.

Do you ever feel that as a mother? Sure you do. Or I can compare myself to other women speakers, other women broadcasters, other Christian leaders, and think, "I just don't have what they have."

That sense of inadequacy is something that I have struggled with a lot in the ministry. There are times in my ministry as in yours, whatever your ministry is, of weariness—physical weariness, emotional weariness, spiritual weariness—when you are giving out and you just feel depleted, like you don't have anything left to give.

There is a struggle for all of us in our different types of ministry to know what our priorities should be and how to maintain the right priorities, how to keep our relationship with God fresh, how to keep your family in its proper priority, the tendency to take shortcuts in our relationship with the Lord. I face that all the time, that temptation.

There's the pressure to perform, the pressure to succeed, the pressure to have measurable results. For me it may be the kind of unspoken competition of how many stations your program is on, how many books you have sold, how many people come to your conferences. And I'd like to tell you that none of that matters to me. But the truth is, there's pressure to perform. There's pressure to succeed.

You say, "Well I'm glad I don't have that pressure." Well you have some pressures I don't. You have the pressure, for example, perhaps of your children being compared to someone else's children, and how old your child was before he learned to read, and what kind of college your child is getting into, and what kind of athletic skill and feats your child has been able to accomplish. There's that subtle spirit of competition, and we start to feel insecure. Competitive, comparing ourselves with one another.

The hardship of criticism and misunderstanding. Listen, if you're doing anything at all that's worth doing, you're going to experience criticism—people who won't understand why you're raising your children the way that you are, why you've made some of the choices that you have, and you feel it's the way the Lord led you, but others don't understand. There's that criticism, that misunderstanding that you have to endure.

There are people problems in every sort of ministry. Wouldn't you just love serving the Lord if it weren't for people? You just sometimes wish God would call you to the uninhabited regions of the world.

At times you find that the people you are working with, the people you're trying to serve, they just don't get it! They're not responsive to the truth. They aren't eager to receive all these pearls, these gems of wisdom that you're pouring down at the feet of your children.

So there are people issues and other practical issues—finances, health. If you're going to be serving the Lord, you're going to experience hardship.

The tendency as we've been saying is to lose heart, to give up, to quit, to throw in the towel. And there are times when we want to do that.

We've been looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 4 where the apostle Paul, who had to deal with enormous hardships throughout his Christian life, says, "We don't lose heart" (v. 1). 

As I've studied this passage, I've asked myself how did he keep from losing heart?

How did he persevere when he was going through all these stonings and beatings and robberies and being thrown out of town and just the physical and the spiritual challenges that he had to face constantly?

Because I figure if Paul could endure, whatever he learned that helped him endure, can help me endure, can help keep me and you from losing heart.

We've learned that we need to receive God's provision.  For whatever He has called us to do, there is a provision of grace and mercy to enable us to do that. Then we saw in the last session that we should renounce ungodly practices.

In verse 2 of 2 Corinthians 4 we learned that we should determine to be pure, to live holy lives regardless of what anyone else around us may or may not do.

Now we come to a third principle, and it's in verse 3. The principle is this—recognize the problem of spiritual blindness.

In verses 3 and 4 Paul says,

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world [and who is that—Satan himself] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Here is the bottom line. People's eyes are blinded. They cannot see. If they don't have Christ, they cannot see. They can't receive spiritual truth. They can't respond to spiritual truth unless God opens their eyes to see.

So you may have a mate who is not a believer. You may have a child who is not a believer. Somebody at work who is just really, really hard to deal with. If that person does not have the Spirit of Christ living in them, they are blind, and they cannot see. Satan has blinded their eyes. He has blinded their minds. They can't see.

So it doesn't do any good to shake them and say, "Don't you get it." No, they don't get it. If we will recognize the problem of spiritual blindness, it will help us to be long-suffering with others, realizing that if God had not opened our eyes, we could not see either.

And that's what we see in verse 6,

For God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The only reason we can see is because God gave us sight, because God opened our eyes.

So what do you do with those that you love who are making your life miserable—they don't get it, they don't see? You pray. You call out to the Lord. You wait for God to turn on the light. You can't make them see. That should take some pressure off of you. It's not your job to make them see. It's God's job to make them see. So pray against the enemy who is blinding their eyes. Pray that the blinders will be removed. Pray that God will grant spiritual sight.

And then principle number four—resolve to promote Christ.

Resolve to promote Christ, and Christ is supreme as we see it in this passage. There's another side of this principle, not only should we resolve to promote Christ but remember your position. Christ is supreme; you are a servant. Don't get the two mixed up.

Verse 5 of 2 Corinthians chapter 4,

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

This will help you to keep from losing heart wherever you are serving the Lord, if you will focus on Christ and not on self.

Shine the spotlight on Him. Point people to Him. Labor to advance His name, His interest, His cause, not your own. Remember that you're serving Him; you're serving others. He is the Lord, you are the servant. Lift Him up. Recognize His position as supreme, and then remember your position is that of a servant.

