KEYWORDS: weaknesses, lord, people, others, problems, anything

Admitting Your Weaknesses & Showing His Strength

Karen Zerby

7/88—A Talk by Maria to Paul Papers DO 2553 Maria #102

1. A soldier or officer on the battlefield who has been wounded but doesn't show it manifests real strength when he grits his teeth & holds back the tears & fights on & nobody even knows he's been wounded. Because he is leading the troops, he feels that he's got to continue to courageously lead them on to victory & not portray signs of weakness‚ that he's got to portray strength. Well, there are times when an attitude like that is certainly commendable.

2. But on the other hand, if you're the officer the others are following, & you confess & let them know that you're wounded & bleeding, maybe even dying, but despite it all you're still fighting with your last ounce of strength, don't you suppose that a sample like that would encourage them to keep fighting all the harder?—Particularly those who are also wounded & bleeding. They know that you know what it's like, & if they see that you are bleeding & sacrificing & even dying, but still fighting on to victory, they're encouraged to do the same.

3. Maybe that's not the clearest illustration, but it helps you to get the point. If you put the doorknob too high by projecting too lofty an image, others can get discouraged & feel like they'll never make it. Whereas if they can relate to you & see that in spite of all your apparent weaknesses & faults & defeats, you're still going forward, that gives them hope. When they can see how human & how weak you are, that's usually very encouraging to them. To see that others—especially their leaders, people they admire & look up to—are weak too, greatly encourages people to keep fighting & going for the Lord, despite their own weaknesses & personal battles.

4. A lot of people tend to get very discouraged with themselves sometimes, feeling down & defeated in every respect. They're tempted to feel like, "Oh, I can't do this & I can't do that & I haven't made much progress & I have all these problems...what's the use?" But when you come along & say, "I have the same weaknesses or others that are just as bad or even worse, yet I'm still fighting & keeping on for the Lord," it really does so much more to encourage them than an always "strong" example that they're going to look at & say, "Boy, I could never be like that! I'm glad we've got a strong leader leading us, but I'll never be able to be like him, he's too good for me!"

5. When you always look so strong & so good & never admit any weaknesses‚ others have a hard time seeing beyond you.—"Oh, I could never be nearly as saintly or strong as he is! He's going to make it, & maybe he'll even somehow help us to make it too." But if you show them that you have weaknesses too‚ it puts you in a class with them, & then you're able to direct them more to the Lord, the only One Who is really strong & Who is going to help them to make it!

6. In other words, they'll know that in spite of your weaknesses‚ you have a strong link with the Lord, & then they can see & relate to what they need to do too—look to the Lord! They can then feel‚ "Together we're going to look to the Lord & He's going to lead us!"—Instead of, "He's such a strong leader‚ maybe he'll be able to pull us through." If they think you're so strong they will end up looking more to you than the Lord!

7. When Peter honestly shared his battles & weaknesses with everyone at the Heavenly City School‚ it helped them to look to the Lord & not just to him. They probably figured, "Oh my!—He's in the same boat with us! We'd better all really look to the Lord, not to him!" His being so honest & open with them about his personal weaknesses & battles didn't lessen his authority in their eyes, they still listened with respect. Then when his counsel inspired them or proved to be right on, they knew that what he was getting & giving them was from the Lord, they knew it wasn't merely him. They knew that anything inspiring he shared with them must have come from the Lord, because it couldn't possibly have come merely from him—as weak & incapable as he told them he was!

8. When you are weak & you admit it, then it's much easier for people to see the Lord working through you. If, instead of putting on a false show of supposed strength, you take that off & let others see that you have weaknesses too, then they're automatically going to look more to the Lord & it's going to be much easier for them to clearly see that whatever good you accomplish is just the Lord.

9. Maybe we will lower our standing in some people's eyes by being so open with them about our weaknesses, but who's to say that's not good? We need to get rid of all the false glory & "respect of persons" & man-pleasing they may be giving us! We need to be the real thing, the way we're supposed to be in others' eyes, without all the extra embellishments & pretences!

10. And if‚ as a result, they won't think anything of us, it'll then all be up to the Lord to inspire their respect. It's really His reputation that's at stake, & it will be up to Him to punch through & show them that He is with us & is working in us.—Despite our admitted weaknesses & frailties. He's the One Who can then put His stamp of approval‚ so to speak, on our leadership.

