Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

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Feeble Attempts

1 Jan 2011, Norman Tew

(Norman is a member of Thornleigh church)

Title - Feeble Attempts

On the Thornleigh church web site, in the Online Magazine section, for Issue 37 - that was October - November 2010, you will find this article.  "Love Is ... - A biblical view of what love is" by Erica Green.

It was written by Erica Green (which is not the real name of the member of our congregation).  While she was preparing it she sent me an email.  It contained this statement "God accepts our feeble attempts to do the best that we can and He will use them for His good".  Do you agree with this statement?  I did.

But the email actually said - "Norm can you think of a text reference which helps explain the concept that despite our severe imperfections that God accepts our feeble attempts to do the best that we can and He will use them for His good".  That was a little more difficult.  I replied with four texts

She had also email our then church Pastor, Sue Redman, and she replied with two other texts.

This seemed to me a good launching pad for a sermon, so I saved copies of these emails.  I also noted two more texts later, here are some of them, not necessarily in the order of the email - so you will not know who thought of which.

Here is Paul's idea of our feeble attempts; (2 Cor 4:7-10 NRSV)  But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. {8} We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; {9} persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; {10} always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

But he also says that God expects something of us - (Eph 2:8-10 NRSV)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- {9} not the result of works, so that no one may boast. {10} For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

This idea is strengthened in one of the texts we were studying in our Sabbath School at the time the article was written, in the Book of Romans.  (Rom 3:23-24 NRSV)  since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; {24} they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Another text that compares our weakness with the power of God - (2 Cor 13:3b - 4 NRSV) He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. {4} For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

A chapter earlier Paul expressed the same idea.  (2 Cor 12:9-10 NRSV)  but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. {10} Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

And Paul elsewhere has another statement that fits this idea - (Phil 1:6 NRSV)  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

And of course the best text about God using our feeble attempts for his good is the familier one from Romans again - (Rom 8:28 NRSV) We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

But there is another text that leads us on to many Biblical illustrations of this statement - (Heb 11:32-34 NRSV) And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- {33} who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, {34} quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

Let us first think about six people mentioned here.

Gideon - a man who first is listed in the Bible as threshing his crops in a hidden place for fear of the Philistines.  As God reveals his plan to Gideon he keeps asking for proofs that it is from God, but even when God cuts his army down to a fraction of its original size, Gideon obeys and the Lord works a mighty deliverance through him.

Barak lived in the time of the judges.  When God sent him a message through the prophet Deborah he was very reluctant to act.  In the end he said he would only if she would go with him (and that was a day when women counted for little!).  Again God gave the victory through his efforts.

Samson - sometimes called "a weak strong man".  He had a weakness for heather women!  Many times they brought him trouble but he persisted.  From time to time he used his God-given strength to defeat the heathen who were persecuting God's people.  But he allowed his weakness to lead him into captivity.  But he died repentant and victorious.

Jeptha was another who lived in the times of the judges.  He made a rash vow which led to suffering on the part of his daughter.  His story is very ambiguous and we know little about him, but the writer of the letter to the Hebrews considered him a man "who through faith . . . won strength out of weakness".

David - We think of David as a man after the Lord's heart, but he was a very complex character.  At times bold for the Lord, meek and patient.  But through his many maritial link ups he had a complex family who he failed to guide or control in right ways.  His story was often one of tragedy, but when he let the Lord lead he was a might example to his people.

Samuel. We think of Samuel as a perfect prophet, and he did many mighty things for God, from the time when he was delivered into the care of Eli as a very young child.  But he failed to guide his children aright, and he was only successful as he relied on God.

We could find many other examples in  the Bible (Both Old and New Testaments) of people who in so many ways were feeble, but in the strenfth of God did might works.

Jacob - the grasper.  He was ready to cheat his elder brother out of his birthright.  He was willing to go along with his mother's tricks for the same purpose.  Later he received many doses of his own medicine from his uncle, but he became an overcomer with God and stood in his strength though with a crippled thigh.

Joseph was far from diplomatic as a youth, but was  faithful to God amid trials.  Wherever he was placed as a result it was said that the Lord was with him.  Eventually he was thrust into the lime-light and became an efficient administrator who saved Egypt and surrounding nations during an extended time of trouble.  Then he freely forgave those who persecuted him as a youth.

Jonah, the unwilling prophet. He tried to run away from God but still witnessed to the sailors of his God and performed a mighty task of conversion of the heather for God even though still unhappy with God for his mercy.

Esther   In a foreign land because her ancestors refused to return to Jerusalem, she was willing to hide her faith in the palace at her uncle's command, but was ready to say - you pray for me and I will do it - If I perish, I perish.  Then she was skilful in presenting her request at the third of three banquets to the salvation of God's people.

Andrew & the boy with a small lunch.  This was a feeble attempts if ever there were any but Jesus fed a multitude

Peter  Impetuous - quick talker - boastful - carried a sword but when he hits out wildly he misses and just takes of his enemy's ear.  He was then scared of a servant girl and others and denied His Lord.   A few weeks later though we find him rejoicing in persecution and boldly accusing the crowd of killing the Messiah.  He becomes the first to win gentile converts and bodly defended that action to the other believers.

What feeble offerings can we offer to God?

He can still use them for His good purposes.

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