Summary: 'Delighting in our weaknesses, really?' Yes, really. Last week we looked at how Paul learned the secret to contentment. As we needed to learn the secret to contentment, we also need to learn the secret to delighting in our weaknesses.
DELIGHTING IN OUR WEAKNESSES
2nd Cor. 12:7-10
Last week I mentioned that my sermon title, Being Content During Covid, probably caused you to think, 'he can't be serious'. Well, you might have the same reaction to today's sermon title. 'Delighting in our weaknesses, really?' Yes, really. Paul said he learned the secret to contentment and he also said he delighted in his weaknesses. As we needed to learn the secret to contentment, we also need to learn the secret to delighting in our weaknesses.
1) Delighting in our weaknesses.
2 Cor. 12:7-10, "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."
Chapter twelve starts out with Paul telling about this man who had been caught up to the third heaven. The third heaven refers to the heavenly realms, into the presence of God. The first heaven is our atmosphere, the second heaven is outer space and the third heaven is where God is. He heard things that he wasn't permitted to tell.
Many believe Paul was talking about himself in the third person, even though he says in vs. 5 that although he will boast about a man like that, he will not boast about himself, except in regards to his weaknesses. Paul went on to say that if he did boast he'd be telling the truth, but he refrained from doing that so no one would think more of him than is warranted by what he did or said.
Paul wouldn't boast about his accomplishments, only his weaknesses. He said back in 11:30, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
What humility! You don't hear people bragging about how weak they are! It's the other way around. And even when people do talk about their weaknesses, it's usually in regards to what they struggled with in the past, not what they're struggling with now. But Paul was different. If he was going to bring attention to himself it would be in regards to highlighting only what was wrong with him so people wouldn't get the wrong impression of him.
That's a lesson for us, isn't it? We usually want to convey an image of strength, like we have it all together. We don't want to reveal our weaknesses and issues. But being more real with people is actually a show of strength, not weakness. And typically, people will respect you more when you're willing to do that. I'm not saying you have to spill every shortcoming you have, but to be more transparent around others is an honorable trait.
But it's interesting that even though Paul had committed himself to not boasting, he was given this thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. This tells me that God knows us better than we know ourselves. I don't think Paul would've been given this thorn if there was no chance he could become conceited. So, as much as he was focused on not boasting there would have been, at some point, the temptation to think of himself more highly than he ought.
This shows no matter what we're committed to doing or not doing, we can't make the mistake of thinking we could never fall. 1 Cor. 10:12, "If you think you're standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" So if God gives us something to help us to stay on track, we need to humbly accept it; otherwise we'll be setting ourselves up for danger. Pride comes before the fall, right?
There are different theories about what this messenger of satan was tormenting Paul about. It could've been his past as a persecutor of the church. It may have been over his weaknesses; his poor eyesight being one of them. Paul pleads for Jesus to take it away and he was denied his request. No matter how much it tormented him, there was a greater purpose for it to remain. If Paul had become conceited his ministry would've went into a tailspin and the impact would've been destructive.
Perhaps you have prayed for God to take away your weaknesses. Maybe you've pleaded for God to remove your tormentor. The fact that he hasn't could be because it's serving a purpose. Jesus will say ‘no’ if it's in our best interest. And it’s in our best interest to accept it when he does. Quote, “When God chooses not to use His power to alleviate the pain, trust in God’s power to see you through the pain.”