During our evening service yesterday, Tom Ascol shared with the Grace family his reflections over the past 20+ years, addressing the strengths, weaknesses, and prospects for the future. What struck me in particular was the sincerity and humility of heart exhibited in addressing the weaknesses where Tom confessed his fingerprints over the areas where the church needed to be strengthened (he did not mention, however, the fact of his fingerprints over the areas where the church is strong–which are many). It is tempting to give a superficial examination of the areas where you are weak and consequently give an equally superficial expression of repentance by simply admitting their existence and not following through with genuine change.
Working with Tom as a fellow pastor has been an education like none other, including the fact that he is the first pastor I have known to address areas where we are we and call us to repentance–himself leading the way. Sadly in many cases (in my past experience) the finger is pointed at other people in accusation and self-righteousness, and yet the gospel requires that we point the finger at ourselves and expose the areas where we need to repent, mature, and reflect the character of Christ more faithfully.
The prospects of the future are tied both to how we humbly and gratefully handle our strengths and how honestly and repentantly addresses our weaknesses. A failure to own our weaknesses is a failure to recognize our need for God’s grace in our lives on a continual basis. It is in weakness that both God’s power is made perfect and His grace is found to be sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). The strength of the church is not found in focusing on its strengths but by focusing on its weaknesses so as to experiencing God’s grace and power. We are to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1) because it is “by the grace of God that we are what we are” (1 Cor. 15:10).
I have been challenged afresh to examine myself not with a cosmetic approach but one of a heart surgeon. Our Lord is merciful to hear the cries of the humble and contrite of heart and display His mighty strength in weakness. May we own them in gospel humility that God might own our efforts to bring Him great glory.