Summary: So often our lives seem weak and frail. Has God failed us? Not at all! Through the Apostle Paul, learn of God’s power and grace that is at work for you. Parts: A. Lord Jesus, use my weakness for your sake. B. Lord Jesus, your grace never falls short.

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Theme: Christ’s Power Dwells on the Weak

A. Lord Jesus, use my weakness for your sake

B. Lord Jesus, your grace never falls short

Season: Pentecost 7b

Date: July 19, 2009

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit sustains our faith to endure all things for Jesus is 1 Corinthians 12

"To keep me from exalting myself due to the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to pommel me, was given to me to keep me from exalting myself. Because of this three times I implored the Lord for it to go away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is completed in weakness." So rather, I will most gladly boast in my weaknesses, in order that Christ’s power may dwell on me. Therefore, I take pleasure in weakness, in insults, in neediness, in persecution, in distress, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am powerful." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

"Believe in yourself." "Find your inner strength." "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps." "God helps those who help themselves." "Dream big and you will achieve it." "Reach for the stars."

You’ve heard those thoughts many times over. They pulsate through commencement addresses, self-help books, and motivational speakers. They’re the theme for movies, stories, and talk shows. But how contrary they are to what today’s text says!

Now, I realize that the words of those opening statements can be maneuvered to fit in line with the Bible, if you take them the right way. In the right context under the proper circumstances one of those pithy statements might be beneficial. But the vast majority of times when they are used, they point us away from Christ’s power and direct us to our own strength. That is diametrically opposed to everything in the Scriptures.

So today, rather than relishing in our strengths, let us join the Apostle Paul and boast of our weaknesses. For Christ’s power dwells on the weak. That’s the theme for you to remember today. Christ’s power dwells on the weak. And when we take that to heart, our prayers change. We pray: Lord Jesus, use my weakness for your sake. That’s part one. And we pray: Lord Jesus, your grace never falls short. That’s part two.

A. Lord Jesus, use my weakness for your sake

1. What does Paul mean by weaknesses?

What do we usually pray when we think about weakness? Don’t we ask God to take it away? We pray for strength instead, for a stronger faith, for power to make it through the day, for the strength resist sin, stand firm, and endure. And we certainly have example and direction of Scripture to pray such prayers. But should we also pray: "Lord Jesus, use my weakness for your sake"?

Look at what the Apostle says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses . . . I delight in weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 NIV). He sees these weaknesses as a blessing from God. Shouldn’t we,too, pray for such blessings?

But what does Paul mean by weaknesses? Here we need to listen carefully to what the Scriptures say in context and not to the imaginations of our spiritual laziness. Paul does not boast or delight in weakness of faith or weakness of morals or weakness in serving God and our neighbor. He’s not praising the person who says, "Why should I try to strengthen my faith? The Bible is so hard to understand. Life’s too busy for Bible classes. Isn’t showing up for church once in a while good enough? Why should I bother strengthening my faith at home using God’s Word. Doesn’t Paul boast about weakness?" Such a faith is wasting away into unbelief, if it hasn’t died already. Nor is Paul praising the man who says, "I’m such a weak Christian. I can’t help but give in to my sinful desires. Why bother fighting them? I might as well give in sooner rather than later. Doesn’t my weakness make God’s grace look even better by forgiving someone who sins as easily as I do?" That’s abusing God’s forgiveness as a license for sin. Nor is Paul praising the attitude that says, "I don’t need to do my best in serving God and my neighbor because weakness is good." That attitude flows from laziness, not from faith.

So what does Paul mean by weaknesses? Look at what he writes in verse 10: "For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses . . ." And now he gives examples of what he means by weaknesses: ". . . in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties" (2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV). Ah, do you see? It’s what the world labels as weakness. It includes what we suffer for Christ’s sake, such as the insults, ridicule, persecution that come as we follow Jesus and boldly live for him. It also includes those things like hardships, neediness, difficulties that from a human perspective seem to get in the way of our serving Jesus and our neighbor. Whatever Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, he felt it hindered his ability to serve, so he pleaded with God to take it away. But God knew better. What appears weak to the world, what we even may consider a handicap in service, God uses to accentuate his power in Christ. Lord Jesus, use my weakness for your sake. For your power dwells on the weak.

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