Summary: Where do you have the hardest time standing up for Jesus? In your weakest point, God offers grace and the strength of his power.
As we are nearing the end of this letter to the Corinthians we see another golden principle of the Christian faith. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient.” And, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul was granted something rare. He saw and heard heavenly, inexpressible words and was given surpassingly great revelations from God. Along with these came the responsibility to remain humble. So, to help him out, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself.
Gallons of ink have been spilled through the years guessing and arguing about what this thorn might be. We know that it is a messenger of Satan. We know that it is unpleasant and buffets Paul. And we know that he prayed three times to have it taken away, but the Lord refused. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was and may never know. The thorn isn’t the point. God’s grace and power through weakness is what is important and this is what Paul picks up on. This is where the Lord’s grace and power are seen best. Weaknesses!
Instead of turning this into a sticky issue, what we need to do is discover God’s grace and power when we are dealing with our weaknesses.
What does he mean by weaknesses? First, these are not spiritual weaknesses! He’s not saying that he’s got spiritual weakness to sin in some area, and this is a good thing. No, this is not a spiritual weakness, this is a physical weakness or even an abuse in which the grace and power of God has the opportunity to do its best work. Look at verses 9-10 with me.
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
What he means by weaknesses here are insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties for Christ’s sake. In other words, when the going gets really tough as he serves Jesus, he sees that as a time of weakness, but not of defeat or a place of discouragement, because Jesus works best where we struggle to serve him. Again, this is not about being tempted to sin, but about struggling to serve Christ in difficult circumstances. Difficulty was something the Corinthian church was constantly placing on Paul!
Where is it the hardest in your life for you to stand up for Jesus? Where do you face the most difficulty simply because you are a follower of Jesus Christ? It is here that you face what Paul is describing as a weakness. And it is here that you need the most grace and power from God to accomplish the mission of Christ.
Think about this with me... the temptation of weakness is to give up. If we are relying on our own strength and recognize that we are too weak to handle the challenge, we are tempted to quit. But, if by faith, we are looking to God for strength beyond ourselves, well... move over! That is when God shows his power. It seems that God tends to put us in places where we need to be to make us do this very thing.
Talk about the need for grace and power… what about the first apostles when Jesus commissioned them and left them. Here they were, a bunch of Galilean unschooled ordinary men. What was their assignment? These guys were the epitome of weakness! How were they supposed to go into all the world and win disciples for Jesus? It is clear that without an abundance of grace and power from heaven, they didn’t have a prayer. But what does such a challenge do for God’s people? It can do the same thing for us as it did for them. Weaknesses can make us rely more on God than on ourselves! When we realize our limited strength we are wise if we cry out to the unlimited God.
Is this not true throughout the Bible? This is God’s favorite song. Think of how many times God took the lowly and despised things and worked his wonders. In fact, when we look back, it almost seems a requirement of God that his chosen instruments of grace struggled with weakness.
Noah was a lone ranger in a fallen world. Abraham, the father of many nations was childless for most of his life. Moses went up against Pharaoh with a rod and a message. “The Lord says, ‘Let my people go!’” Gideon was given only 300 men to rescue Israel from the thousands of Midianite enemies. David was a youth with a sling and 5 rocks when he faced the armored giant, Goliath. On and on the Bible describes how God’s grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness.