Thes. V. 14, ‘Support the weak, be patient towards all men.”
Look, what the crutch is to the lame, and the beam of the house is to the
ruinated house, that ought strong saints to be to the weak. Strong saints are to be crutches to the weak, they are to be, as it were, beams to bear up the weak. Strong saints are to set to their shoulder, to shore up the weak by their counsels, prayers, tears, and examples. Strong saints must not deal by the weak, as the herd of deer do by the wounded deer ; they forsake it and push it away. Oh no ! When a poor weak saint is wounded by a temptation, or by the power of some corruption, then they that are strong ought to succour and support such an one, lest he be swallowed up of sorrow. When you that are strong see a weak saint staggering and reeling under a temptation or affliction. Oh, know it is then your duty to put both your hands underneath, to support him that he faint not, that he miscarries not in such an hour. Isa. xxxv. 3, ‘Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.’
‘Strengthen the weak hands,’ that is, hands that hang down ; ‘ and confirm the feeble knees,’ that is, such knees that by reason of feebleness are ready to fall. Strengthen such, that is, encourage them, by casting in a promise, by casting in thy experiences, or by casting in the experiences of other saints, that so they may be supported. It may be his case was once thine: if so, then tell him what promises did support thee, what discoveries of God did uphold thee; tell him what tastes, what sights, and what in-comes thou hadst, and how bravely thou didst bear up, by the strength of his everlasting arms that were under thee, &c.”
Thomas Brooks, “Commentary on Ephesians 3:8, Riches of Christ,” The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, or, Meat for Strong Men, and Milk for Babes, Held forth in Twenty-two Sermons.
I love the fact that when I go looking into the thumb drive of sermons for inspiration about an obvious physical ailment– feebleness– I find a great quote about how the gospel works out in community.
Thomas Brooks was a 17th century English Puritan. This exposition on Ephesians gives an excellent view of how to handle the spiritually feeble, those struggling with affliction, temptation, or outright weakness. It’s fascinating to picture this scene of deer attacking a wounded member. Rather than chiding, humiliating, or driving the feeble from our presence, Brooks advocates counsels, prayers, tears, and examples. I wish that this would be how error and slippage were handled in the church.
Brooks also speaks in effect of the promises, which for Christians would ultimately be the gospel. Is the gospel a series of threats for the wavering, or is it the confidence in the idea that “everlasting arms are under thee?” If you’re constantly in fear of rejection from God and humiliation from the “stronger” members, you’ll keep your missteps to yourself, perhaps deny or wallpaper them over. The gospel on the other hand provides promises of salvation and succour. This confidence can build up and bring back the member who has fallen. Let us try Brooks’ example here.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us know that even in our most feeble moments, the gospel is a promise, not a contract for wages. Let us be reassured with the confidence that there are everlasting arms holding us up. Let us be a sanctuary for the feeble deer who’ve been driven away from their herd. Let any fallen members among us know that they will receive more in counsels, prayers, tears, and examples than anything else. Let us be a crutch to the weak, as we lean on you for your unfailing love. AMEN.