2 Corinathians 12:10b
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I have a confession to make. When I am weak I feel weak. A little over a week ago, I had some trees cut down. Because I am a “do it yourself’ kind of a guy, and because I like to save money, I told the tree guy that I would clean up the brush and cut up the logs. All he had to do was bring the trees down safely. That was beyond my DIY abilities.
After my tree guy was finished, I went to work. I began clearing away the brush and piling it in a convenient place to be run through my chipper later. (Why buy mulch when you can make it.) In order to clear away the brush and clean up the yard, I also had to stack the logs, which ranged in length from 4-8 feet. I worked at my task for several hours. The next day my back let me know that I had over done it, big time. Graciously, a friend came over and cut up a majority of the logs for me the next day. I limped through the week with a painful back.
The pile of cut logs remained where they were for a week. On Monday, two young men came over to help me move the pile up to the house. I borrowed our neighbor’s trailer to pull behind my lawn mower and we got started. In just under two hours we had moved all the logs that we could move and had cleared up the rest of the brush. By Monday night, my back was protesting with renewed vigor. The constant pain in my back continues to drain my energy. I am beginning a new week again weak.
The Apostle Paul had a physical malady with which he had to struggle. No one knows for sure what it was. Personally, I believe it had something to do with his eyesight. Paul took his situation to the Lord and asked to be healed. Instead of taking this malady away, God invited Paul to trust Him to make up the difference. Paul records his experience in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Let’s take a closer look at that experience.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. 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. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Paul saw his “thorn in the flesh” as a corrective in his life. Paul was in danger of becoming spiritually arrogant because of all of the amazing things God had allowed him to experience. So God put a governor on Paul’s ego to slow him down. (NOTE: companies used to put governors on trucks and busses to keep drivers from exceeded prescribed speed limits.)
There are many reasons why God might allow us to face some physical challenge as a corrective in our lives. When we are young, we do not think about physical limits. Physical limits are something to be overcome. As we mature, we have to come to grips with the reality that physical limits are real and they are there as a safeguard against doing serious damage to ourselves. Pain is God’s warning sign that something is wrong, that we need to pay attention, and that we need to take corrective action.
Instead of pulling Paul’s thorn, God left it in place to teach Paul to depend upon Him. Left unchecked, Paul’s ego could have become a huge barrier to the Gospel. The spotlight could have been focused on Paul and how great he was, instead of on God and how great He is. So God gave Paul His grace to endure the malady that he would have to live with. The more Paul accepted his weakness, the more the power and strength of God would come through.
It is a part of our fallen human nature that when all is going well we forget about our need for God. We start to depend upon and glory in our own strength. We fall into the trap of spiritual invincibility. We accept the lie that we can do anything we put our mind to. All we have to do is to work harder and we will gain our desired results. It is at those times that God pulls the rug out from under our feet. He allows us to fall flat to remind us just how dependent we are on Him.
Paul celebrated the strength of God, which was demonstrated through his weakness. Paul was not some kind of a masochist. He did not find pleasure in his weakness. Instead Paul was celebrating that his weakness allowed God’s strength to shine through him. He saw his weakness as an opportunity for God’s glory to shine.
I awoke on Sunday morning with a stiff, painful back. My energy levels were pretty low. But when it came time to step up onto the platform and preach, God’s strength took over. He gave me the energy that I needed, at the time I needed it, to do what I needed to do for His glory. I would love to report that I went home free of pain. I did not. I spent a good part of the evening with an ice-pack on my lower back. But I praise God that He allowed me the grace to proclaim His glory.
Let me go back to my opening statement. When I am weak I feel weak. But I can also say, with confidence, that in my weakness I have experienced the power and grace of God. My current experience has forced me to do something I am often reluctant to do; ask for help. But by asking for help, I have experienced God’s blessings. I am definitely not as bold as Paul, but I can affirm what he said. When I have been at my weakest is when I have experienced the strength of God the most.
2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.