God’s ways never seem to make sense in our finite human understanding. The way of His kingdom is completely opposite of our world and culture. In His system, the humble are lifted up, the poor made rich, the last made first, and the weak made strong. Crazy, right?!
But it’s true.
All great men and women of God throughout history have been people of humility and weakness. Many of them were unlikely heroes that God used to do extraordinary things--from a shepherd boy becoming a great king to humble fishermen becoming the founders of the Church. God delights in using simple, seemingly insignificant people to fulfill His great divine plans.
Now while Paul was already a man of great accomplishments and success, God used him to spread the message of the gospel far and wide. Yet, to keep this mighty warrior in the faith humble, God allowed Satan to harass Paul daily with a thorn in the flesh. We’ve already taken a look at what this thorn in the flesh was; now it’s time to study Paul’s response.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
~II Corinthians 12:7-10
Reread that last sentence. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Here is one of our divine paradoxes: weakness equaling strength. Or as we might state it mathematically: weakness = strength. How can weakness equal strength? This statement doesn’t look quite right. We seem to be missing a key component. But what are we missing? What would turn weakness into strength?
The answer is found in Jesus’ response to Paul’s pleas. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” Made perfect. In the Greek this is all one word meaning “brought to completion, fulfilled, accomplished.” So we could reread this statement as “My power is fulfilled, accomplished, and brought to completion in weakness.” The power that formed the universe out of nothing and spoke the stars and galaxies into existence is made perfect or brought to completion in our weakness. Wow!
It’s almost as if Jesus’ power was meant to fulfill weakness. While great and majestic in and of itself, His power is completed only in weakness. It’s not fulfilled in creating stars and forming worlds, but in our weakness. Take a moment to ponder that thought…
This is why Paul could boast in his weakness, why he could be content with his thorn in the flesh, and why he could make the bold statement of “when I am weak, then I am strong.” We cannot suddenly become strong on our own, but through our weakness Christ’s power is perfected and together, it equals strength.
Let’s go back to our formula and add the important truth we just learned that it is Jesus’ power which makes our weakness strong. So let’s add the God factor to our equation. Now we have weakness + God = strength. This is our winning formula. Our weakness by itself will never amount to anything, but with God all things are possible, and He loves perfecting His power through our weakness and making us strong.
So will you be like Paul and rejoice in your weakness? Will you be content with hardships, calamities, trials, and ailments? Will you be able to confidently say, “when I am weak, then I am strong?”
Throughout life, we will experience reminders that we are weak. They may come as physical ailments, chronic pain, or difficult circumstance, but no matter what our thorn may be, Jesus’ promise to Paul applies to us too. Therefore, when life becomes hard, when trials come and thorns stab our lives, remember that weakness + God = strength and that if we trust God, Jesus’ power will be made perfect through us. So take heart and rejoice for His grace is sufficient!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
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