11. I've often wondered what I would do if I had to go around visiting Homes! If I'd been in Peter's position when he visited the School, I think I would have done the same thing he did. I would have told everyone, "Look, I don't know anything!—I'm really weak. And I don't know what you thought of me before, but whatever it was, I don't really know anything! We'll all just have to seek the Lord together & counsel together & desperately ask the Lord to help us & give us the answers, because I honestly don't know what to do!"—I really wouldn't!

12. In fact, I'd know a lot less than you & Peter know because I've never had to be involved with the organisation & functioning of a Home: Making schedules, setting up kitchens, running schools, etc. I can give you a lot of good basic spiritual principles to go by, but when it comes to the practical nitty-gritty of actually getting things rolling, I have to call on others because I've never had any experience along those lines. So I'd be in a much worse fix than you because at least you know something about the practical matters & day-to-day business things! If I had to go out on the field in visitation I wouldn't know what to do!

13. I'd have to say, "Well, who knows how to do this particular job? Whoever knows what to do, let's pray & counsel together, then you can do it! I'll just pray for you that you'll do it right!" I think that's what I'd have to do because I wouldn't know what else to do. Anything I'd be able to accomplish would certainly be a miracle of the Lord!

14. That's how I'd start out, "Look, you can all see how weak I am. I don't know what to do, so it's gotta be the Lord. Don't look to me for the answers, we've gotta get together & look to the Lord for the answers & see what He has to say! Whatever kind of visions you've had of me or whatever kind of image you've gotten into your heads about me, you may as well forget it, because it's probably different than the way I really am!" I'd probably tell them, "You're responsible too & you've got to help, & we all have to ask the Lord what to do!" I really wouldn't know what else to do.

15. Doing that might completely smash their image of me‚ but I'm sure the Lord would carry on & take care of His reputation. You know the Lord's not going to fail! So if I said, "Well, I don't know what to do, you'll have to look to the Lord," then they're going to look to Him, & when He gives the answers, they'll know it's Him! I'm sure you & Peter do that because you don't know the answers either.

16. You go into a situation & that's more or less what you say, but I think I would even have to do it to a much greater extent than you do because I don't know anything! I'd just have to see what we came up with when we asked the Lord for His help. So that's what I would probably say if I had to go there, & maybe that's what you've said also‚ & I'm pretty sure that's basically what Peter has said as well.


17. When we talk about how it's good to admit your weaknesses‚ we're not talking about being so weak in everything that you don't have any fight or conviction or willpower whatsoever & you just completely give in to whatever comes along! We have to have enough spiritual strength to really keep our minds & our hearts on the goal.

18. Although we may be weak in some respects, we do have to have a certain element of strength of character & conviction. We're not supposed to all be a bunch of weak characters who collapse or give in to anything at the drop of a hat! We've got to be strong enough to fight the Enemy & the World with the Lord's strength!

19. What I've been talking about here is how we shouldn't be afraid to expose or admit our human weaknesses & battles. When you consider what a huge‚ monumental job our leadership has, I don't know how they could not look weak compared to the load they have to carry! The job's so big & the responsibilities are so enormous‚ how can any of us even begin to look like we could accomplish it ourselves, how could we even begin to give such an impression?


20. I heard it said about a certain leader that it seemed like he hardly ever had any trials. He always seemed very confident about everything. Nothing was ever too much for him‚ he never showed any weakness, he never even apologised for anything. He never ever admitted any personal weakness or battles if he could possibly keep from doing so.

21. But his sample spoke louder than his words, so even though he never verbally confessed or admitted his weaknesses, his actions made many of his weaknesses evident for all his flock to see. Under his leadership‚ most of the people in his Home were discontented & unhappy. The Home was very disorganised & things rarely ever got done on time. People had no say in the decisions that were made, authority was not delegated or shared. So they knew their Shepherd had many weaknesses because they saw them in the results of his decisions & actions & in the many mistakes that were being made.

22. But he never admitted or confessed any weaknesses whatsoever or asked for help, & I think that must have been really confusing for the people there. Instead of honestly "confessing his faults" (Jam.5:16), he put on a big bold & confident front like he always had everything under control. Although our people are usually very charitable, they couldn't have helped but think he was being rather hypocritical.

