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The Power of Weakness

In our brokenness, we must begin to exhibit the magnetism of selflessness. As we model authenticity in our relationships, our lives will become a pleasing aroma to those around us.

God is all-powerful, but His actions are not always perceived in that light. Like Elijah, we often expect to see something spectacular when God is at work. Elijah had fought gallantly against the false prophets. However, he lapsed into despondency after his Mount Carmel encounter with them. He had won a resounding victory, but surprisingly, he scurried into hiding when threatened by the queen. God queried him, “‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:9, NIV).1 Elijah wished he could get all the assurances he needed from the Creator God. And he did, but not exactly as he expected. There was a show of power when a great wind tore the mountains, immediately followed by an earthquake that shook the ground; the fire raged. It was all sound and fury because the Lord was not in these dramatic events.

Then Elijah heard a still, small voice, almost like a whisper. How many times have we sought God but did not find Him because of misplaced expectations or because we have been looking at the wrong places? We had hoped to hear a decibel of instructions only to receive an impression. When God speaks in a thunderous voice, we quake like the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, forgetting that His omnipotence is not diminished when He speaks in whispers.


Two kings—Jesus and Herod—represent two different powers. One is redemptive power, while the other is destructive. Herod embraced the kind of power that devalued and destroyed destinies. His despotic power brooked no rival, real or imagined. In one fell swoop, he ordered the killing of the defenseless infants in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16–18). He was a paranoid king; Jesus escaped his murderous attacks by a whisker.

Herod used his power to build fortresses and monuments; the greatest, perhaps, was the Jewish temple. He spent all his time building edifices for self-promotion while at the same time filling graves with the carcasses of perceived or real enemies! He had power, but certainly not the kind that built lives. Seeking power for self-glorification is counterproductive; indeed, it is self-destructive. It is easy to acquire a narcissistic streak if one is yearning for recognition. The virus of self-aggrandizement can easily infect us if we choose to build monuments that showcase vainglorious kingly powers.

Unlike Herod, Jesus introduced a different kind of power—the power of weakness, which was revolutionary. He was equal to God but voluntarily renounced this right. As the Creator, He had everything at His command, yet while on earth, He declared, “‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’” (Luke 9:58). He did not leave a legacy of breathtaking temples or formidable fortresses. We are His temple; He is our fortress. Jesus went about rebuilding lives damaged by sin. He gave hope to the hopeless. He deployed to the fullest the redemptive, magnetic power of self-sacrifice: “‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself’” (John 12:32, NKJV). Jesus demonstrated redemptive power at the Cross; in weakness, He conquered. Sadly, weakness is a devalued currency in the interplay of powers in our fallen world. But we are to live like Christ, which will enable us to positively impact the lives of everyone we encounter.

John Maxwell was right when he wrote, “Leadership is influence.”2 By this, he meant the power of influence, which is soft and subtle—not coercive or brutish. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as Lord Acton once indicated.3 Nobody is an island; we are influenced by others just as we influence people around us. The bad news is that our influence may not always be positive, even if we are intentional about what we do! One may intentionally (or even unintentionally) do evil and succeed in influencing many people. Indeed, a negative influence often seems to trump a good one. Our fallen nature easily yields to the pull of negative influences.


The prophet Isaiah wrote about the Messiah: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5, NKJV). Another translation renders it “crushed for our iniquities” (NIV). Isaiah uses metaphors that suggest weakness or incapacitation. But in that condition, the Messiah unleashed the power to heal and restore. He knew what it meant to be bruised vicariously for our sins. Citing Isaiah 42:1 to 4, Matthew wrote, “‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out’” (Matthew 12:20). In all of His ministry, Jesus mended bruised reeds and rekindled wicks. A bruised reed signifies powerlessness and instability, something to be discarded. Jesus ministered to many such people, wounded emotionally, spiritually, or physically, who are considered dispensable to most of the world. One example was when He told the woman caught in adultery, “‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more’” (John 8:11, MEV). Jesus was in the business of rekindling a smoking flax.

We only need to look around to see that many people are smoking wicks or bruised reeds that need help. They are hurting and carrying heavy burdens of rejection and ostracism. Some are suffocating in the stifling embrace of unjust social structures that alienate and disenfranchise. What can we do? What if we ourselves are the bruised reeds?


Henri Nouwen wrote The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society some years ago. In a sense, we have all been wounded by sin. But even though we have been bruised or broken, we can still be agents of healing. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to rebuild fragmented lives. We all need someone to blow the invigorating wind of affirmation into our sails in our life journeys. Sometimes, no other person may do it except ourselves. We may be jumpstarting our stalled lives by reaching out to give a new lease of life to somebody else, offering them a kind word and a reassuring smile. We can individually ask ourselves: How am I using the power of my brokenness in my interactions with people?

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, gave insights into the human search for meaning. He rightly observed that “life is not primarily a quest for pleasure . . . or a quest for power . . . but a quest for meaning.”4 As Christians, we believe that the goal for life is to fulfill God’s purpose for our individual lives by deploying power in a redemptive manner. We can inflate the flagging sense of meaning in a world of meaninglessness. There are myriad ways we can do this on our campuses and in our communities. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are powerful influencers that can be creatively utilized to give a sense of purpose and meaning to people’s lives.

Paradoxically, though, with all the almost endless platforms offered by social media, the world seems never to have been so disconnected as it currently is. There is a feeling of loneliness and “aloneness,” among young people particularly. The hype about connectivity is hollow if we are not connected to God. Social media can be used to connect people to the One who said, “‘Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:14). Through visitations and the distribution of lifegiving gospel literature, students can be given—and give to others—the opportunity to experience life at its best. We have been called to change the narrative and be agents of hope to the hopeless.

In our brokenness, we will begin to exhibit the magnetism of selflessness. As we model authenticity in our relationships, our lives will become a pleasing aroma to those around us. There is a specific hidden power in weakness that we are to individually discover for ourselves, just like the apostle Paul did when he said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV). If we recognize our weakness, we will more likely depend on God so that His power may rest upon us. The power that redeems is not a thing to be grabbed; we may have to be wounded or bruised before it can be released.

Ademola S. Tayo (PhD, Development Education, Central Luzon State University, Nueva Ecija, Philippines) is Professor of Development Education and the President/Vice-Chancellor of Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Efe M. Ehioghae (PhD, Christian Theology and Ethics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria) is Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics and Associate Vice-President of Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Recommended Citation

Ademola S. Tayo and Efe M. Ehioghae, "The Power of Weakness," Dialogue 35:3 (2023): 19-21.


1 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references in this article are quoted from the New International Version of the Bible. Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture references credited to NKJV are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture references credited to MEV are quoted from the Modern English Version of the Bible. The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House. Scripture references credited to ESV are quoted from the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

2 John Maxwell, “Your Influence Inventory,” Maxwell Leadership Podcast (April 17, 2019):,that%20everyone%20is%20a%20leader.

3 Lord Acton, Acton Institute, Lord Acton Quote Archive: https: // text=%E2%80%9CPower%20tends%20to%20corrupt%20 and,certainty%20of%20corruption%20by%20 authority.%E2%80%9D.

4 “Viktor E. Frankl Quotes on the Meaning of Life”:

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