The Bible Speaks Today – Strength in Weakness

When I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Strength in weaknessThe above exclamation was made by Paul when he was feeling beaten and hindered due to a thorn in the flesh which was given him by God to keep him humble. Though some Bible scholars believe that this thorn was a physical disability of some kind, we are wisely not told what exactly that thorn was, as it would be different for different people. To compound the problem, Paul had no external help; he was poor, despised, homeless, persecuted. He was conscious of inner frailties and personal weaknesses that distressed him. But all this turned out to be a blessing, for it was this very infirmity and poverty that drove him to count earthly treasures and support systems as nothing and to lean all the more heavily upon the Lord alone.

Ah, that great lesson that every Christian has to come to learn sooner or later!  How often we cry out, Lord give me strength to do this and that, not realizing that God has no intention of making us strong in ourselves.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  He intends to weaken us by whichever way, whether it be by an enduring sickness, a long drawn persecution, a severe affliction, a demanding spouse, loss of a loved one, wayward children or trials that seem to last forever. Like Paul, we cry out three times (constantly) for deliverance (v.8), little realizing that our loving heavenly Father is working in us that eternal lesson that is the privilege of sons – dependence!  At first this sounds like an impotent Christianity and the Christian who is grappling with such facts in his own life is usually aghast and pained as his idea of “power” is crushed into the ground.  We have been taught in the past that “God only helps those who help themselves” and we wonder why this does not prove true.  We have never questioned this oft repeated phrase even though it has no scriptural reference. But the passage in verses 9 & 10 of 2 Cor 12 teaches us instead that God only helps those who come to an end in themselves.

This is brought out clearly in verse 9. As Paul continued to seek God through this weakness, God spoke to him saying, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for {My} strength {and} power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) {and show themselves most effective} in [your] weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9a – Amplified Version).  Here we see a completely dependent Paul at the mercy of His heavenly Father.  He is assured that this weakness is necessary, so that he (Paul) does not try to do the task.  He must be rendered helpless, completely dependent, so that the Father can swoop in and display HIS power and HIS strength; for HIS power stands out perfectly only when the instrument is helpless.

St. Augustine corroborates this by saying “No one is made strong by God, but he who feels himself weak of his own self….. It would not be strengthened, if it were not weak, that by You it might be perfected in You.” [Sermon 26 on NT, para 6, emphases mine]

Having been in many such situations myself, I have often asked the Lord; Why Lord? Why such merciless treatment?  How much will you let a man be beaten down?  And then like Paul, my eyes have been opened to see His power displayed in the work.  If like Paul, we are not rendered impotent, we would run full steam and do the work in our flesh which will have no life and no lasting fruit.  Worse still, we would stand up and take credit for the results forgetting that His glory He will share with none other (Isa 42:8).

Application: The world today would have us glorify ourselves, our personal smartness and cleverness. But be encouraged beloved, God’s ways are higher. He makes a man utterly dependent upon Himself, so that we understand that we are only instruments or channels of His Grace to others.  DEPENDENCE is the key. Therefore when we are weak, we are strong, and this is a blessed position to be in, for it means that God’s all-sufficient grace is abounding towards us, enabling us and yet not us, but Christ in us as translated perfectly by the amplified version above. To Him be all glory in the Church!

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