“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
by John David Hicks
Being poor in spirit means you acknowledge your spiritual powerlessness, that you need God’s strength. To be emptied of your self-sufficiency, you must become “poor” or “bankrupt” inwardly. You lack the spiritual resources to accomplish anything of value in ministry apart from Christ. Thus, you depend on the Lord’s mercy and grace. The promise is that those who humbly depend on God will inherit the blessing of the kingdom. Therefore, you will find in your surrender, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength…. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:13,19). That is why you are blessed when you are weak.
Our human tendency is to try to do everything in our own strength. We rely on our own resources to be successful. Our endless desire is to manage our lives on our own. This attitude undermines God’s grace and empowering strength. The Scripture says, “He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:5-6 nkjv). Only those who have renounced their self-sufficiency and have come to the end of themselves can receive God’s grace.
To live a victorious life in Christ you must come to the end of your human resources and abandon yourself to the Father’s will and ways. “Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:36-37 nasb).
The sanctified, Spirit-filled life is both a crisis of surrender and a never-ending process of surrender.
Sanctification is putting your willingness into Christ’s hands. The practical outworking of that willingness in your daily life is something that you will be doing the rest of your life. This is the unknown bundle of consecration. You can only surrender to God that part of yourself of which you are aware and acknowledge. There is a willingness to surrender now, but also a willingness to surrender anything else that comes up in the future.
You can’t surrender the things you don’t know about until you face those issues in a specific situation. In your surrender there can be a struggle between your emotions and your will. God said to Israel, “All of Canaan is yours.” But then he added, “But you must possess it. It is yours…provided you put the soles of your feet upon it, take your shoes off, recognize my presence and trust me.”
You are to say, “Oh Lord, I will always choose your will. I surrender my right to make my choices on the basis of what I want or what I would like; and I commit myself to find your will and to do it. I am totally dependent on you. I say with Jesus, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’”
After the crisis of surrender, the outworking of this in your daily life becomes the ongoing process of actually surrendering things as they come up. Before this, you haven’t surrendered anything specific. You said, “Lord, my will is yours.” But now you say, “God, I choose your will now in this situation and I trust you.”
In the New Testament when God uses someone in a great way, that person becomes humble and weak, so he will depend on the Lord and live by faith.
The idols of wood, hay, and straw must be burned away so that the costly stones of the grace of God, of gold and silver can be revealed in us (1 Cor. 3:12-15). For “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). God uses small vessels, plain vessels, and even broken vessels. But he will not use a self-righteous vessel that is contaminated with pride. This is why “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).
For your sake, you must die to your sinful selfish self (Gal. 2:20-21). Paul gives us his testimony, “I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory…in Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Cor. 15:31). Then Paul reveals the mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory…. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:27, 29). This is utter dependency on God’s grace and power. When you are weakest, God is strongest. He is all you need. As you trust the Lord, he gives you direction and will fight your battles. You must learn with David that the “battle is the Lord’s” when you face your Goliaths (1 Sam. 17:47). Jesus made it plain: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Look how God was able to use Paul in a mighty way.
In 1 and 2 Corinthians Paul gives 25 references about how divine power comes out of human weakness. So, God gave him a thorn in the flesh. Having prayed three times for God to remove this “thorn,” Paul hears the Holy Spirit say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul had many strengths. He was well-educated, brilliant, clever, and well-privileged socially. Paul was successful in starting churches, mentoring disciples, and proclaiming the gospel. The problem was that Paul had impressive spiritual experiences and great revelations that could make any person proud and arrogant. While these strengths are an asset in the defense of the gospel, they can be an obstacle to dependence upon God. Paul could easily have been tempted with pride. So, the Father allowed Paul to experience times of weakness so he could come to the end of himself. These times were painful for Paul, but they were also the path to greater power and victory. Embracing death to his self-confidence and self-reliance, he “died daily.” The Holy Spirit then said to Paul, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.”
God used the things that made Paul weak to show Paul His power in Paul’s life. His weakness was the key to God’s strength in his life. Paul then testified, “Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So, for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength)” (2 Cor. 12:9-10 amp). Again, Paul writes, “For to be sure, [Jesus] was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you” (2 Cor. 13:4).
Will you let God crucify your self-assertiveness, natural intellect, and self-sufficiency? Will you die to your performance, the law, so that the Holy Spirit’s resources can flow through you? This is why God has chosen the foolish, weak things of the world to show up the mighty and those who think they have their act together; “so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 29). “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
This is how you die daily. It’s a lifelong process of crucifixion, not just a one-time event.
A well-known pastor said of Billy Graham, “I am a better preacher than Graham, more educated and have more talents and abilities. Why would God choose Him?”
Billy Graham was a humble man, a Christianity Today obituary said, who spent his long life drawing attention to God, not himself. He learned it’s “not by might nor by power,” but by God’s Spirit (Zech. 4:6).
Most Christians would not have chosen the men Jesus chose as His apostles. When the religious leaders of that day saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, “they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Have you been with Jesus? Those who recognize their weakness learn to depend on God for strength.
Just acknowledging your weakness does not in itself make you effective in God’s service. But the realization of your weakness and God’s strength is a powerful combination that produces faith and trust in God.
Paul learned that and said so in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficiently qualified in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency and qualifications come from God. He has qualified us [making us sufficient] as ministers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not of the letter [of a written code] but of the Spirit” (amp).
Corrie ten Boom said it well. “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit [and His gifts], then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”
Your weakness and inability will cultivate a reliance on the Holy Spirit which will prevent self-sufficiency. Weakness is seen as the absence of power. But Paul found that in Christ presence is the power. “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).