To summarize a common saying, “The weakest link impacts the strength of a team.” This means that a group’s strength depends on each person’s talents, abilities, experience, etc. The shortcomings of one person can affect the entire unit and force others to compensate. In the end, the whole unit can become less effective in achieving its goals.
This analogy comes from the example of a metal chain, which is made up of individual links. Its ability to pull or hold an object is influenced by the strength of its weakest part.
Think of a pickup truck working to pull a sports car from a muddy ditch. First, a heavy-duty chain is hooked onto the tow points on the vehicle and the rear of the truck. Then the driver of the pickup begins to slowly drive forward. Soon, the chain is taut, with thousands of pounds of pressure pulling on it. If there is a weak link, the chain could dangerously snap—and any work to pull out the car would come to a halt.
Those in God’s Church can, in a way, be considered “links” in a longer chain. Just as each link of a chain is important, so is every member in the Church. As with a physical chain, each member’s strengths and weaknesses contribute to the overall effectiveness of the end-time Work. Satan understands this and works with all his might to break the weakest links. He hunts as “a roaring lion” (I Pet. 5:8), which means he will go after the young, weak and sickly first.
Every analogy breaks down at a point. We know that Jesus promised, “I will build My church,” and said that nothing would ever destroy it (Matt. 16:18). A weak Church member—or someone who falls away—will never stop God’s Work. Yet weak “links” do negatively affect Christ’s Body.
Turning the coin over, strong links are crucial for the Church to finish preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all nations and taking the Ezekiel warning message to modern-day Israelitish nations. To complete this Work, we must daily strengthen our individual spiritual lives—our own personal chain links.
The Old Testament story of Achan is a vivid example of how one individual—one chain link—negatively impacted an entire group.
After wandering 40 years in the wilderness, the nation of Israel finally crossed the Jordan River. Those who entered the Promised Land were children of the men and women who came out of Egypt four decades earlier, who, because of their rebelliousness, were not allowed to enter Canaan (Deut. 1:35, 39).
The first order of business was God’s commanded destruction of Jericho. God specifically instructed His people not to keep any spoil. He gave clear orders that anything plundered was to be used to construct His Tabernacle, as stated in the book of Joshua: “…keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest you make yourselves accursed, when you take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord” (6:18-19).
Yet one man from the tribe of Judah disobeyed. After Jericho fell, Achan secretly “took of the accursed thing,” kindling God’s anger “against the children of Israel” (7:1).
Soon after Jericho’s destruction, the Israelites were sent to smite the town of Ai. Because so few inhabited the city, only 3,000 Israelite men went to battle.
This should have been an easy assignment. But God was not with the nation that day. He had turned His back on it because of Achan’s sins. As a result, 36 men died.
Joshua and other leaders, who were unaware of Achan’s trespass, were bewildered that God had not fully protected Israel: “And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads” (vs. 6).
Additionally, the people were discouraged about the humiliating and painful loss (vs. 5). Yet God had declared that if one person disobeyed Him, He would make “Israel a curse, and trouble it.”
Joshua had to find the source of the problem. After praying fervently, God revealed to him what occurred: “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant…for they have…stolen…and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except you destroy the accursed from among you” (vs. 11-12).
God then gave Joshua instructions for determining who had sinned. This led him to Achan.
“My son, give, I pray you, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto Him; and tell me now what you have done; hide it not from me,” Joshua told Achan (vs. 19).
Feeling ashamed, Achan admitted, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel…When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them…” (vs. 20-21).
Upon hearing this, the people stoned Achan and his family for disobedience to God. His covetousness for a mere piece of clothing and several pieces of gold and silver cost him and his family their lives (vs. 25).
Aside from covetousness, the underlying message contained in this account is clear: the entire nation, not just Achan and his family, suffered as a result of one man’s sin—even though the rest of Israel’s army did what they were instructed to do.
This is an example for us today. Ancient Israel is called the “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) and is a type of the spiritual Church. Of course, in the 21st century, a person who sins and is unwilling to repent is not publicly executed. Instead, the ministry will first correct him in order to help him see his faults and change. Such a person may also need to be suspended from Sabbath services or, if unrepentant, disfellowshipped. (In the latter case, hopefully the individual will show fruits of repentance and return to the Body.)
This action is only taken in extreme circumstances, but the purpose is obvious. If there are “weak” or “broken” links in the Church, they can negatively affect other brethren and indirectly or directly hinder the Work. Therefore, God says they should be removed from the Body (Rom. 16:17).
Similarly, if there are “weak links” in your spiritual life, it can hurt your overall spiritual effectiveness. If you notice such flaws in yourself, Christ says to take drastic action and change! (Read Matthew 18:8-9.)
Just as an individual can have a weakening effect on a group, another can have a positive, strengthening one. The story of Joseph is an example of one of God’s servants whose strength of character had far-reaching implications for entire nations.
Joseph, as with everyone else, was not perfect. He boasted about how he had a vision that one day he would exercise dominion over his family. This, along with other reasons, caused his brothers to despise him (Gen. 37:5).
One day, Joseph’s father, Jacob, sent him to check on his brothers while they tended livestock. As Joseph approached, his siblings saw an opportunity to get rid of him. Although they originally planned to kill him, they instead cast him into a pit. He was eventually bought by a group of Midianite merchants and sold into slavery in Egypt (vs. 28, 36).
But God was with Joseph. The young man found favor in the sight of his master, Potiphar, and eventually became overseer of his house (39:2-4). One day, when Joseph was alone in his master’s house, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. But he would have no part of it (vs. 8-9).
Joseph’s objections did not stop her, and “she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out” (vs. 12). Joseph did exactly what he was supposed to do under such circumstances, but the incident wrongfully landed him in prison.
