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Who am I?
At the Acts29 Conference in Reno with past week with Mark and several other Origin leaders.
Mark left from Reno to catch a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland and then on to Belgrade, Serbia for the Acts29 Europe Conference. That opened this opportunity for me to preach this morning.
We have so far in this series, "Willing But Weak," studied a number of prayers from the Bible.
Lord's Prayer
Saved by a Prayer
High Priestly Prayer
They've covered the range of experience and relationship with God.
The prayer we'll look at this morning is VERY different. It's a PARADOX. What's a paradox?
SLIDE 2 - So, a paradox is ...
... a figure of speech in which a statement appears to contradict itself.
ThoughtCo: See,
... a figure of speech that seems to contradict itself, but which, upon further examination, contains a kernel of truth or reason.
LitCharts: See,
Hiding in plain sight
The only constant is change.
"Not all who wander are lost." J. R. R. Tolkien
The paradox that we'll learn from this morning teaches us that our weakness is not a LIABILITY, it's an OPPORTUNITY.
We, in the United States and around the world, love STRENGTH, and we show disdain for WEAKNESS.
Terms for Strength
Terms for Weakness (See,

Setting of the Letter

Written from Ephesus, where Paul wrote a number of the epistles. According to Horne & Bewer in their book, The Bible and Its Story, this second letter to the Corinthians was written "to maintain his influence over these self-important converts."
Unlike 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians addresses an altogether different situation—the Corinthian attack on Paul’s apostleship.
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
In 2 Cor. the principal topic is apostleship, negatively defined in chs. , positively in . Paul’s own status as an *apostle had been challenged and his conduct attacked.
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 421). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Paul’s choice of this city as a strategic center in which to plant the gospel was justified by the control that its location gave the city over trade and travel E[AST] and W[EST] by sea, as well as N[ORTH] and S[OUTH] by land. Corinth had two good harbors, ... . Her control over trade made Corinth very prosperous although located in an unfertile plain.
One of the first parts of Greece to be inhabited.
Julius Caesar rebuilt the city in 46 B.C. as a Roman colony.
Madvig, D. H. (1979–1988). Corinth. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, p. 772). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
The most conspicuous landmark at Corinth was the Acro-corinth, a mountain to the south of the city. Reaching a height of 1,886 ft (575 m), it was an ideal situation for a fortress that could control all the trade routes into the Peloponnesus. The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, stood on its highest peak. The thousand female prostitutes who served there contributed to Corinth’s reputation for immorality.
Madvig, D. H. (1979–1988). Corinth. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, p. 773). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
The city's influence and geography justifies a comparison to San Francisco.
Why would Paul's message resonate with the Corinthians?

PREAMBLE for 12:1-10

Paul's preamble to this section is . In it, he recounts the suffering he has encountered as an apostle, missionary, and church planter. He's been through a lot, and he recounts it all as a way to "one up" their self-important stance.
In v.23, he goes toe-to-toe to boast about earthly accomplishments, and lists what hardships he's endured.
In this passage in Corinthians, Paul boasts about his own deeds and glories. (See, ). Paul, though not to the point of death, has endured an overwhelming list of hardships for the sake of the Gospel:
5 times of 39 lashes
3 times beaten with rods
Shipwrecked 3 times
Danger from
His own people
The City (an urban environment)
The Wilderness
The Sea
False Brothers
Sleepless Nights
Hunger and Thirst
Often without food
Cold and Exposure
Paul wrote this section of 2 Corinthians in a way that only he could because of his stature both in the Church, and in the Culture.
SLIDE N - Recall that Paul sets his qualifications in , for what he describes as "reason for confidence in the flesh":
Circumcised on the eighth day
Of the people of Israel
Tribe of Benjamin
Hebrew of Hebrews
A Pharisee (trained in the law)
Persecutor of the Church
Blameless according to the righteousness of the Law
It was not for his own sake, but for the sake of the Corinthians. His boasting was not intended to draw attention to himself: it was intended to, instead, draw attention to the power of God in a believer's life.

