July 12, 2014

Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer - Book Review

Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength by J.I. Packer is a fairly short book. I finished it in just a few settings (sittings?). The book begins with Packer defining weakness and then pointing us in a right direction for thinking about this topic from a Scriptural perspective. The rest of the book deals with the following more specific topics: Christ and the Christian's Calling, Christ and the Christian's Giving, and then Christ and the Christian's Hoping.

I absolutely enjoyed this book. I could tell that J. I. Packer was writing from his years of experience in life and in his Biblical studies. He is a thinking person. When I think of weakness in scripture, I don't automatically go to a Christian's Giving. I might head toward the topic of Calling or Hoping, but not Giving. As he explains it though, it absolutely makes sense. Listening to a thinking person, or reading a thinking author always gets me thinking.

To give you a taste of this, consider what Packer states near the beginning of the book:
For what is weakness? The idea from first to last is inadequacy. We talk about physical weakness, meaning that there is a lack of vigor and energy and perhaps bodily health so that one cannot manhandle furniture or tackle heavy yard jobs. We talk about intellectual weakness, meaning inability for some forms of brainwork, as for instance C. S. Lewis's almost total inability to do math, and my own messiness in that area. We talk about personal weakness, indicating thereby that a person lacks resolution, firmness of character, dignity, and the capacity to command. We talk about a weak position when a person lacks needed resources and cannot move situations forward or influence events as desired. We talk about relational weakness when persons who should be leading and guiding fail to do so -- weak parents, weak pastors, and so on. Every day finds us affirming the inadequacy of others at point after point.
He goes on to state:
The truth, however, is that in many respects, and certainly in spiritual matters, we are all weak and inadequate, and we need to face it. Sin, which disrupts all relationships, has disabled us all across the board. We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own. Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road, to practice that dependence as one of the constant habits of our heart, and hereby to discover what Paul discovered before us: "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
As I already mentioned, the remainder of the book plays out three other topics as they relate to weakness. These three focal points of weakness aren't arbitrarily chosen, they come from an expository look at 2 Corinthians to discover what this life of weakness looks like in those three areas.