Summary: A sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 focusing on Paul’s thorn in the flesh. (Material taken from Sermon Central Contributors and especially C. Bouwman)
Sermon for 5/21/2006
Can You Tell Me Your Weaknesses?
Tell the story about how interviewing a prospective campus minister: Elaborate on your strengths was my first question. My second question was, Elaborate on your weaknesses. Guess what, he wisely refused to do that.
A. Isn’t it amazing how the church falls into the same ruts as the world?
B. Paul here exposes a problem that is common in the church. Exalting oneself! In sharp contrast to the super apostles that were in the city of Corinth, Paul elaborates not on his strengths but on his weaknesses. Paul says that he will boast about his weaknesses.
C. We don’t like being weak. That we don’t have the where with all to finish our work for the day, that we can’t stand the noise of the children, that we can’t seem to get things right in our marriage, that we feel so tongue tied in the presence of others. We get frustrated by such deficiencies, even depressed by them. We interpret our inability to do what we’d like to do as evidence that we’re weak, inadequate, and useless. It gets us down. However, in the presence of others we need to keep up the image that we have it all together. We are masters of any situation. We can’t appear weak. To admit to any weakness is to be exploited.
D. But the Bible says that when I am weak, then I am strong. The church needs to be different from the world.
E. Through a thorn in the flesh, Paul learns that God’s strength is revealed through man’s weakness.
Thesis: Look at three things this morning: The need for Paul’s weakness, the characteristics of Paul’s weakness, and the results of Paul’s weakness.
1. The Need for Paul’s weakness
A. Vs. 7 through 10 contains one of the few references to Paul talking about a personal problem. Notice that Paul does not make reference to himself very often. To get through to the Corinthians, he has had to resort to foolishness and play a mind game with them to get them to see the error of their ways.
B. Even though Paul has a problem he does not complain about it, does not wear a long face of discontent about his lot in life. His writings direct attention away from himself and demand the attention of his readers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Not he and his problems, but rather God and His glory are the focus of Paul’s writings, of Paul’s preaching, and of Paul’s thoughts.
C. I mention this for two reasons:
a. We keep focusing and talking about our problems to that same degree we show that our attention is not focused on our God and Savior.
b. IF God is #1 in our lives, there isn’t place for us to keep talking about me. Most of us have grown up in a very self centered culture, and the result is that we’ve learned well how to talk about me.
c. Paul shows us that Christians should have a different focus.
2. Why does Paul mention his thorn in the flesh here?
a. Vs. 7
b. Becoming conceited, or exalted above measure.
c. Here he is playing the Corinthians game and many times our game. He begins to talk about himself. Toward the end of this discourse he mentions a revelation that he had 14 years earlier about how he was taken up to paradise or God’s throne. This is the first time he has mentioned this, 14 years later.
d. He is humble about it and refers to himself in the 3rd person. IN Vs. 7 we know that he is talking about himself.
e. This was very different from some of the Corinthians and many in our culture. If they had this kind of a vision, they would write a book, hit the speaking tour road, and make a name for themselves. They boasted of their abilities and gifts, they told everyone about their experiences and visions in such a way that many looked up to these super apostles with respect, awe, and envy. But not Paul!
f. What does he tell us about this vision? Absolutely nothing! Heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. John had something similar happen to him and he wrote it all down. Paul doesn’t even mention it.
g. Paul has been privileged to receive numerous revelations from God.
1) Road to Damascus
2) At Troas about going over to Macedonia
3) In Corinth- keep on working
4) In Jerusalem two times
5) On his way to Rome, on the ship that sank.
6) Now here we are told that he had a vision of heaven
h. It would have been quite easy for Paul to be filled with pride over these revelations and for the church to exalt him too highly.