This week’s blog looks at Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We all have things in our lives that we don’t like, maybe it is a personal weakness or unpleasant circumstance. This thing is our “thorn in the flesh”. With our thorns, we naturally ask God for help – to take away that weakness or change that distressing situation. Sometimes, God surprises us with His answer. He won’t take away our thorn, but He will give us the extra strength we need to endure the thorn. Despite being handicapped by the thorn, we can still be victorious in what we need to achieve because of the additional power that Christ will provide us.
God, in His divine wisdom, sometimes handicaps us with weakness so that we will not depend on our own strength for our success. He wants His power to be “perfected” in our weakness. The term “perfected” does not mean perfect in the moral sense, but means being “completed” or “fulfilled”. When something is weak, this weakness causes its need for God’s strength to be more obvious. When God strengthens what is weak, it makes His divine power shine brighter. Using a weak person is one of God’s favourite ways of demonstrating His loving power. Sometimes, we face difficulties because God wants to use our weakness to enable us to access His power to achieve what would otherwise be impossible.
At times, God is showing us that it is more important for us to experience His supernatural strength than for us to live a stress-free, comfortable life. Paul’s life was filled with difficulties – he’d been stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten, betrayed by friends – all because he chose to preach the gospel. Yet despite all these hardships, Paul’s attitude was one of joy – “I delight in weaknesses” he says. As he faced one difficulty after another, Paul learnt to rely on Christ for his strength, and when Christ faithfully strengthened him to face every difficulty, Paul learnt to delight in God’s system, of human weakness being transformed by divine strength.
There may be things you want to do for God, but you feel that you are too weak to do so. Maybe you don’t have the education or funds or connections to make a big impact in this world. Well, it’s time to rejoice because God is looking for people just like you! God is looking for people who can be a channel for His power, who know they are weak and are hungry for Him to take over their lives. God is looking for people who will take on challenges that are too difficult for them to overcome by their own strength and trust Him for the victory. God is looking for people who are used to being weak, but daily rely on Christ’s strength.
Your greatest weakness is actually God’s greatest opportunity. Instead of asking God to take away your difficulties, ask Him to supply you with strength to overcome those difficulties. Sometimes God allows weaknesses in our lives to weaken our dependence on our selves. As we learn to rely on God’s power to achieve things, God will enable us to do greater and greater things with our lives. As we triumph in His power even when we are weak, we will eventually be able to boast as Paul did and say “When I am weak, then I am strong!”
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