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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

When I Am Weak, He Is Strong

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;

    let there be no one to dwell in it,’


“‘May another take his place of leadership.’

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:12-26


After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were discouraged and afraid. You could say they were in “retreat,” hiding in a locked room. Jesus’ several appearances and proofs of His resurrection reassured them that God’s strength was greater than any power, even death! In their weakness they found strength in the presence of Christ.


When Jesus ascended, they were alone again. But now, with a degree of determination and confidence, they began to witness to Christ. Back in the upper room they met in prayer, found mutual support, and went forth to witness that Christ was risen from the dead.


One of their first challenges was to replace Judas. Without their full complement, their work and witness would be weakened. So God provided, through the process of casting lots, another experienced follower, Matthias. In military life, replacements happen all the time. In battle there are casualties, and back at home bases there are assignment changes, retirements, and illness or family emergencies that leave a unit without a full complement.


For groups, then in a time of weakness, God can provide the needed personnel to strengthen the mission and not only ensure survival, but propel the work forward. There is confidence in the team, and assurance in the leadership. For when you are weak, God is strong!


On the individual level, Judas took action that was destructive and irreversible. Peter, on the other hand, though he was deeply embarrassed by his failed witness, returned to a position of leadership in a very short time. Whether you are a soldier in uniform or a civilian soldier of the cross, the presence of the resurrected and living Christ can redeem your life from the most dire circumstance or shameful compromise, and give you a future. For when you are weak, He is strong!




Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 22:1-20


John’s revelation concludes with a glorious picture of the River of Life flowing through the New Jerusalem. And he wrote, “The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him.” (vs. 3)


One of the key themes of military life is that you are “serving” in the Armed Forces – not just working, or pursuing a career, but that you are a very special “public servant.” In spite of the advertising and enticements that go with raising a voluntary military force, there is still an overarching sense among military personnel that they are “serving.” They can understand clearly the loyalty of the early disciples, who were faithful to death as witnesses to Christ and His resurrection. What is your primary goal in life? Are you here to serve? Are you a loyal, devoted, and outspoken “servant of the King?”


“They will see His face,” John wrote, “and His name will be on their foreheads.” Soldiers are always encouraged by the presence of their unit leader. They bear the name of their unit, ship, or squadron proudly. In baptism we receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Whether soldiers or civilians, to know Jesus personally and bear his name is a source of great joy and confidence, for “When I am weak, He is strong.”


“There will be no more night… For the Lord God will give them light.” (vs. 5) Almost every branch of military fighting now employs sophisticated night vision technology. Soldiers in Iraq have infrared goggles; so do the planes and tanks. Even though “night vision” and other ways to “see” are a great advantage in warfare, none of these high tech advantages provide error-free images or information. Nor can they guarantee complete military success.


The Apostle John, in his revelation, points us to the amazing brilliance and clarity we will experience when Christ returns and the Kingdom of God is established as a fulfilled reality. We serve and strive using our best knowledge and skills, but the peace Christ brings transcends any resources we have. And when we see our limitations, then His strength, truth and light capture our imagination and shape our hope. Three times in Revelation chapter 22 we see the phrase, “I am coming soon.” (vss. 7, 12, 20) Many service men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, including our chaplains, are separated from their families for more than a year. As their overseas tour moves toward completion, there are no sweeter words for those back home than “I am coming soon.”


After Jesus’ ascension, the first disciples must have yearned for His return. Today we continue to pray for His second coming and the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on earth. So the final response in verse 20, “Amen, come Lord Jesus,” is also our response. After we’ve fought the good fight, and served to the best of our ability, then these words are an affirmation, and confident cry, “Yes, come Lord Jesus. Come!”




“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

John 17:20-26


In Jesus’ prayer for all believers He says, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (vs. 20) Many chaplains are offering pastoral care to service men and women who don’t know Christ. Chaplains are indeed missionaries. It is “through their message” that many are drawn to Jesus, to the truth of God’s Word, to the blessings of fellowship and the Lord’s Supper, and the hope of eternal life.


In John chapter 17 Jesus expresses the hope and confidence that those whom He has tutored will now draw others, which is the goal of the Christian church. As we strive to share Christ with our generation, we also pray for the work of Christian chaplains who work in a very public, multifaceted arena. As with pastors and followers of Jesus Christ around the world, the chaplain’s goal is “to make God known to military personnel, in order that the love they have for Jesus may be in them, and that Jesus Himself may be in them.” (vs. 26)


Please keep chaplains in your prayers as they minister to soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and Coast Guard members all over the world.


From day to day, and year to year, in every challenging circumstance we can all echo the theme, “When I am weak, He is strong!”



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