God’s Power in Weakness

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2 Corinthians 12:6–10 (NRSV)
6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”“ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger sent from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”  He doesn’t tell us what was this thorn.  We can only surmise that it was some type of physical infirmity.
He has just shared all that he has suffered for the cause of Christ up to this point – All the beatings, and lashings, and shipwreck, etc.  In vv. 1-6, he shared about a vision that he had in which he was taken to Paradise. It seems if anyone would have deserved healing it was Paul.  Paul prayed for deliverance 3 times for God to take it away.  The Lord answered his prayer the same way each time:
“My grace is sufficient for you.  My power is perfected in weakness.”
We live in a culture which attempts to avoid pain in any form.  We even try to avoid the general pain and suffering that accompany growing old.  But here Paul is told something by God that we find hard to swallow.  “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
We live in a culture that glories in ones own power.  Our heroes and idols are those who boast about all that they can do – their strengths and not their weaknesses.  In fact, we do not even want to admit that we have weakness.  This goes to the church also.  We want our pastors up on a pedestal, where we can worship them.  So we have churches that have been built entirely on a cult of personality.  Is it any wonder that the church is held in such low esteem, when this is the case. We all have feet of clay.
In their book, Pain:  The Gift Nobody Wants, Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand make a convincing argument that the ability to experience pain is a gift that God gives us to keep us from deeper harm.  In his work with sufferers of leprosy in India, Dr. Brand observed how those afflicted with the disease lost their ability to feel pain.  When the disease had progressed to a point where they could no longer suffer pain, they would injure themselves in all kinds of ways:  burns, cuts, and wounds that could lead to loss of their very limbs and even death.  Pain, which most people in our society try to avoid, is actually a gift which helps us to understand the boundaries of healthy living.
Human weakness is something to boast about, according to Paul.  Because it is only in recognizing our weakness – “God, I cannot do anything about this situation.  Only you can.” – that we recognize that weakness is an opportunity for God to work through us by God’s grace.
So we have these broken vessels of God’s grace – pastors, preachers and teachers.  They are not to be put on a pedestal, but to recognize our common weakness.  We are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
Paul finally was forced to accept his weakness in order to depend upon God’s grace, so should we.
God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.  God’s power is released to work in our weakness.  In our weakness, the power of Christ may dwell is us.  So Paul was content in his weakness, and in the suffering that he took as a result of preaching the Good News about Jesus Christ.
Lord, Thank you for my weaknesses.  Help me to know you in your power through my weakness.  Help me to be humble, just as Paul was humble.  Work in my life and those around me, those in my area of influence, through our weakness, because it is in that area where your power is revealed.  Work in your church in power!  Amen.  Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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