Lucia's Blog: 2021-07-04
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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG

“I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 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. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 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.’”
2 Corinthians 12:1-10


One of the greatest issues many people have is related to God and suffering.  Many accuse God of allowing bad things to happen to good people.  Even many Christians have a hard time grappling with this issue.  Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian Christians because suffering was a big issue. These brethren had a hard time understanding why a true apostle of Jesus like Paul had to suffer and endure so much. Indeed, this caused them to think of Paul as an inferior apostle.  Paul did not avoid and turn away from his sufferings. Rather he magnified the power of God in his weaknesses. Notice what Paul proclaimed, 

“If I must boast, I will boast in the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).  

Although the apostle Paul played the trump card of his suffering, he did not elevate himself but expressed why suffering must never be considered a reason to reject a Christian as a true servant of the Lord.  

Our loving God has given us sufficient Grace to endure whatever suffering or trials that may come our way. God has given us all that we need in this life to endure and grow as His disciples. Thank God for the strength that He provides through His Grace, which helps us cope with our weaknesses!  Those who trust in the Lord have learned to depend entirely on God when their strength is weak. The purpose of the suffering that we endure is to remove our pride, self-confidence, and independence. We must learn to embrace suffering since God has given us His Grace.


I.   GOD'S POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN OUR WEAKNESSES:

Those like Paul, who have happily learned to rejoice in their weaknesses, have learned to be content while suffering, in pain, in weaknesses, hardships, persecutions, and the like because when they are weak, they are strong in the power of Christ. Without God's power and strength, it will be difficult, maybe even impossible, to make it through our trials and sufferings in this life.  God is at work in us so that His power may be displayed.  We must look at our trials, difficulties, hardships, pains, insults, and weaknesses and count it all joy, for we know that the testing of our faith produces faithfulness and steadfastness that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing"  (James 1:2-4).  


  • Paul’s Amazing Experience:

“I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:1-6)


The apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthian brethren of himself as a Christian whom he knew 14 years before he was caught up to the third heaven, into paradise.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” (2 Cor.12:2-3)


The ancients of Paul’s time described the different heavens of creation and the spiritual realm in various ways.  They spoke of the sky as the first heaven, space (where the stars and planets are)—the second, and the third heaven as God’s abode.  Paul called the place where God is Paradise.  Paul did not know if what he experienced was a vision or if his body was caught up into Paradise, into the presence of God. He said this person could hear things that could not be told. He heard things that we humans are not permitted to speak. In 2 Corinthians 12:5-6, Paul declared,
“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.”

Paul made it clear when he was speaking of himself in verses 5-6.   Although it was true that he had experienced such an amazing revelation, he did not boast about himself.  In 2 Corinthians 12:5, Paul says, 

“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.”


Paul did think that what he experienced was worth boasting about.  

Now let’s stop right there for just a moment. 

“That experience” that Paul says is “worth boasting about” refers to a supernatural event in his life where God allowed Paul to see and experience heaven and received incredible insight, revelation into the things of God (verses 1-4). Paul acknowledged that he did nothing to make that happen, for it was something God chose to reveal to him.  Knowing this, Paul would not boast about it as if he earned the right to that experience.

Paul did not speak about those things he saw and heard so that others would think more of him than what they saw or heard from him (2 Cor. 12:6).  Even though Paul was an apostle, he did not want anyone thinking highly of him.  Paul did not want to talk about his revelations, the things he saw, heard and experienced.  He wanted the brethren and others to see his godly life and his proclamation of the Gospel Message rather than his amazing personal experiences.  He refused to amuse them with his personal experiences or revelations.  Paul was more concerned about living and showing them a godly life and his faithful proclamation of God’s Word.  Sadly, many proclaim to be Christians but deny our Lord by their ungodly and unholy living.  Many professed followers of Christ love to tell stories of visions and dreams that they claim God revealed to them to impress their friends.  Paul never did such things to impress others, even though he received abundant experiences and revelations from God.  Paul did not use his amazing visions to persuade his hearers.  He won others to Christ because of his faithful and godly life as he proclaimed the Gospel to them.  


II.   WEAKNESS EQUALS STRENGTH:

“So to keep me from being too elated by 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 being too elated. 8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  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.’” (2 Cor. 12:7-10)


  • The Blessings in The Thorns:  

“7 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.”  (2 Cor. 12:7)

So what is a thorn?  

