Summary: Paul rejoiced in his weaknesses and hardships and difficulties... was he crazy? No, he had learned the source of strength in his weakness.
OPEN: Years ago, the story was told of a Sunday School teacher who – on the Sunday before Thanksgiving - was encouraging the children in her class to share things they were grateful for.
A little boy was asked what he was thankful for, and he thought for a moment. Then the boy went through a whole laundry list of things he was thankful for… including being thankful for his glasses.
The teacher thought that was a bit peculiar. Most of the children she knew didn’t particularly like to wear their glasses… but this little boy was very enthusiastic about them. So asked him why he was thankful to have to wear glasses.
He answered with these words: “Because they keep the boys from hitting me…and the girls from kissing me.”
APPLY: When I was younger, a lot of kids rebelled at the idea of wearing glasses. Glasses in my day weren’t a “fashion statement” – they were glasses. Something you had to wear to in order to see. But they weren’t the most attractive things in the world… mine were horn rimmed and ugly, but functional.
And so, sometimes kids would refuse to wear them to school… often putting them in their lockers or their desks at school. They’d rather look at a world filled with blurry images than face the embarrassment of being seen as less than perfect… or being made fun of by their peers.
But not this little boy. He looked at what others saw as a weakness – and saw instead an advantage, a strength. He had learned a deep truth that many people never fully understand:
That which many people perceive as being a weakness, can actually become the source of our strength, and our comfort.
I. That was what God was teaching Paul here in 2 Corinthians
Now, you wouldn’t think that Paul would need to be “taught.” Paul was one of the greatest teachers of the early church. I mean, he wrote about ½ of the New Testament. And those writings formed much of the foundation for what we know about Jesus and the church, and our salvation.
In addition to that, as Paul tells us here in II Corinthians God had been allowed him to see special things - visions of heaven few men had ever seen before.
So, you wouldn’t think Paul would need to be taught much of anything.
But there was something Paul needed to learn, and becoming weak was the only way God could teach Paul this valuable lesson.
Look again with me to II Corinthians 12:7. Paul tells us: “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.”
II. God had something to teach Paul/ something Paul could only learn if he became weak…what was it?
Well… Paul was MADE weak to learn that he WAS weak.
Paul explains to us that he was given this thorn to keep him from “becoming conceited”. Conceited people believe they are strong. They are impressed with themselves and what they’ve done, and what they can do. And they’re more than happy to share that knowledge with you. That’s how we know they’re conceited. Conceit is a trait of people who are self-contained. They believe they are “in control”. They don’t need help from anyone.
As far as God is concerned, people who are conceited are out of touch with reality. They are not wise, and being exposed to personal weakness is a way to learn wisdom… to learn how to make wise choices in my life.
ILLUS: For example… let’s say that next week I get a chance to go to California. While I’m there, I rent a car and drive around the state capital. I’m stopped at a stoplight and I get rear-ended by a very expensive car. I’m not really hurt, but I’m a little upset. I get out of my car and the other driver gets out of his. This guy seems to think that the accident was my fault. He becomes abusive. He gets me mad. And I say some things I shouldn’t.
Oh… and did I mention this other fellow was the Governor of California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like I said, he’s upset, so he challenges me to a fight… right there out in the middle of the street.
Now… what do you think? Arnold is getting to be an old man now, do you think I might be able to take him?
I think not! Compared to Schwarzenegger, I’m a girly man… and I’m more than willing to accept that. BECAUSE I REALIZE - that compared to him - I’m weak
Recognizing my weakness compared to Gov. Schwarzenegger, is a mark of wisdom. And I’m going to make wise choices… I’m going to get back into my car, lock the doors and wait for the police to show up.