Verse 7 tells us that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." He is the treasure. He is the surpassing great treasure. We are just earthen vessels—jars of clay. The vessel is nothing. The master is everything. The treasure in the vessel is everything. Christ is everything.

If we're looking out for our own interests, for what pleases us, for what is convenient for us, we're invariably going to be hurt, disappointed, wounded. We're going to have a hard time persevering if we are trying to preserve our own lives.

But remember that we're dispensable. We're just earthen vessels, jars of clay, not anything really vital. What is vital is that Christ be lifted up. He is the treasure.

I have a letter that hangs over my desk that I received some time ago from Dr. Ray Ortlund, who was my pastor when I was in college. He wrote and said to me—and I have the letter in his handwriting on my desk—it said,

Keep urging us all to Jesus in your writing, editing, and speaking. And. . . rejoice as you do it. It's a great privilege from God.

I need that reminder over and over and over again.

Now you say, "I'm not writing, editing, and speaking." Well, you fill in the blank with what you are doing. Keep urging us all to Jesus in your cleaning of your home, in your cooking of meals, in your workplace, in your going to school, in your studies. Keep urging others to Jesus, and rejoice as you do it. If God has called you to do it, if you are serving Him, then it's a great privilege from God.

I think especially moms are tempted to lose sight of the fact that being a mom is a great privilege; that those children are a gift from the Lord. Most days the problem is, they don't feel like a great gift. They don't always act like a great gift. There are days when you are tempted to wonder, Do I really want to do this? Well, now you don't have any choice except about your attitude.

If you're promoting Christ and not yourself, then you will see that it is a privilege to serve the Lord and to serve others. So resolve to promote Christ, and remember your position as a servant of Christ.

And then here's the fifth principle—rely on His power in your weakness. Rely on His power in your weakness. Look at verse 7,

We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (vv. 7–9).

The thing that strikes me about that passage is the reminder that pressures and problems are inevitable. We live in a fallen world. We serve in a fallen world. So accept it, and don't be surprised when you experience hardship, when you experience pressures and problems.

But remember that those pressures and problems do not have to destroy you. They can press you closer to the heart of God.

You see, our weakness reveals His power. When we've come to the end of our own resources, when we have no strength left, no ability left, no love left, no heart left, no stamina left, no wisdom left, no anything left to meet the demands and the needs that we are facing in the workplace, in the home, in our ministry, in our churches, in our communities; when we come to the end of our own measly resources—then we realize that His power, His grace is sufficient, and it's displayed in our weakness. It's our very weakness that makes us candidates to receive His power.

I read not too long ago the biography of Ann Judson, who as I recall was the first woman missionary to go out from North America. She wrote back after she and her husband, Adoniram, had arrived at the place where they were going to be serving, and the circumstances were just dismal.

She wrote back to her parents and said,

We felt very gloomy and dejected the first night we arrived, in view of our prospects; but we were enabled to lean on God and to feel that He was able to support us under the most discouraging circumstances.1

I'll tell you, whatever is going on around you, if you are child of God, you can have the assurance that underneath are the everlasting arms. There is power. There is strength. No matter how weak you are, His strength is sufficient for you.

You've heard the story perhaps of Richard Wurmbrand, the Romanian pastor now with the Lord, but he spent fourteen years in a Communist prison in Romania. In his book called With God in Solitary Confinement, he says,

Even in the moments of utter doubt and utter despair, we were not left to ourselves entirely. The one who promised, "I am with you always" has proved to be faithful. So we were able to overcome.

Not through our own strength. Paul said, "We were weak. We were needy. We were struck down. We had hardships on every side." But as Pastor Wurmbrand said, "We were able to overcome," because we had a resource greater than our own strength at our disposal.

I want to point out another principle from this chapter, 2 Corinthians 4, that has been so helpful to me, and that is this—remember the purpose of hardship. Remember the purpose of hardship.

Look at verse 10, and you'll see this purpose throughout this passage. In verse 10 Paul says,

We are always carrying about in the body the death of Jesus, so that [That's a purpose statement. He's saying there is a reason for our having to endure these hardships] the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you (vv. 10–12).

What is God's purpose in hardship? God's purpose for letting us go through hardship in serving Him has to do with others being blessed and benefitted and helped as a result of the way that we endure. Paul says, "We're willing to endure, to embrace death, to suffer, to take hardship, so that you can see the life of Jesus being reflected in us."

Oswald Chambers says in My Utmost for His Highest a quote that I have just loved for years, and I keep coming back to it. He says, "Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is."

Our circumstances, your circumstances—that unbelieving mate, that impossible boss, that very stressed out situation at your church that you're having a hard time resolving, whatever that situation is—your circumstance is a means of manifesting to a watching world how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is.

It's a chance to demonstrate the responses of Jesus, the heart of Jesus. How would He act in this situation? What would He do in this situation? God is giving you a chance to show the world what Jesus is like.

I had a stressed out situation where I was having to make a decision about where to live. I found myself not having the time to deal with this and really frustrated about what I was going to do.