Exegesis 1 of 4

The KEY (exegetical) question that I believe emerges from this text is:
Out of whose strength do you live today?
This has significant implications to our lives, and Paul gives us insight to whose strength he has chosen.
v. 1
"must" (Gr. dei)
Unavoidable, necessary, and determined by prior circumstances
From a logical sense, it's the next thought or idea
Naturally follows his statements at the end of Ch. 11, especially v. 30
"vision" (Gr. optasia)
The experience of a supernatural appearance
A message is usually imparted to whomever has it
"revelations" (Gr. apokalypsis)
The source for our English word, Apocalypse
Knowledge that was previously hidden is revealed
- What was revealed is the Gospel
v. 2-4
14 years ago
Difficult to assess whether this was at his conversion when he was blinded for three days, or sometime after
"third heaven"
"It was certainly a very extraordinary honour done him: in some sense he was caught up into the third heaven, the heaven of the blessed, above the (first) aerial heaven, in which the fowls fly, above the (second) starry heaven, which is adorned with those glorious orbs: it was into the third heaven, where God most eminently manifests his glory." Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2291). Peabody: Hendrickson.
Equated to paradise (heaven) - See, and
v. 5
"this man"
Speaks of himself in the third person
A mechanism to guard against his own pride?
A reflection of how treacherous it is to boast about yourself in the first person?
Perhaps a reflection of how much he has changed since his conversion ... he was a completely different person
"It was perfectly accordant with the nature of the occurrence for him to speak of such an occurrence in the third person, inasmuch as the individual spoken of was in a passive state, and might seem in his normal state of activity as another person" (Meyer). Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Kling, C. F., & Wing, C. P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 2 Corinthians (pp. 196–197). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
"except of my weaknesses"
Connects back to just prior to this section
this is extraordinary for the stature of a man like Paul
A good modern day equivalent of someone of his stature is Billy Graham (see next Note)

Billy Graham's 1955 trip to preach at Cambridge

This event clearly demonstrates the power of living out of our weakness.
Article: "Remembering Christ’s Power in Weakness in the Life of Billy Graham (1918-2018)"
February 21, 2018
R. Kent Hughes, DMin, DD - Senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, graduate of Biola College, and professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. (See,
SLIDE N - Invited to an 8-day Series of Lectures at Cambridge University in England
Delivered in Great St. Mary’s Church
Worked with John Stott and C. S. Lewis
8,000 students enrolled at the time
The picture is of him preaching at Wembley Stadium in 1955.
The opening night of the Cambridge Mission was Sunday, November 6, the day after Guy Fawkes Day, a day of fireworks, bonfires, and general revelry.
SLIDE N - This letter, it could be argued, boasts of his weakness, but God was strong in the moment. I have been deeply concerned and in much thought about our Cambridge mission this autumn. . . . I do not know that I have ever felt more inadequate and totally unprepared for a mission. As I think over the possibility for messages, I realize how shallow and weak my presentations are. In fact, I was so overwhelmed with my unpreparedness that I almost decided to cancel my appearance, but because plans have gone so far perhaps it is best to go through with it. . . . However, it is my prayer that I shall come in the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit.
SLIDE N - That Wednesday night—the third night of his stay—Graham set aside his lesson and began by saying, “Let me tell you what I know about the Cross of Jesus Christ.”
That night, four hundred students stayed behind and accepted Jesus as their Savior.
He felt he was preaching to please his audience rather than the Holy Spirit. So Billy Graham sought the Lord.
Among those that came to faith that week was David Watson, and English Christian evangelist. (See,
"Billy Graham’s weakness plus the all-sufficient, transforming gospel of the new covenant plus his dependence upon the Holy Spirit wrought a mighty ministry in Cambridge."
He preached in San Francisco at the Cow Palace on April 27, 1958.
A little over 60 years to the day
"The Offense of the Cross"
Many say this is one of the best messages ever recorded.
He spoke from
v. 25 - "the weakness of God is stronger than men"
v. 27 - "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong"

Exegesis 2 of 4

v. 6
"speaking the truth" - In spite of the boast, the subject is true
v. 7 & 8
"a thorn"
Cryptic reference
Much study and debate about what this could be
3 possible explanations for scholars
Spiritual weakness or temptation
Frequent persecution, especially from the Jews
Physical ailment or disability (most accepted)
Eye ailment
Pleaded with God 3 times to have the thorn removed
What is your thorn (weakness) and where are you weak?
Your relationships?
Your sense of belonging?
Your parenting?
Your child-ing?
Your prayers?
Your study of the Bible?

1 - Spiritual Weakness Leads to Increased Reliance on God

Human standards of strength and weakness are overturned by God’s perspective and may be used for his glory.
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
Weakness is a portal to the POWER of God.
Weakness = The Wardrobe ... from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
It's a portal to a more expansive existence
It's unsuspecting
It's often hard to find until you know where to look
/ - Weakness of the flesh
- Paul quoting Gen. 17:17 and Abraham's weakness as a 100-year-old
v. 27 - "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong"
v. 29 - To prevent our boast
- Faith focused on the power of God, not the wisdom of men
Biblical Examples in addition to Paul
Moses -
Gideon -
Jeremiah -
Ezekiel -
Peter - and Acts 2
John the Baptist -
It was their insufficiency that invited the sufficiency of God.