23. Our people are so trained not to look negatively at their leadership, it must have been confusing for them to have a Shepherd who looked & sounded so strong, yet the results & fruit of many of his decisions & actions were so weak. It was obvious that he actually did have weaknesses & trials as proven by all the problems in the Home, yet he never admitted having any personal weaknesses or battles. In fact, he never publicly shed a tear, he never acted like anything was a trial for him or too much or too difficult. He acted like he always knew what to do. He could seemingly take on all kinds of jobs & he could push himself so hard—as well as push everybody else—and he never faltered or wavered or showed signs of stress or strain.

24. Outwardly he appeared so much stronger than anyone else was. But he obviously had many weaknesses which were manifested primarily in his fruits. The thing that confused people was that he would never admit his faults or allow anybody to see them. They were seen in his fruits, but in his personal life he wouldn't let anything tarnish his "strong" image.—How much better it would have been if he'd just humbled himself, confessed his weaknesses & mistakes, & shared more of the load with the capable co-workers & helpers who were there with him!


25. (Paul: When Peter gave his talk at the HC School in which he confessed his battles, he said people were just sort of shocked! I know that years ago when I first visited your House, Peter would tell me some of his battles, & he was the first leader I'd ever heard do that in my entire life! He represented such a high position, & I imagined he must surely be almost "perfect," yet there he was‚ having trials! It was almost hard for me to fully grasp it! But it was very encouraging to me, & I've often reflected back on that.) That's a good example of the good effect that honest confession has on others.

26. Look how helpful Dad's confessions in the Letters have been to all of us! He has been very honest & open about his weaknesses in Letter after Letter! He's confessed mistakes, admitted his trials, shared his fears, & has humbled himself to ask the entire Family to pray for him on numerous occasions! He's told us about his breakdown over the Jews, his battles with wine, discouragement, sleeplessness, not to mention the battles he's fought regarding his health! But once Dad confesses something & asks for prayer, he really fights & goes on the attack & wins victories every time!

27. We've also published FSM articles about Peter's jealousy & the battles he's fought along those lines. Maybe I haven't published enough about my weaknesses. Maybe I ought to write more about myself: My lack of organisation, my lack of faith sometimes for healing, my tendency to complain sometimes.

28. Peter reported that it really raised a few eyebrows when he exposed his weaknesses like that, but people finally got the point. They said to Peter, "We know that Dad has always exposed his weaknesses in the Letters, & has been the first one to admit that he's weak & doesn't know anything except what the Lord shows him, but it's a real help & blessing to have you come here in person & put that kind of honesty & confessing into practice." (Paul: I think the problem is that leadership tends to become such a "sanctified" position, people seem to build up their image of leadership too much.)

29. The Family has gotten in some horrible messes in the past when some of our leaders tried to look so strong & acted like they knew what they were doing when they didn't.—Or acted like they were hearing from the Lord when they weren't.

30. It created a horrible mess & some people were treated terribly.—Just because some of our leaders were so proud that they thought they had to do it all themselves & they thought they had to be so strong & perfect—when they couldn't be.—So they made an absolute terrible mess of things! They were too proud to ask others to help them & too proud to admit their weaknesses. That poor sample then spread down through the ranks. It's been very very sad & even disastrous because our people have thought a leader had to be so perfect & so strong.

31. We've since learned that in most places of responsibility, just one leader & his wife can't possibly do the job. They need help & the additional gifts & support that teamwork offers! And all those years that some of our leadership have tried to do it on their own & tried to be so strong & so perfect & so faultless, they've many times wound up making some terrible decisions that were very unChrist-like & ungodly, & the results have been horrible!

32. Apparently they thought they weren't supposed to ever show any sign of weakness & were supposed to just go it all alone & do whatever they could do on their own. So they wouldn't listen to others, & nobody could tell them anything. They didn't ask for help & they wouldn't even receive help if it was offered. They almost put themselves in a position of infallibility, like the Pope or something! They've tried being more perfect than even Dad & I ever professed to be!

33. (Paul: Promoting openness about weaknesses is not something that just catches on, like strength or wealth does! When the Chain leaders wore gold chains in the pre-RNR days in Italy, that sort of thing caught on, because everybody wanted to be cool! But nobody naturally wants to be weak.)