A thorn is a modified branch in the form of a sharp, woody spine. It can cause sharp pain, irritation, or discomfort.  How many of you have ever been stuck by a thorn? I have been hurt numerous times by thorns. Country people are familiar with the hazards of picking blackberries and raspberries. You expect to be stuck more than once when reaching through the thorny vines for berries. Rose bushes are another story.  Guess what – rose bushes have thorns. Regular gloves will not prevent the sharp thorns from sticking your fingers. When it is time to prune rose bushes, the thorns are there, and you must be very careful, or you will get stuck.  

Did you know that people can also be thorns? Have you ever said that so and so is a “thorn” in my side or somewhere else? Why do we say this about people? We say this about some people because they irritate us. These people may criticize us, talk about us, make life difficult for us, cause problems, or even try to disgrace us somehow. In other words, they make our lives miserable, exasperating, infuriating, maddening, annoying, and we don’t like it.

Have you ever noticed that prickly things come in many shapes, sizes, and colors?  There seem to be four different types of thorns. There is the wooden splinter, the barbed wire, the glass shard, and the unseen thorn in our own flesh.  This got me thinking.  I came up with the following question.  What if there were no thorns to experience?  What if God had not given us thorns as a result of Adam and Eve's sins against Him back in Eden?  To make the question much simpler.  What if God did not remind us of the consequences that grow out of disobeying Him?  How dreadful that place of eternal punishment is!  Yet, our Creator has been merciful to us even in the thorns, those thorns that come into our lives.

By God’s Grace, these thorns motivate us to build up our faith, help us see our need, and realize that we cannot fix it by ourselves.  We cannot prevent these thorns from coming into our lives physically or spiritually. We have no control, nor can we prevent bad things from happening in life.  But, there is one who indeed has that power, who was willing to wear a crown of thorns for our redemption and hope.  

  1. Maybe you are experiencing thorns of bad health.
  2. Maybe someone you thought was a friend has turned against you and become your great adversary.
  3. Maybe you have lost your job.
  4. Maybe it is your pride.
  5. Maybe someone has provoked in you some root of bitterness.
  6. Maybe you are being carried away and distracted by things of this life.
  7. Maybe you are trying to control something you have absolutely no power over.
  8. Maybe these thorns are the result of sin that we need to repent of and turn away from.  

I am sure the list is long. Each of us can list an infinite number of things.

Thorns can come in many varieties, along with their dangers.  They are characterized by what they point out in us:  weakness!   Through our faithfulness, these thorns become a blessing and an opportunity to trust in God.  All we need is to cling to God to help us get through these thorns or trials.  God is wiser and stronger than we are, and He knows what we need.  If we trust in Him, we will come out stronger and more faithful to Him so that our life may be full of joy and glory.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)


Paul speaks of suffering and how God runs the world (2 Cor. 12:7).  God’s purpose for Paul’s suffering was “to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” and “to keep me from becoming conceited.”  We must see the two angles of what Paul was going through. 
  1. Paul was given a thorn in his flesh, which was a messenger of Satan to torment him. 
  2. Satan uses trials, suffering, and difficulties to torment us. 
  3. He also uses these thorns to harass us and afflict us. 
  4. The book of Job portrays this well.  Satan used suffering to torment Job so that he would turn away from the Lord. Satan afflicted Job so that he would prove that he was serving God for nothing.  

I must stress that God’s purpose was not to torment Job nor Paul.  God’s purpose in allowing suffering in both Job and Paul was not to harass them.  

Paul declared that because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations he received, he was given a thorn in the flesh so that he would not exalt himself or become conceited. God used this thorn to keep Paul humble.  God allows suffering purposefully for our own good.  On the other hand, Satan uses suffering to torment us, harass us, and destroy us.

Even the cross of Jesus was not an exclusive work of Satan or God.  In Revelation 12, Satan was using temptations regarding the cross to destroy Christ.  On the other hand, God was using the cross to save the world. 

"When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."  (Luke 22:53)


Luke 22:53 says that the time of the death of Christ was when darkness reigned.   And though the apostles preached that Jesus was killed at the hands of wicked men (Acts 2:23), they also proclaimed that the cross was the work of God (Acts 4:28).  We must stress that God had a purpose from the beginning.  He allows suffering with a good purpose in mind.  Satan’s agenda and purposes are to destroy us!  

