"Out of weakness were made strong." ~ Hebrews 11:34
A Sermon Delivered by
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle
on Lord's-Day, June 21st, 1891
Those who out of weakness were made strong are written among the heroes of faith, and are by no means the least of them. Believers "quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong."
Many of us may never have to brave the fiery stake, nor to bow our necks upon the block, to die as Paul did; but if we have grace enough to be out of weakness made strong, we shall not be left out of the roll of the nobles of faith, and God's name shall not fail to be glorified in our persons.
Brethren, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we are called to two things, namely, to do, and to suffer for his name's sake. Certain saints are summoned to active marching duty, and others are ordered to keep watch on the walls. There are warriors on the field of conflict, and sentries in the box of patience.
Both in doing and in suffering, if we are earnest and observant, we soon discover our own weakness. "Weakness" is all we possess. "Weakness" meets us everywhere. If we have to work for the Lord, we are soon compelled to cry, "Who is sufficient for these things?" and if we are called to suffer for him, our weakness, in the case of most of us, is even greater: many who can labor without weariness cannot suffer without impatience.
Men are seldom equally skilled in the use of the two hands of doing and bearing. Patience is a grace which is rarer and harder to come at than activity and zeal. It is one of the choicest fruits of the Spirit, and is seldom found on newly-planted trees. The fact soon comes home to us that we are weak where we most of all desire to be strong.
Our longing is to be able both to do and to suffer for our Lord, and to do this we must have strength from above, and that strength can only come to us through faith. This glorious eleventh chapter of Hebrews describes the mighty men of faith, the men of renown. They accomplished all their feats by a power which was not in them by nature. They were not naturally strong either to do or to suffer. If they had been, they would not have required faith in God; but being men of like passions with ourselves, they needed to trust in the Lord, and they did so.
They were quite as weak as the weakest of us; but by their faith they laid hold on heavenly strength until they could do all things. There was nothing in the range of possibility, or, I might say, nothing within the lines of impossibility, which they could not have performed. They achieved everything that was necessary in the form of service, and they bore up gloriously under the most fearful pressure of suffering, simply and only by faith in God, who became their Helper.
You and I may be very weak at this time, but we can be made strong out of just such weakness. We need not wish to have any strength of our own, for by faith we can reach to any degree of power in the Lord. We can have all imaginable strength for the grandest achievements desirable, if we have faith in God.
Upon this simple but most practical matter I am going to speak to you at this time. We all wish to be strong. We are all in heavenly things so weak, that the idea of being made strong should be very attractive to us. Let us learn, then, how others "out of weakness were made strong," and let us follow on to enjoy their privilege by copying their conduct.
Faith makes men strong for holy doing; and, faith makes men strong for patient suffering.
The first duty of a Christian is to obey God. Obedience is hard work to proud flesh and blood; indeed, these ingrained rebels will never obey through our own efforts. By nature we love our own will and way; and it goes against the grain for us to bring ourselves into such complete subjection as the law of the Lord requires.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Who among us has done this? Who among us can do this, unless a power outside of himself shall come to his aid?
Faith alone takes hold of the divine strength; and only by that strength can we obey. Hence faith is the essential point of holiness. Ah, my dear friend! if you start on the voyage of life, by divine grace, with the resolve that you will follow the track; marked down on the chart by the Lord your God, you will find that you have chosen a course to which the Lord's hand alone can keep you true. The current does not run that way. Before long you will find that the wind is dead against you, and the course to be followed is hard to keep.
What will you do then if you have not faith? When duty is contrary to your temperament, what will you do without faith? When it involves loss of money, or ease, or honor, what will you do then if you have no faith?
If you believe that God is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him, you will persevere; but not else.
Suppose the right course should expose you to ridicule, cause you to be spoken of as a fanatic, or mocked at as a hypocrite, or despised as a fool, what can you do without faith?
If you trust the living God, you will do the right, and bear the loss or the shame; but if your faith fail you, self-love will create such respect for your own good name, such fear of ridicule, such unwillingness to be singular, that you will slide from your integrity, and choose a smooth and pleasing road.
