Strength in Weakness
Strength in Weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Many of us spend much of the time denying what most of us know about all of us— we are people with weaknesses. Yet our point of weakness can become God's vantage ground for our greatest strength. Sometimes we wish that we were strong enough for God to use us. Actually, God's strength is most evident in the midst of our weakness.
We Should Accept the Reality of Our Weaknesses
Most Christians carry with them some definite weaknesses. They are in good company for Paul certainly did. He called his weakness a "thorn in the flesh." The word may refer to a large instrument like a stake or a narrow sharply pointed sliver like a thorn. Paul carried with him something that hurt. Some understand the thorn to be something outside Paul such as opposition or persecution. Most understand the thorn to be something inside Paul. The thorn may have been physical, emotional, or spiritual. The thorn is deliberately not named so we can relate it to our own experience.
The source of the thorn was God Himself. The passive expression "there was given me" actually refers to God's permissive will. But the thorn itself was "a messenger of Satan." Job 2 reveals that God and Satan may relate to the same human pain with different motives. Satan intended the thorn to hurt Paul. God intended the thorn to bless Paul.
The purpose of the thorn is twice repeated: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassingly great revelations" (v. 7). Paul had enjoyed an incredible vision of Paradise. Because of the extraordinary number of kinds of revelations he was in danger of spiritual conceit. There are three basic kinds of pride: pride of face, race, and grace. The ugliest pride is spiritual pride. God saved Paul from spiritual pride by giving him a thorn.
What is your weakness? Whatever it is, God intends to keep you humbly dependent on Him through it. Our thorns temper our pride.
We Should Understand the Necessity of Our Weaknesses
Our attitude toward weakness is not God's attitude. We ask God to remove our weakness. Paul persistently asked God to remove this thorn. Just as Jesus prayed three times in the garden, Paul prayed on three occasions that Jesus would remove his thorn. Paul personally requested this of the Lord Jesus. In every other instance Paul prayed to God the Father. In this instance he requested the Lord Jesus to deal with the weakness. The words suggest that he wanted the weakness removed permanently.
God's attitude toward our weakness is different from our attitude. God may inform us of the permanency of our weakness. "He said to me" (v. 9) suggests a permanent and final word from God that kept resounding in Paul's ears for years. God told Paul that he would have to live with his thorn. But God at the same time may tell us of His sufficiency in weakness. Paul was given something better than he asked for. He asked for relief. God gave Paul more grace.
The dynamic efficiency of God's power is best seen in weakness: "my power is made perfect in weakness" (v. 9). God's strength reaches completeness in our weakness. Where human strength abounds God's strength is not evidently seen. Where human strength disappears God's strength shines more brightly. From Abraham through the disciples the Bible abounds with evidence that God uses weakness rather than strength.
We Should Boast in the Sublimity of Our Weaknesses
At the mature level of Christian living we do not boast about our achievements but about our weaknesses. Paul did not present as his credentials of Christian leadership how many churches he started or converts he baptized. He never built a building or led a financial campaign. He boasted about his own disabilities.
Why? A sublime thing happened to Paul in the midst of weakness. The power of God "spread its tent" over him. The weaknesses of Paul were covered and hidden under that power of God. God's power cannot cover one who boasts of his own strength. But a sublime thing happens when we boast of our weakness and His grace. The power of God builds a tabernacle over us and around us. We can live within the walls of that tabernacle. Our life can reflect the very brightness of God's glory.
If anyone doubts this, let that person look at the Lord Jesus. When He was at His weakest on the cross He was at His strongest in redemption. So also with us.