    • Paul’s Prayer:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. '"  (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)


In 2 Cor. 12:8-9, Paul humbly asked God three times about this torment he was enduring, the “thorn in the flesh.”  Paul repeatedly prayed to God to remove the suffering he was enduring.  Now stop and think about this. God’s answer to Paul’s prayer was a  repeated “no.” God even told His apostles “no.” Often our requests to God for physical peace and rest is a “no” as His answer.  So what must we make of this? Paul tells us God’s intention toward him regarding his suffering in 2 Cor. 12:9.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 


What was God’s answer to Paul? 
“My grace is sufficient for you.”
 
Our loving God has given us sufficient Grace to endure whatever suffering or trials that may come our way. God has given us all that we need in this life to endure, excel and grow as His disciples.  Do we believe it?  God’s Grace helps us to endure those weaknesses that are not removed.  God’s Grace provides the strength that we need to help us cope with our weaknesses.  Those who trust in God have learned to depend entirely on Him when their strength is weak. The purpose of the suffering that we endure is to remove our pride, self-confidence, and independence. We must learn to embrace suffering since God has given us His Grace to endure our weaknesses (sufferings and trials). 

"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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.'"


Verse 9 is key to understanding God’s power made perfect in our weaknesses.  Weakness is strength.  Why do I say that?  Because we need God the most when we lack strength.  When we have no strength, we are forced to depend on God.  The purpose of our suffering is to burn away our pride, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, and independence. God’s Grace is sufficient to help us embrace and endure our suffering.  God’s Grace is essential to growing the faith we desperately need when we are weak and out of strength.  

  • God uses weak people to show His strength, for the weak have learned to depend on God.  
    • Gideon:
Gideon was not a hero. But God, the hero, took a fearful man and made him victorious through His power.  

    • Moses:

Moses was an exiled shepherd who became the deliverer of God’s people out of Egypt. 

    • David:

David was an insignificant shepherd who became king of Israel and father to the King of Kings. 

  • God uses suffering to keep us humble:
"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." (2 Cor. 12:7

I believe one of Paul’s struggles was pride.  Jesus chose Paul to reveal Himself in a miraculous way.  God chose Paul to write most of the New Testament. God gave Paul “wonderful revelations.” Because of Paul’s awesome revelations and insights from God, perhaps Paul had to struggle with pride and thought of being better than the rest of the apostles.  How do I know that? Because Paul said that a thorn in the flesh was given to him to “keep [him] from becoming conceited [exalted, proud].” Paul needed something to keep him humble. So God allowed a thorn in Paul’s life. Let’s talk about this thorn in Paul's life for a moment.

    • The “thorn” is a personal matter:

To keep Paul from becoming proud, thinking he was better than others, he declared that God had given him a “thorn in my flesh.” No one knows for sure what this thorn in the flesh was because the Bible does not tell us.  Some Bible students say that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was perhaps a troublesome individual in his life, persecution, an embarrassing physical appearance, physical illness of some type like malaria, epilepsy, eye disease, or near blindness. Whatever the cause of his thorn, we are not given much information about it.  But we do know that his thorn was personal to him as it is with our own “thorn.”  Our thorn is something to keep us humble as God blesses us.

    • The “thorn” is a significant matter:
Whatever Paul’s thorn was, it must have been something significant because the word “thorn” does not mean splinter; it means “stake.”  Paul described his thorn as significant, like someone driving a stake into his life. This was a big issue for Paul. Whatever our thorn is, it will not be a minor thing to us!

    • The “thorn” is a stressful matter:
Not only was Paul’s thorn a big issue, but it was also a painful issue. Paul describes his thorn as a “torment.” The word “torment” refers to bone-crushing blows of the fist. Paul considered his thorn in the flesh as a serious matter. Paul’s thorn caused him anguish, suffering, agony, and stress in his life. God allowed Paul’s thorn to remain in his life to keep him humble.  God is more concerned about keeping us humble than comfortable.  

    • The “thorn” is a spiritual matter:
The “thorn” is a spiritual matter, indeed. Paul’s “thorn” was like a large stake driven into his life, tormenting him constantly. And, God was allowing “a messenger of Satan” to inflict such torment on Paul. Behind this “thorn” was a “messenger of Satan” to make sure that stake kept driving itself into Paul’s life. Paul’s thorn was spiritual warfare. God was using this spiritual attack to keep Paul exactly where he needed to be.  I must stress again that Paul’s  “thorn” was not a sin or a sinful habit in Paul’s life. Paul’s thorn and our thorn as well is not a sin in our lives that we can’t get rid of.  The thorn in our context is an affliction in our life caused by a messenger of Satan. It’s something in our life that we have no real control over, like an irritating person, persecution, physical ailment, or something else. It’s a thorn in our life!