By this time, Joseph was most likely wondering, “Why is this happening to me?” But through it all, he did not become bitter or complain. He did what he was told and tried his best to go above and beyond what was expected of him. For this reason, God blessed him and he was placed in charge of the prison (vs. 21-23).
Over time, Joseph was elevated to an influential position—second in command over all of Egypt. His perseverance and faith paid off. His strong and uncompromising character, combined with God’s Spirit (Gen. 41:38), carried him through the false accusations and unjust treatment he received.
Because of this, Joseph saved a great many lives (50:20). One man who could once have been considered the most unimportant person in Egypt had a monumental impact on others because he refused to weaken under intense pressure. In short, his link became stronger through fiery trials.
Weakness to Strength
As with Joseph, the apostle Paul saw the setbacks, trials and hardships he faced in his life as a way to become stronger: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:10).
Paul was not some kind of masochist—one who enjoys pain, whether inflicted by himself or others. He saw the results of his suffering as positive. He understood it served to strengthen his resolve—and faith. Because of this, he drew closer to God and was able to uniquely serve the Church in a powerful manner.
But it was not always this way.
Before being called, Paul (named Saul at the time), a member of the Sanhedrin, was one of the greatest persecutors of the Church. He personally oversaw the stoning of Stephen, one of the first deacons ordained in the New Testament Church (Acts 7:58-59). He also “made havoc of the church,” hauled men and women to prison (8:3), and breathed “threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (9:1).
In effect, Paul tried to destroy the Church through persecution and putting people to death—in an effort to weaken it and the great Work it was doing.
Yet God had a plan for Paul. After God removed his sight for several days, he repented and was baptized (Acts 9:3-18). The change was so dramatic that “all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” (vs. 21).
Although Paul once persecuted the Church, he proved he was a true servant. By submitting his will and growing in the Holy Spirit, he was able to be used in a powerful way to preach God’s kingdom to unbelieving Jews, some of whom sought to kill him because of his change in beliefs.
Because of Paul’s turnaround, he also was used to perform many miracles, including causing a demon-influenced sorcerer to go blind (which led to a deputy’s conversion) and healing a lifelong crippled man, among many others. Paul set the ultimate example of how one’s weakness can change into strength if he has the Holy Spirit.
Strengthen Your Link
God has given us everything we need to be a strong link. His Word addresses every area of life that we should be actively working to strengthen. In addition, He has given us His Holy Spirit of “power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7).
As Christians, we have to go through difficult periods in our lives as we struggle to overcome Satan, society and ourselves. Sometimes we fall short of the standard that Christ established when He was on Earth.
When that happens, there is a danger of our “link” weakening. We might turn inward and become discouraged—which has a crippling effect on growth. Many of the greatest servants in the Bible had to overcome discouragement, including Moses, Jonah and Elijah.
What if you make a mistake on your journey to the kingdom? Does that mean your link is in danger of breaking? No. It is never too late to turn things around in your life. Remember, Paul (as Saul) had a negative impact on the Church, but he also had a positive one when God used him. He went from being one of the Church’s worst enemies to a great servant of God.
With this in mind, there are ways to strengthen your conversion.
Examine yourself. Make a list of areas in your life where you could be falling short. Do you find yourself holding back in your offerings when you could be giving more? Are you exhibiting a Christian attitude around your coworkers, family and acquaintances—even fellow brethren? What is the weakest link in your prayer life?
Pray that God gives you more of His Holy Spirit to overcome. Philippians 4:13 states: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” It is Christ in us that makes real change in our lives possible. He will strengthen us. We can at any time go boldly before the throne of God to ask for more of His Spirit to have the strength we need (Heb. 4:16).
Another way a Christian can make an impact as an individual is through prayers—for brethren, ministers and the Work. Remember James 5:16: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
The Bible is filled with individuals who made a positive impact. Elijah’s prayers caused God to resurrect a child (I Kgs. 17:21-22). Your prayers for God’s Work, His people, and His ministry can help strengthen and grow the Church.
Develop a growth plan. This could include reading literature and listening to sermons that apply to areas in which you realize you need to grow.
Whatever you do, do not be discouraged. Recognize your weaknesses and change. Ask God to reveal where you can grow. He will answer. If we have been a weak link in the past, we must look ahead and press forward (Phil. 3:14). We must develop a relentless desire to grow, overcome and succeed.
Strive to be doctrinally pure. A final way to be a strong link is to be focused on being in complete unity with the Church’s doctrines: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10).
Plain and simple, unity is strength! Unity helps guarantee that all links in a chain remain unbreakable.
Christ has placed you in the Body where you are needed. Ephesians 4 explains that “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (vs. 11). Behind the men in these offices must be strong lay members who support them. These Christians must back up Headquarters and God’s Work with constant prayers, faithful tithes and offerings, and unwavering support. We must all walk together in locked step!
This is done by keeping the truth and God’s Plan crystal clear in our minds. By staying close to God, with our whole hearts in the Work, we can ensure the gospel will effectively go forth with power.
In Ephesians 4, we are commanded to speak “the truth in love” that we “may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (vs. 15). We all must constantly copy the life of Christ and become more like Him. In doing so, the whole Body can be “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying [building up] of itself in love” (vs. 16).
Your faithfulness can help increase and build up the Body, and help add “to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
As Christ continues to build His Church, determine to be a strong link! Resolve to become stronger every day for the rest of your life. In the words of Paul, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).
Just think about what would occur if everyone worked to reinforce their spiritual lives: more healings, more miracles, and more people called into God’s Church and converted.
The effectiveness of God’s Work rests on our ability to work as a strengthened unit. Press forward and be strong!