Though you may think it a very ordinary thing to obey God in all things, you will find that a man had need to set his face like a flint in order to keep the right road; and the only way in which he will be able to hold on his way will be by having faith in God.
We are not saved by obedience, for obedience is the result of salvation.
We are saved by faith, because faith leads us to obey.
Faith is the great force which is needed by those whose principal work is to overcome sin. When God began with many of us, he found us very low down beneath the flood of evil. It may be that an awful temper broke over us in surging waves. We have to rise superior to it.
Possibly he found us plunged in the great deeps of an evil habit. Was it drunkenness? Was it gambling? What was it? it had to be left beneath; we were called to rise out of it. Some are permitted to sink a long way down in sin; and when God begins with them, they have a desperate ascent even to reach common morality; what must the conflict be before they attain to spirituality and holiness? It is hard for those to rise to the surface who have been plunged in the deeps.
If a man has been sunk down in black waters full of filth, a thousand fathoms deep, and if he has been long imprisoned in dark caves where no light has come, what a wondrous power would that be which should raise him to the sunlight! the Spirit of God comes to many when they are in much the same condition; and what a work it is to bring up from the horrible midnight, and to give strength to rise out of the inky waters!
It may be that certain of you are called to suffer in your minds, not because of any wrong thing in yourselves, but for the sake of others. Some years ago, I preached a sermon to you from the text, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and in a mournful degree I felt what I preached, as my own cry. I felt an agony of spirit, for I was under an awful sense of being forsaken of God, and yet I could not understand why I was surrounded by such thick darkness. I wished to clear myself if any sin remained upon me, but I could not discover any evil which I was tolerating. When I went back into the vestry, I learned the secret of my personal distress, for there was an elderly man in a horror of great darkness, who said to me, "I have never before met with any person who has been where I am. I trust there is hope for me."
I bade him sit down, and I talked with him. I saw him afterwards, and I hope I conducted him from the verge of insanity into the open, healthy place of peace through believing. I fear I should never have touched his case if I had not been in the miry clay myself. Then I understood why I must feel like one forsaken. The Lord was leading me where I should be taught to know my man, and should be made willing to sit side by side with him in the dark prison-house, and lend him a hand to escape.
Since then, in presenting myself to my Lord for service, I have said to Him, "Make me useful to the doubting and the feeble-minded. I do not bargain for comfort, and peace, and joy, if I can be more helpful to thy poor, weary children without them. Place me where I can best answer thy purpose by being made to sympathize with thy troubled people. I only want to bring them to heaven, to the praise of the glory of thy grace; and as for me, let me rejoice or suffer, as best suits their case."
Many are called to suffer much in daily life. Ah me! what a world of misery there is in this great city, among even good and gracious people! The poverty and the suffering of even godly people would be a subject too harrowing for those of you who have specially tender hearts. Few, if any, are without sorrow, and many saints have a double portion of grief in their pilgrimage. Sitting here with your brethren in Christ, you look very cheerful; but I may be addressing those whose life is one protracted struggle for existence. Assuredly, you will not hold out without true faith, and much of it.
You must endure, "as seeing him who is invisible." You must joy in God, or you will not joy at all. Earthly comforts are not yours; but if you grasp the spiritual and the eternal you will not repine. If in this life only you had hope, you would be of all men most miserable; but having that hope, you are among men most happy.
He that believeth hath everlasting life, and the joys which come of it. Trust thou in thy God, in his love to thee, in his care of thee, and then thou shalt be as the lilies, which toil not, and spin not, and yet are clothed, or as the ravens, which have no store, and yet are fed.
Behold thou, by faith, the heaven prepared for thee, and know of a certainty that thou wilt soon be there among the angels; and thou wilt defy cold, and hunger, and nakedness, and shame, and everything else.
"Thy faith out of weakness shall make thee strong."
"then thou shalt be as the lilies, which toil not, and spin not, and yet are clothed..."