    • The “thorn” is a strengthening matter:
Even when a “messenger of Satan” afflicts and torments us, God can use that affliction and torment to make us stronger and more useful in His kingdom. Even in our thorns, God can use us to bear much fruit to His glory.  It’s like the wind that torments the tree when it blows around it.  The purpose of that wind tormenting the tree as the wind blows around it is to make it stronger.  God uses Satan and his forces the same way to strengthen His children, like you and me.

    • The “thorn” is a humbling matter:
The whole purpose of Paul’s “thorn” was to keep him humble. The primary purpose of the “thorn” in our life is to keep us humble. To keep us from “becoming proud.”  With the thorns of our life, we find out where we are weakest.  When we discover this, it will keep us humble so that God’s power can come in, and we can say, “For when I am weak, then I’m strong.”

God’s power is put on display in our weaknesses. What that means is that we must think about our lives in a completely new way.  Let us consider the rest of Paul’s words quoted in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 as what must be our new life perspective.  

  • New Life Perspective:

“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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

The Greek word translated “content” by the ESV, NASB, and NRSV is the same word translated in other places  “well pleased” or “delight in.” It is the same word in Matthew 3:17 that God the Father spoke from heaven at the baptism of Jesus, 
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The NIV renders 2 Corinthians 12:10
“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” 

The CSB, NKJV, and NLT read, 
“I take pleasure in weaknesses….”

 

    • Weaknesses:

Let us focus on the word “weakness” (astheneia) to learn about our weaknesses. The word “weakness” means lack of strength. This lack of strength comprises four areas in our lives. Let us consider them.

      • Physically Weak:

Physically weak is when our body gets old, tired, frail, sick, hungry, lacks sleep, and gets thirsty. Physically weak means our body breaks and malfunctions. Thus one of our weaknesses is physical weakness. This is when we need doctors, medicine, and God’s healing power.

      • Mentally Weak: 

This is our lack of mental strength to understand God’s ways, complex relationships, and our own weakness. We mentally think wrong thoughts and allow our minds to wander too much. This is why the Bible is constantly exhorting us to renew and transform our minds to have wisdom and gain understanding of God’s Truth.  

      • Emotionally Weak: 

This is when we lack the strength to handle pressure, so we become easily worried and anxious.  Because we feel overwhelmed, we are easily offended.  Because of our worries, we are filled with anxieties that cripple our walk with our Lord.  When we are emotionally weak, we must seek God’s Truth and counsel to help us cope with our emotions.  Our worry destroys our health, our faith, our hope, and our confidence in God.  So we must choose to cast all our worries on God, for He cares.  God’s Grace can produce in us love, peace, joy, longsuffering, and self-control, even amid our weaknesses, whatever they may be.  

      • Spiritually weak: 

This is when we claim to love our Lord but don’t trust Him enough, for we lack faith.  Our faith is indeed small!   This is also when we claim to love His Word but neglect to study it amid our trials.  Indeed, this is when we must be compelled to study His Word the most and draw nearer to God. We are also spiritually weak when we know we must worship and be with our brethren but neglect to do it because the pressures of this life keep us from fellowshipping to grow spiritually and further God’s kingdom.   Being spiritually weak is very dangerous!  We must always be on the alert, for we are fighting a spiritual war that we must recognize.  Thus we must pray for one another, encourage one another, build each other up,  and grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, so that God may help us not give into sin.  

Indeed, we all are weak in some way regarding all four of these areas. These weaknesses affect our faith, our trust in God, how we view God, and how we see ourselves. When we fail to be strengthened by God’s power in us, our weaknesses will destroy us.  Weaknesses are lack of strength.   A strength that God graciously provides for us through studying His Word, prayer, and our fellowship with one another that encourage us to fight in the battlefield of our souls.  

    • Weaknesses Are Not Sins In Our Lives:
I must stress that  “weaknesses” are not sins.  Let me explain myself.
      1. Physically speaking, it is not a sin to be hungry, tired, need rest, or be sick. 
      2. Mentally speaking, it’s not a sin to misunderstand, misinterpret, or misread something. 
      3. Emotionally speaking, it’s not a sin to struggle or battle with our emotions:  anger, loneliness, or anxieties. 
      4. Spiritually speaking, it’s not a sin to not know how to pray or know how to read and understand God’s Word or how to worship God. 

Again, weakness is a lack of strength, not a sin.