I was being pressed into a decision because the place where I was renting had been sold, and for a period of days there I found myself just reacting in ways that were natural—fretting, crying, frustrated. The people who were around me over those days knew how I was responding.

I distinctly remember the morning that in my quiet time the Lord just showed me how I had been reacting to this and reminded me how I had been giving to the world an image of what God is like in the way that I had been responding to my circumstances.

I confessed it to the Lord. I felt so sad and so sorry that I had not been showing the world how wonderful Jesus is and how He can be trusted and how you can depend on Him and lean on Him; that I had been giving a wrong impression of God to those who were watching.

I confessed it to the Lord. I thought the circumstance was past, but would you believe that very day the Lord brought another related circumstance into my life? My first reaction would have normally been to respond the way I had been responding for days, but the Lord had just been dealing with me. And you know, I was able to see it from a whole different perspective.

This time I was able to say, "God loves me so much that He is giving me a second chance to manifest how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is." That's the purpose, God's purpose of using hardship in our lives.

Verse 15 says we suffer for Jesus' sake. That's part of the purpose. Verse 15, "For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God." That's the ultimate purpose, the glory of God.

You think about the hardships in your life. Think about the circumstances you're facing that cause you to feel discouraged, that make you tempted to throw in the towel, remember it's not about you.

It's not about you surviving. It's not about your happiness. It's not about your ease of life. It's not about life working for you. We all wish it would. We get discouraged at times when it doesn't, but if we can step back and get this point of view, remember the purpose of hardship. It's all about God, His glory.

He's wanting to manifest His power, His greatness, His love, His compassion, His mercies, His ability to work in and through our circumstances. He's wanting to manifest Himself to our world.

So it's about God. It's about His glory. It's for the sake of others. You see the apostle Paul saw that hardship was a means of greater ministry to others. Not only was it true of Paul, it's true of you. It's true of me.

When we go through hardship, God is giving us an opportunity to be more fruitful in the lives of others than we could have been otherwise. Some of the greatest fruitfulness and usefulness in your life will be birthed out of the greatest suffering and hardship. We want the fruitfulness. We want the usefulness, but we don't want to go through the hardship to get there, do we?

So choose an easy life if you can. Now you can't, but you can spend your life and your efforts trying to make your life easy, or you can submit to the hand of God, to the circumstances He brings into your life.

You can embrace the cross. You can receive the hardship and the suffering; and you can say, "Lord, if I have to go through this, would You use this to be a blessing to someone else? Would You use it to bring glory to You? Would You use it to conform me into Your image so that others can look at how I deal with this and they can see "It's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).

Remember the purpose of hardship, and you won't lose heart.

Father, help us to accept Your purposes and to live for Your glory and to live to be a benefit and a blessing to others. If that means that in the process we have to endure hardship, and it will, then help us to embrace the hardship and help us in the midst of it all, seeing Your purposes, not to lose heart. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: God has a purpose for the events happening in your life. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is leading us through a series called "Don't Lose Heart." Nancy, I know a lot of women will be hearing this message while facing a variety of tough circumstances.

Nancy: We hear from those women all of the time. Just this week, we received a letter from a woman in a very tough marriage situation, and another who was asking for prayer for some serious medical issues. Another woman was asking prayer for a family member who is on drugs.

We have a whole team who prays for these kinds of requests. We do what we can to encourage these listeners, to make available helpful resources, and to point them to their local church for wisdom and counsel. But our primary goal is to get them into the Word of God.

One listener named Lori shares our passion for connecting women with God's truth. She's been affected herself by the truth that she's heard on Revive Our Hearts. She wants to make sure biblical truth gets passed along to women who need to hear it, so she gives generously to help support this ministry.

Lori: My initial giving is, of course, out of gratitude for what I have received. But then there is a desire to let others hear this. When it has so personally impacted you and made such a dramatic impact in your life, you want to then give. Perhaps for those who don't have the opportunity to listen, to give, or to support the ministry, I want to make sure it stays on the radio so that others can benefit from it as well and hopefully have an impact as it did on my life.

Nancy: Perhaps you share that burden. You want to make sure that Revive Our Hearts stays on the air, not just for you, but also for others who need this message. If that is your heart, would you consider joining us at a deeper level by becoming a Revive Our Hearts Ministry Partner?

When you do, we'll stay in touch with you through a monthly letter that I write to our partners. You'll also receive a devotional that we produce just for our partners. It's called Daily Reflections. When you sign up as a Ministry Partner, you'll also be able to choose one of my books for yourself, or to pass along to a friend.

Now, when you become a Ministry Partner, here's what we ask of you. First, pray for our ministry. Second, share the message of this ministry with others. And third, support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of $30 or more each month.

For more details on how you can become a part of this very special team, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com and click on "Donate—Monthly Ministry Partner," or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Leslie: To become a Ministry Partner, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Well, one word that has taken on a new meaning in the wired age is “refresh.” It's the button you click when you're at a website and the picture looks funny or something goes wrong. Sometimes our thinking goes wrong, too. We need to refresh. Discover more about this tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Sharon James. My Heart in His Hands (Evangelical Press, 1998), 70.

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