Teaching Sunday School yesterday reminded me of this article I wrote earlier this year.
I have always believed having weaknesses was negative. At least, that what I was raised to believe. Consequently, I never considered it a possibility to see or even imagine my weaknesses could be to my benefit. However, now I look through the eyes of faith and understand that being weak is really to my advantage as a follower of Jesus Christ. His strength sustains me in my weaken condition, which is constantly.
Apostle Paul wrote much of his second letter to the church at Corinth in self-defense of his authority as an apostle sent by God. False apostles and teachers were corrupting the minds of Christians there. In the 12th chapter he continues to convince them further by telling them of his visions and revelations. Keep in mind that during Paul’s day, visions and revelations were believed to be marks of special saintliness as well as authority. It was a generally accepted belief that a man having visions was blessed of God; however, a man having pains was under God’s displeasure. Of course, this was not the case with the apostle, Paul.
In the text, we find that Paul had been given a thorn in the flesh. In other words, he had a weakness. There are two separate uncertainties about the phrase, “thorn in the flesh.” Some scholars say thorn refers to a mental-spiritual affliction, while others say a physical pain or condition. Many believe Paul used the term ‘flesh’ speaking of the natural (physical) body. Yet, others believe he spoke of the nature of man. Since there is no explanation, or specific details, we can be assured the attention should not be on the specifics of his condition, or what the “thorn in the flesh” was. Instead, the attention is on the fact that he had a weakness. Therefore, we should focus on how God chose to respond by allowing Paul’s weakness to remain for a specific purpose.
The purpose for Paul’s ‘thorn’ (weakness) is clear — “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…” (2 Cor. 12:7). In essence, the weakness was for Paul’s benefit. Nevertheless, he went to the Lord three times asking that it be removed. This is no strange request. As humans, it’s a natural desire to be perfect, strong, healthy, and self-sufficient with no weaknesses. (Note: it’s a natural desire, but the sin of the first Adam made it naturally impossible).
I’m sure Paul could see no immediate advantage in having this thorn, but saw it only as a hindrance in his ministry. No doubt, this is the perception of many Christian leaders and ministers today. The belief that having a weakness of any kind — physical, spiritual, or emotional, is a hindrance to God using you in ministry to fulfill His purpose is the farthest from the truth.
Moreover, get this! God answered Paul’s request; He said, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is strongest in weakness.” Paul’s weakness (whatever it was) would be his constant reminder that his strength and authority was dependent on GOD, not in himself.
Dearly beloved readers, we must be reminded of the same thing. Let this be a lesson for us today. If we are always up and never down, strong and never weak, continuously striving to be the totally self-sufficient person others expect us to be and depend on, we would have no need for God! Therefore, God allows us to be reminded by weaknesses that we must depend upon His grace, mercy, and power. If we don’t, we might be exalted above measure, being “all that and a bag of chips.”
Some weaknesses may be temporary, under different circumstances, or in various situations. But we still have the power of God protecting His investment in us, and the assurance that His grace is enough.
Consider for the moment the Hebrew boys in their moment of weakness. They were in a situation that appeared hopeless (Daniel 3:8–18). Their only resolve was to trust the ability of their God. What happened? God’s power was made perfect; the fire in the furnace was quenched. God’s power worked in their state of weakness, physically. And they came out victorious!
May I remind you that no matter what your ‘thorn’ is, trust God’s grace to be enough. Know that His power is strongest in your weakness. If you have a physical condition — sickness or disease, remember the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years. Her condition was hopeless. Not only was she in a weakened physical state, but economically as well. No doubt, her mental and emotional state was weak also. It was a ‘thorn’, but the power and compassion of Jesus delivered her from her weakened state.
Throughout the Bible we find evidence of the weaknesses of humanity. More importantly, we find the unconditional love, everlasting mercy, and amazing grace of God strengthening and empowering them so that His plans and purposes would be carried out in the earth.
There are advantages in being weak. You’re asking, “What are they?” When we recognize that without God, we can do nothing, we will humble ourselves in subjection to His power and see His power work in and through us. When we admit we are spiritually weak and cry out for more of God, we will become spiritually strong and able to help others. When we stop giving excuses and blaming others for our weaknesses, and surrender our all to Christ, His grace will be sufficient to cover our weakness. In Him we are made strong!
Sometimes our thorn may be for a lifetime—our daily reminder that God’s grace is sufficient and His power is strongest in weakness. However long they last, we must remember that we will be victorious in the end if we stay connected to Christ.
Conclusively, weaknesses, in general, are considered negative rather than positive. However, when we depend on the sufficiency of God’s grace, we can say as Paul, “I’m alright with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10, CEB)
Perhaps, like me, you may have believed being weak is a negative. Hopefully, your perspective will change as you look through the eyes of faith and trust Jesus Christ to sustain you.
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