We must understand that our “weaknesses” are what make our trials and temptations so difficult to bear. When our trials bump up against our weaknesses, we struggle and wrestle more, and it is more challenging to get through them.  Because of our trials, we find ourselves sinking in them.  But that is when we need God most, to help us and pull us out.  It is when God opens the door and delivers us through His wisdom and counsel.  It is also when He provides the self-control that we need most to bear our trials or burdens. Amid our trials or temptations, we need God to give us patience to keep us humble.  For when we are weak, that’s when we are truly strong.

It’s during our moment of temptation or trial that we discover where we are weak, that is, our spiritual condition. It is like Paul is saying, 

“God has done some great things in my life. He has allowed me to see things that no one else has seen. He has blessed me with insight into His will and ways that are beyond description, but I’m not going to boast about that. What I’m going to boast about is that in my times of weakness, when I couldn’t do it on my own and I couldn’t climb up out of my pit and when I didn’t know what to do or where to go, and when I thought about giving up, God showed up. It was in my weakness that I found God’s strength to get up and move on. Because when I’m weak, that’s when I’m strong.”


You see, our troubles, pains, and difficulties are the best test of our spiritual character. When adversity strikes, that superficial veneer of peace and happiness is stripped away, showing what is really in our hearts. God used Paul’s intense suffering to show his integrity,  righteousness, credibility, and the reliability of his message about Jesus.

An example of this was when Paul preached God’s message in 2 Corinthians 10:10.  

"For they say, 'His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.'"


Even though Paul was weak in verbally communicating God’s Truth, God’s power revealed itself through Paul as people were being saved, growing spiritually, and churches were established.  What his critics failed to understand was that Paul was strongest when he was weakest. It was in Paul’s weakness that God was able to demonstrate His strength and power. Where Paul was weak, God was able to show His strength and power!

When the power of Christ rests on us, we can be well pleased and exult gladly in our weaknesses.

  1. Because the power of Christ rests on us amid our suffering, pain, hardship, and persecution, we can be strong when we are weak.  
  2. When we surrender our will to God in our weaknesses (failures, sufferings, and difficulties), we depend gladly on Him instead of ourselves or others.  
  3. Because of God’s power in us, we can make it through the trials and pains in life.  
  4. God strengthens us when we need Him to come to our aid.  

Thus, we must be content. We must delight and take pleasure in our weaknesses and sufferings because we know that God is at work in us to display His power.  So, let us find joy amid our trials and difficulties, for we know that our faith is strengthened and perfected. 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)


CONCLUSION:

God uses suffering to draw us to Himself (2 Cor. 12:8),  reveal our spiritual condition, and help us stay humble. God wants us to be diligent in prayer, understanding of His Word amid our trials or temptations to increase and deepen our faith.  God uses the thorns in our lives to draw us closer to Him.  And though Paul said, 

“Three times I begged the Lord to take it away.” 


God didn’t take Paul’s thorn away. God’s answer to Paul was no. In our weakness, it is always difficult to understand our “why.”   Could it be possible that perhaps what we are begging God to remove is the very thing God is using to make us more like Christ, more complete, more useful, and stronger and deeper in our faith?  Indeed, God uses suffering to display His Grace in us (2 Cor. 12:9).

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’” 


It is like God is saying to Paul,  
“Paul, the blessings I have given you, the insights I have given you, the strength I have given you is sufficient. Through this weakness caused by this thorn in your life, you are being made stronger. Because I am allowing this thorn to continue, you will be more humble, patient with others, kinder, have more empathy with others in pain, loving and kind toward others. As a result, you will glorify Me more. Through this weakness and this affliction, you are made more mature. You pray more because of it. You are more humble because of it. Your affliction makes you more useable and effective in My kingdom. This pain, this suffering, this problem, this thorn you have to experience and endure is actually helping you accomplish more and bear much fruit for My glory. This is why you are able to say, ‘When I am weak, then I am strong.’”

God uses suffering to mature His power in us (2 Cor. 12: 9-10).  Paul concludes by declaring, 

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10 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.”  

God can still use us to His glory even amid our struggles, discouragements, disappointments, failures.  God can pick us up and move us on!  So I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me… for when I am weak, then I am strong!

We must embrace the trials that God allows us to undergo,  knowing that such trials will reveal our character, humble us, draw us closer to God, and allow God to display His grace and power in our lives.  

The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus was “greatly distressed and troubled.”  He records what Jesus told them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”  Mark records the following.

“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”’ (Mk. 14:35-36)

 
Luke also gives us some details about Jesus’ distress and anguish.

