Summary: It’s the reality that to be strong in the things of God, we must be weak. When we’re in Christ, we’re weak but strong.
Weak But Strong
February 11, 2007
Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, which in the 1960’s became what is today the missions agency OMF International, knew the secret of strength through weakness. Complimented once by a friend on the impact of the mission, Hudson answered, “It seemed to me that God looked over the whole world to find a man who was weak enough to do His work, and when He at last found me, He said, ‘He is weak enough—he’ll do.’ All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.” Our Daily Bread, May 13, 1996
This story illustrates a great truth, and a great paradox, of our Christian faith, which we’re going to spend some time looking at this morning.
It’s the reality that to be strong in the things of God, we must be weak. When we’re in Christ, we’re weak but strong. That’s the title of this morning’s message: Weak But Strong
This is a clear theme in scripture, but the best passage to teach us this truth is:
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (NIV) 1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. 3 And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. 7 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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 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.
Here in this part of his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, we have the apostle Paul. He’s the man responsible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the writing of much of the New Testament, most of the epistles, some of what is arguably the most influential writing of the past 2,000 years.
If there’s anyone who could boast, or has the right to boast, to brag on himself, it would be Paul. It’s unlikely anyone here in this room will write things that will be influencing people 2000 years from now, assuming Jesus doesn’t come back before then.
In fact, before this passage, Paul found himself boasting, but he was boasting in a way we usually don’t think of boasting. He was boasting of his weakness, of his difficulties, of his troubles. And as we begin chapter 12 of 2nd Corinthians, Paul says he finds himself with the need to continue boasting.
But here, we begin to see his purpose in boasting. For most people, bragging about experiences, abilities, accomplishments, is a way to build themselves up in the eyes of others – to make much of themselves so others will make much of them.
We see it often in our culture. We see it in Hollywood. We see it in Washington politics. We see it in sports. Unfortunately, we see it in the church.
Paul saw it in the church at Corinth, too, so he had to, for the time being, stoop to the level of his enemies to make a point, by boasting or bragging.
Bragging, even in a minor way, is a fairly common occurrence in our regular discourse. But for Paul, his bragging, his boasting, had a different purpose. As we read these ten verses from 2 Corinithians 12, we see what his purpose is.
If Paul was inclined to boast about himself, to build himself up in the eyes of others, he would have immediately told us that he was, in fact, the man in Christ who had a first-hand experience of heaven.