Last week at our church, we had a Reformation Conference and Douglas Bond was the teacher. The lectures were very informative and edifying, especially when he spoke about the French Reformers (like the Huguenots). I hope to have him (Lord willing) appear our podcast in the near future to discuss the French Reformers. Pray for that.
It was in the course of that evening that I came across The Mighty Weakness of John Knox written by Bond, edited by Steve Lawson. If there was ever a stack of small books that should encourage your soul concerning the common weakness we all face, and how God’s grace empowers us despite those weaknesses, this should be in the top 5! This book takes the overly divine view we tend to have about our heroes in the faith, specifically here John Knox, and humanizes him in order to highlight the God of John Knox. One of the statements made about John Knox was made by a fellow minister, Thomas Smeaton, who said: “I know not if God ever place a more godly and great spirit in a body so little and frail” (pg 24). And even though some may portray Knox’s greatest moments in preaching against Roman Catholicism, the fact of the matter is, he was often scared, timid, and even left a room in tears when first called upon to preach. But yet, God inflamed such man to passionately love the glory of God, the salvation of souls, and hate idolatry more than seek to preserve his own life.
Although Knox was a zealous preacher and a thunderous figure, he had many struggles in his lifetime that squeezed the fruitful juices of God’s Spirit out of him. He was targeted by the Roman church, escaped several assassination attempts, lost his wife, was often without sleep, and constantly criticized for his zealous approach to name a few things. But yet, he was a loving shepherd to his people, a minister to the poor, humble prayer warrior, and a fearless preacher when the time came. In reading this book, it seemed obvious to me that many of us, who are often more ready to make excuses about why we can’t be faithful in the most common ways to God, who go on and on about our weakness, would resonate much with Knox. He was but a broken vessel in the hands of his Master.
I benefited tremendously reading about Knox’s weaknesses and how God loves to use men and women who are intimately familiar with their own failings. As Bond stated:
“Knox’s preaching ministry was a microcosm of the mysteries of God’s providence. God called a timid man who trembled in his boots at the thought of preaching and who ran from the room in tears when first called upon to do so. When a man feels in his own strength that he can do something, he tends to not cry out to God in prayer to enable him to do it. He believes he is already capable, so he sees no need to depend on God’s strength. but this was not Knox the preacher. Knox, who never completed seminary, knew that if he was to fulfill his calling as a preacher, he desperately needed God’s power. Weak in terms of physical strength, he turned from himself to find vigor that only comes from God” (pg 65-66) (italics mine)
This information should encourage every home-school mom, deacon, teacher, factory worker, professor, pastor, missionary, widow, single person, public school child, etc., to timidly but ferociously look to God for grace and strength when struggling against ourselves to be faithful witnesses in the world. And to fight our battles on our knees as Knox did, and to trust in the sovereign mercy of Christ to sustain and preserve us even when we are in the midst of what seems to be a losing battle. It is hard to feel in our own person the things that Knox personally faced since we are so far removed from that time frame in history. But the one thing that will always unite us all is that he, like us, needed God’s sustaining mercy in order to be faithful in his day. Who are we to think that God’s hand is too small to sustain such a weak man such as Knox, and yet not do the same for us?
Get your copy of The Mighty Weakness of John Knox and may God heartily encourage you, embolden you, and revive you as you celebrate the God of the Reformation.
-Until we go home