“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’”  (Luke 22:39-44)


God the Father must have seen the entirety of mankind’s sin hanging in the balance.  The cross was what Jesus had to bear.  The cross was the very reason He came.  The cross was this hour.  God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus.

Weakness equals strength when our weakness drives us to the One who is our strength, our Lord Jesus.  And though Jesus knew His time had come, He was able to face Judas and soldiers with power because of the strength, the help, and love of the Father upon Him.   The power that comes from one who has given everything over to the will of God.

Indeed, we don’t equate Jesus with weakness but great strength.  Jesus had to endure temptations at the beginning of His ministry.  He had to defeat Satan and temptation.  Near the end of His ministry, Jesus told the disciples that He would have to go to Jerusalem to die.  When Peter heard Jesus say this, he told Jesus that it must not happen.  But Jesus sharply rebuked Peter and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan.”  Jesus said that to Peter because the cross and the sin of the world was the greatest trial He had to face.  When that night finally came, Jesus told the disciples to pray about not entering into temptation.  

Even though Jesus was fully man, He never sinned.  Unlike Jesus, we allow our weaknesses to lead us to sin.  We, like Peter, face temptation and fail our Jesus, who loves us.  Like Peter, our sin may drive us to weep in shame and remorse.  But sin becomes what we choose at the moment of trial or temptation. Weaknesses are those areas where we are the most vulnerable.   Satan throws his darts at us to find those areas where we failed to put on God’s armor as we should have.  To grow, we must recognize those areas that we lack in our spiritual walk with our Lord.  Self-examination is vital to our growth and our walk with Christ.  Thus, examine yourself!  Do not take the speck out of the eye of others until you deal with the plank in your own eye.

Paul experienced God’s Grace when he acknowledged his need and own inability.  The Grace that God had extended to Paul was greater than the thorn in the flesh he endured.  And though God did not take away that which tormented Paul, God helped him to learn that He was greater than that which tormented him.  God was asking Paul to trust Him, even when Paul did not understand.  That is part of what Grace is. 

In 2 Cor. 12:10, when Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” is where we all must be spiritually.  Paul acknowledged that strength could only come from the Lord.  Our weaknesses make us realize how much we need God.  Jesus is telling you and me, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  Sin is the greatest problem everyone must face.  But when we humble ourselves and come before God in full repentance, God’s grace is greater than our sin, and we can find rest, knowing that His Grace is enough. 

There is no profit in bragging about how weak we are.  Our only boast must be in the cross and in the power of the blood of Jesus.  The Grace that is greater than all our sins is possible only through the blood of Jesus.  When we seek to live in step with the Spirit of God and walk in the pathway of righteousness, we rely on the Grace of Jesus.  I am so grateful to God for what He has done to save us and for the joy of knowing that I am in the hands of a loving God who loves us!  When we humbly surrender our weaknesses to the Grace of Jesus, we can stay strong and have joy.  

Paul summarized what he learned from his experiences in this paradoxical statement, 

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 


To understand what that means, we must understand how God uses suffering in our life. God uses suffering to reveal our spiritual condition. Look closely at verses 5-6 of 2 Corinthians 12.

“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.”


Without God's power and strength, it will be difficult, maybe even impossible, to make it through our trials and pains in this life victoriously. But God, in His lovingkindness, gives us strength at the right time. He sends those who may come to our aid to help us at the right time. We must choose to be content, delight, and take pleasure in our weaknesses and sufferings because we know that our God is at work in us so that His power may be displayed!

We must look at our trials, difficulties, hardships, pains, insults, and weaknesses and count it all joy, for we know that the testing of our faith produces faithfulness and steadfastness that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Therefore, we must look at our life and acknowledge how God is working for our eternal salvation.  We must examine our hearts and ask ourselves, What is the thorn God allows us to experience to keep us from pride and arrogance?  God has given us enough Grace to embrace our suffering, which is necessary for our faith. We lack nothing that might help us remain faithful to God and flourish through our suffering, for God’s power and strength are provided to us to help us endure our weaknesses (temptations or trials).  Jesus, our Lord,  suffered, prayed three times, and accepted God’s answer.  So we also must suffer, pray, and accept God’s answer with a humble heart that wants to please his Creator.

May the LORD help us depend entirely on Him during our times of failures, sufferings, and difficulties (our weaknesses). May we surrender our will to God in such frailties of life, knowing that He is in control.  May our LORD help us to see the blessings in the thorns.  May we draw near to Him without wavering. May we all accept God's answer to our prayers when suffering like Paul.  


Luci