34. We all have our share of weaknesses & frailties—our besetting sins, "the weights & sins that do so easily beset us."—Heb.12:1. Some of them may be minor & some of them fairly major‚ but taken together they usually serve to help keep us quite weak in ourselves & dependent on Jesus for His help & strength.

35. We also occasionally have serious spiritual problems which become of sufficient magnitude to seriously hinder our relationship with the Lord or with others.—In which case‚ we need to actually be delivered from them‚ & thank the Lord‚ we can be delivered! Such serious spiritual problems & hindrances are often the result of our human weaknesses & temptations that we don't work on or "bring into subjection"—1Cor.9:27.

36. We can—and should—make progress & show some improvement even in the weak areas of our lives as we walk with the Lord & continue to grow spiritually. In fact‚ if we don't try to make progress & grow & continually strive to overcome such weaknesses, but we just resign ourselves to them & sort of give up in our struggle against them, we may find that they move from the category of being mere human frailties to the category of being serious spiritual problems!

37. For example‚ we may have a weakness or tendency towards jealousy‚ or we may be prone to discouragement. If we don't constantly fight it & constantly strive to keep on top of it, it may overwhelm & overcome us. If we just yield to our weaknesses, instead of them merely remaining our thorns in the flesh that help keep us close to the Lord, they can become very big problems that can suddenly dominate & claim control of our lives!—In which case we must take definite steps to actually be delivered from them!

38. However, what I've been mostly talking about here are human frailties, our constant besetting sins that are not of such great magnitude that they've become dominating spiritual problems that require fullscale laying-on of hands & deliverance. (Although it is certainly just as important—if not more important—to expose & confess such serious spiritual problems to others & ask for prayer against them, as it is to expose our day-to–day besetting weaknesses!)

39. Admitting our weaknesses primarily helps others & encourages them that they're not the only ones who have weaknesses & battles & besetting sins. Of course, it's also very good for us to confess them as well. But admitting serious spiritual problems & asking for prayer & deliverance from them primarily helps us, & is in fact a mandatory step we must take when necessary.

40. But sometimes it's easier to share testimonies of our past deliverances from major spiritual problems, than it is to talk about our present weaknesses. We usually don't feel so ashamed of serious problems of the past since they're no longer there if we've actually been delivered from them, so it's easier to talk about them. But if we only testify of past deliverances, it's not going to have the desired effect of helping others to realise that we're still weak & are as utterly dependent on the Lord now as we ever were!

41. When past deliverances are the only thing you testify about, people may tend to think, "Well, good for them.—They had problems, but they're all delivered & everything's fine & they're strong now!" Of course, the truth of the matter is that even when you have been delivered from a major spiritual problem, although it no longer controls you or has such a grip on you, it frequently remains a weak area in your life that you must continually be on guard against.—A weakness which usually takes time to overcome, as well as a lot of prayer, Word-feeding & "fighting the fight of faith!"—1Tim.6:12. So when you testify of past deliverances, don't forget to let people know that you still have weaknesses against which you battle.

42. Although testimonies of past deliverances can be helpful as you comfort others with the comfort wherewith ye were comforted, they are not enough in themselves. We also need to admit our constant & ever-present weaknesses & failings, our "thorns in the flesh" that we'll probably keep battling as long as we're alive in this World. These are the things that keep us & others around us always conscious of just how weak & incapable we are‚ & how much we need the Lord!

43. There are many little things which‚ when combined together‚ keep me very weak so that I know that anything that I say or do that is good is only Jesus! But see, others who are looking at the good may not know how much it's only Jesus unless I keep telling them & reminding them how incapable I am without the Lord!

44. I've got a lot of just plain human weaknesses—like pride, shyness, very little recall of past events, lack of clarity in speaking (You should see how many times my Letters get worked over before they are clear!), my disorganisation (Thank God for good secretaries!), my mental block against corresponding or writing notes & my need for more faith in certain areas, especially regarding my physical health.

45. All of these are just plain old human weaknesses, frailties & lacks.—"The weights & sins that do so easily beset us" (Heb.12:1)‚ against which we must daily battle.—They're what keep us in shape spiritually, fighting & relying on the Lord! We all have our share of'm‚ amen? So why should it be so shocking to the Family that their leadership is human?! PTL!