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. 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 (II Corinthians 12:9-10).
Our God has a way of turning our assumptions on their heads. If we assume there are three Gods because we are told of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, he corrects us: Only one God. If we assume the only way to get to heaven is by leading a good life, he corrects us: Not by works, but by faith. If we assume that weakness and strength are opposites, he educates us: Weakness can be strength. The Apostle Paul learned this to be true in his life. God now uses him to explain it to us with the words, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” He wasn’t talking about muscle-building! It’s about faith-building. Much more important!
The account of the ministry of Saint Paul is sprinkled heavily with failures, dangers, and disasters. Already when he was first called into service, the Lord had said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16). Wouldn’t make for a good recruiting poster, but it was accurate. In this second letter to the Corinthian congregation, he answered those who considered him second-rate compared to some so-called super pastors.
He told about the time when he, somehow, was given a view of heaven. So he would not become conceited over this, he explained, he was then given what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”Perhaps this thorn was weak eyesight. Maybe it was some disease or a condition like epilepsy. Whatever, it humbled him. It reminded him of how dependent he was upon his Creator and Redeemer. It drove him to his knees. It led him to his Strength.
The pattern was set by Jesus. Crowds were impressed by the power of his miracles. Who wouldn’t be? But the show of his power was not going to defeat the Powers of Darkness. Raising some dead bodies to live again for a while on this earth would not bring about the resurrection to life eternal in glory for us. To accomplish his mission, Jesus would need to submit to weakness.
He had to undergo disrespect and shame. He would have to submit to torture. He would become so weak that someone else would need to finally carry his cross. He didn’t enjoy that. In feverish prayer, he begged his Father for another way to rescue mankind. There was none. Instead, angels were sent to strengthen him to endure the weakness. He didn’t argue. Instead, he said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
The Apostle Paul responded with the same attitude when his request was denied for that thorn in the flesh to be removed. So it should be with us. Life is not going to be without frustration and failure. Pain is going to be part of it. We will not be able to overcome every obstacle. At times we will feel weak—because we are weak. But our God is not. He uses our weakness to give us his strength. We will gain every needed victory. We will overcome death.
We pray: Lord Jesus, it is hard for us to admit our weaknesses. We would rather build ourselves up to make ourselves strong. We would rather fix our problems ourselves instead of being dependent upon anyone else—including you. Keep us from such foolishness. Use our weakness to make us strong. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, MN Provided by WELS Ministry to the MilitaryDeletePublicSavePublish