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“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.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Isn’t it great to be weak? What? Strong’s Concordance defines “Weakness” in the above Scripture verse as: feebleness of body or mind, malady, frailty, disease, infirmity, or sickness. This definition is suggestive of many types of the weaknesses we encounter today. Let’s face it, no one enjoys any of the above-referenced weaknesses, do we? Not in the least! Why is it that truth so often rubs against the grain of our expected outcomes? Aren’t we supposed to live healthy, long lives, filled with joy from beginning to “Happily Ever After?” Ah, therein lies our challenge – our expectations. Jesus promised in John 16:33 that we would have trouble in this world. Our real “Trouble” is that we do not want to accept His words herein. We want to exude independence, security, power, and confidence! And it is these attributes that seem to accurately depict our current cultural definition of “Strength.” Yet, in reading the passage above, I read words that seem to be in opposition to the message of our culture. Paul stated that when we are weak, then, we are truly strong. Did you hear that? In our feebleness of body or mind, and in our sickness, we are strong. How can that be?
The last two years have brought multiple opportunities for me to recognize some of my weaknesses. When we seem to have so much to rely on, like our talents, strength of personality, finances, and even our godly service, it is so easy to become deluded into thinking that we’re really strong. As those “Strengths” are removed, our eyes are opened to the reality of our weakened condition. Paul was not outlining a formula in 2 Corinthians 12 for superhero-sized strength. Rather, through a personal experience of physical limitation (i.e. “Thorn in the flesh”), he learned that weakness was a good and powerful thing. Remember the blog about bearing fruit from John 15? Jesus stated, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” He wants us to rely completely on Him by being closely connected to Him, like a branch vitally attached to a vine. See, when we truly grasp the reality of our condition, that we are weak, then we are in a proper position for Christ’s strength to not only dwell in us but to be made perfect in us and through us. That is why Paul could say that he boasted in his weaknesses. He realized that his strength was not required to fulfill God’s call on his life. In fact, Paul concluded that his every strength and ability were rubbish compared to knowing Christ. God used Paul’s “Thorn in the flesh,” which many scholars believe to have been his failing eye sight, to teach Paul to fully lean on the Lord and not himself. Paul was forced to get out of the way so that God could live through his life.
For the last several months, I have faced health challenges which have given me opportunity to examine my heart motivations. I have been aware of how frequently I have relied on the abilities I have been given rather than on Jesus. This realization has produced a shift in my thinking. Rather than relying on myself, I now see myself as a conduit or vessel that Jesus wants to flow through. As I spend time with Jesus, reading His Word, acknowledging my weaknesses, asking for His strength, waiting for Him to speak to my heart, singing songs to Him, and bringing prayer requests before Him, He fills my heart with His thoughts and desires. One amazing aspect of investing time with Jesus is that people cross my path frequently who need exactly what He has given to me. Consequently, as I am filled, I am then equipped to pour out to others. Recognizing my weaknesses has forced me to Him in a deeper way, with a greater need for Him. While I do not enjoy physical weakness, the experience has been good for me. Relying on Jesus has allowed me to step out of the way, so that He can touch the lives of others through me. And, it has become a very exciting and satisfying way to live!
Our “Strengths” can actually be roadblocks to Jesus living through our lives. Even believing that we are strong can be a hindrance to godly living because we may have less of a need to rely on Him. When we recognize that everything we have, our personalities, our business and ministry giftings, our physical strength, our provision, our wisdom, our ability to think and to reason, etc., all come from Him, then there is no room for boasting. There is only one thing left to do: to thank Him for everything He has given us and ask Him to use His strengths in us to touch the lives of others, pointing them to Him. May we have the courage to accept our weaknesses as divine opportunities for His strength to be made perfect in us and through us. You know, the truth does set us free. And the truth is that we are weak which is exactly where we must be to both receive and share His strength with others. Be encouraged this week as you observe weaknesses in your own life! This may seem like a strange encouragement. On the contrary, as you observe your weaknesses and ask for Jesus to replace them with His strength, you will be in for a quite an adventure!!! Enjoy the ride, my friends, enjoy the ride! : )
“I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need Him. Our weakness, in fact, makes room for His power.” (Jim Cymbala)