In the fitness world, you commonly hear about absolute strength and relative strength. Absolute strength is the maximum amount of force one can exert, regardless of their muscle or body size. Basically, the individual who can lift the largest amount of weight has the highest absolute strength. Relative strength, on the other hand, is the force exerted by an individual relative (in proportion) to their body size, measuring how strong they are for their size. This form of strength takes into consideration that not everyone is the same size. Clearly, a person who is larger in size or weight is more likely to be able to lift more than a person who is smaller in size.
If you ever watched the sport of weight lifting, wrestling, or boxing, this is precisely why they have weight classes. A competition between the largest individual and the smallest individual would be imbalanced because the odds of the smallest individual would be slim in those individual sports. In most fitness scenes, the individual who can lift the most weight is the one who is most applauded. If you have ever been to a gym, you can typically see this at play, and it often can create egotism and comparison in that environment.
Strength is a celebrated concept in our culture, especially the strength of self-sufficiency. We applaud people who can pull themselves up by their own boot straps. There is something very commendable about individuals who overcome obstacles in their lives, but there is also a danger of developing into a person who is completely self-sufficient…especially when it comes our relationship with Christ. I have been guilty of this mentality many times in my walk with Christ. For whatever reason, I begin to neglect my pursuit of Christ and move into a self-sufficient mindset where I try and live life on my own. I am learning, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to catch myself drifting into this mindset earlier and earlier, because I know all it does is lead me down a path of instability. I think I have this pull toward self-sufficiency because most of the time I foolishly think God wants me to be sufficient to lead my own self. This is so far from true.
This is what it says in John 15:5: “Apart from me (Jesus) you can do NOTHING” (emphasis added). It does not say, “You can do some things apart from me,” or “You can be self-sufficient in a few things without me.” No…Jesus clearly communicates that we should never attempt to do anything without Him. This should be a comfort and encouragement to us. Yet we find ourselves like sheep who have wandered off on our own (Isaiah 53:6), away from the Good Shepherd who promises to be our comfort, protection, and provision. The pull to be self-sufficient and strong on our own seems like the way to go, the best and most applauded way. But strength of faith is not demonstrated in self-sufficiency apart from Christ but in complete surrender in Christ. On the other side of surrender, you will be the most content, most confident, most sound, most fulfilled and most stable to endure the life you are living. Find your strength…in Christ.