Driving around in my car, I have seen a thousand of these stickers plastered across the back of huge, lifted trucks. In a similar, albeit Christianized, vein, I have seen thousands of similar-styled “Sinner” logos plaster across the back of toned-down vehicles (usually accompanied with a “NOTW” sticker too).
Our culture has seen the bankruptcy of trying to find some sort of ‘inner-strength’. We’ve witnessed the fall-out and bankruptcy of riches and self-aggrandizement. Many have directly experienced the proverb that “Riches do not deliver in the day of death.”
In an odd twist, we’ve supplanted ‘inner-strength’ with an ‘inner-weakness’. The attitude is simply, “I’m not gonna pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m ‘afflicted’, I’m a ‘sinner’…”
Most often, these things are associated with dark, foreboding themes that hover around death. Just look at the primary color schemes – a black background with gray, white and red tones. I have yet to see a bright yellow “Afflicted” shirt with neon pink, orange and green, covered in flowers and green fields…
But why parade your weakness? Why declare that you are under so much affliction? I am baffled by this.
In a cruel twist, our weaknesses become a boast in themselves. They, in turn, become our ‘clout’. Clout was once measured in the quantity of your possessions. In an attempt to escape this, clout is now measured in how much you’ve suffered.
Many Christians think, “Well, the Apostle Paul boasted in his weakness and affliction? Shouldn’t we?”
Yes, we should. But our boasting in our weaknesses, in our afflictions, is not an end in itself. Christians don’t parade their weaknesses because it demonstrates their authenticity about what they really are. There is a far greater purpose.
Your weaknesses are not your strengths. Your weaknesses are your weaknesses, period. They are the points at which you have been divested of all resources in yourself and in turn must look to something else to empower you. The point of weakness is to demonstrate the power of something else.
For the Christian, your weaknesses are the exact points at which Christ strengthens you. Your weaknesses are the location that God demonstrates his power.
The fact that you are a sinner is not a moment of boasting about your true condition. The fact that you are afflicted is not a moment to boast about how you are not relying on the world to satisfy you. God is not content with your condition.
God is content only with the presence of himself in your condition. All else is details.
Affliction minus God equals death. ‘Sinner’ minus God equals death. No wonder these companies find their greatest niche among those who are obsessed with death.
Paul boasted about his afflictions and weaknesses not to show the surpassing power of himself in his condition. Paul boasted about his afflictions and weaknesses for the soul purpose of magnifying the surpassing power of God in Christ. It is in that moment, where man’s strength fails that the world is captive to true power.
If everything that this world declares is powerful is then brought to nothing, what will humanity have to say? Nothing. Their mouths are shut. But if a man suffering not only endures but conquers through that suffering, the world is captivated and flipped on its head. There is some power at work that this world knows nothing of, cannot generate itself and, in themselves, have zero access to it.
If God himself is not your boast in your affliction, in your weakness, in your sinful condition, then your boast is empty. Paul drew the conclusion clearly – “If Christ is not raised then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (2 Cor. 15:14). Why? Because, like Paul, we go about destitute, forsaking world’s pleasure and source of power. A Christian who forsakes the world’s boast – self-power – is above all to be pitied if God’s power does not prevail.
Our greatest joy comes from finding not that we are afflicted or that we are sinners, but that it is God who gives us victory over our afflictions over our sin.
“O’ death, where is your victory?
O’ death, where is your sting?”
We boast not in our weaknesses or afflictions as if they were what validates us. We boast in God because, with Him, not even our weaknesses and afflictions can invalidate us.
So, yes, Christian, you may be a sinner. Yes, Christian, you may be afflicted. But your sinfulness and weaknesses and afflictions are not your end. God’s most powerful moment in history was demonstrated in a crucified Savior. We shall never face a moment of weakness like that. If he can show is greatest power in a moment like that, then what can he do in the greatest moment of weakness in your life?
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 2:9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9