2 - Weakness Demonstrates the Power of God

Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
- Our power comes from God
- Our wisdom comes from God
- To restore our souls
Right now, think of a glaring weakness in your life, and sense in your body where you FEEL it
This will help you identify your experience of it
May be connected to your Enneagram type, a tool of Soul Care, and the triad in which it belongs

Exegesis 3 of 4

v. 9
God's reply to Paul's 3 appeals
[1.] The good-will of God towards us, and this is enough to enlighten and enliven us, sufficient to strengthen and comfort us, to support our souls and cheer up our spirits, in all afflictions and distresses.
[2.] The good work of God in us, the grace we receive from the fulness that is in Christ our head; and from him there shall be communicated that which is suitable and seasonable, and sufficient for his members. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2291). Peabody: Hendrickson.
This means that God's grace is all we need -- sufficient, enough, satisfactory for what we need
made perfect
means complete
to be or become thoroughly or entirely accomplished
ESV xrefs to
(power and strength are ours) and
("I can do all things")
... take a deep breath
Summary of all that has been said to this point
The word gladly
Pleased to do so
may rest
become influential over
dwell as if by setting up a tent over it
Because this is TRUE, Paul says that he can boast of his weaknesses because he can be fed by and led by the power of Christ

3 - God Helps Those Who ... Are Weak

Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
Not "... help themselves."
- The Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we don't even know what to pray
- God's active search for us to help us
- An example of God's empowerment
- Examples of God's strength exercised in men

Exegesis 4 of 4

v. 10
Not a begrudging settling for
take delight
Be well pleased

4 - Spiritual Weakness Should Not Be Despised

Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
- Serve those who are weaker
- Welcome the weaker one
; ; - Respect the weak


"This all sounds so fuzzy and cozy sitting in a pew here today, but this doesn't fly out in the real world. If you don't live strong, you'll get crushed."
... Or life crushes you
45,000 commit suicide in U.S. annually
It's not just those who are down-and-out
Most recently, Swedish DJ and producer, Avicii
April 20, age of 28
$30M net worth
Family said: “Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace." (Read more at
Robin Williams
One of the most, if not the most, brilliant comedians of our time
The "happy genie"
He didn't struggle much by the method he chose to end his life
Suicide rate increased 20% after the death of Robin Williams
The list of celebrities and well-known people that have committed suicide is a long one
Google, "celebrity suicide"
It's a LONG list
It includes people from every walk of life
NOTE: Credit Brian Howard for these ideas. He spoke on May 1, 2018 at the Act29 Conference in Reno, NV, and I pulled them from my notes of his message.
There was a time in my life when I wished I was dead, too
In high school
It's when I was given faith to believe in Jesus in 1973
Most people struggle to be happy

Closing / But Yes

- One of the Final Warnings that follows shortly after our text.
This section deals with the positional weakness
Shows clarity of our deference to God
Shows a right place for us to live
Demonstrates a healthy relationship between us and God
Offers us a place to Belong
God is drawing people to Himself to be in relationship
Because we have the truth about what ultimately satisfies
R. Kent Hughes leads us:
God is not looking for gifted people or people who are self-sufficient. He is looking for inadequate people who will give their weakness to him and open themselves to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the transforming grace of the new covenant as it is ministered by Christ Jesus himself.
If God is calling you, do not hide behind your weakness. I don’t know what he may be calling you to do—it may be a worldwide mission, it may be teaching a Sunday school class, it may be ministering to children, it may be reaching out in your neighborhood, it may be stepping up at work. But if he’s calling you, don’t hide behind your weakness—your weakness is the ground for his calling. Follow God, and he will use your weakness as an occasion for his power.
Let these words wash over you and soak in the grace from which they spring:
He supplies strength to the weary.
He increases power to the faint.
He offers escape to the tempted.
He sympathizes with the hurting.
He saves the hopeless.
He shields the helpless.
He sustains the homeless.
He gives purpose to the aimless.
He gives reason to the meaningless.
He gives fulfillment to our emptiness.
He gives light in the darkness.
He gives comfort in our loneliness.
He gives fruit in barrenness.
He gives heaven to the hopeless.
He gives life to the lifeless.
My Jesus is Everything by Anne Graham Lotz, 2005, J. Countryman, p. 48
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