When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
The title of today’s word of encouragement may seem a bit strange. When it comes to our limitations and weaknesses, we do everything in our power to minimize them, eliminate them, or, at the very least, cover them up. We view the strengths God gives us as assets — the areas in life that we should lean into and strive to increase and improve. What is so striking about Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth is that he was telling them that the same is true for our limitations. God gives us both strengths and weaknesses, and they are to be stewarded and used for His glory and the good of others.
Today’s verse comes from the famous passage Paul wrote about dealing with “a thorn in my flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times Paul pleaded for the Lord to take it away, and three times God refused, saying,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God dispenses both strengths and weaknesses to His disciples, and we must learn to lean into both in order to maximize our service to our Lord.
Please understand that Paul was not using the word “weakness” as synonymous with “sin.” Paul sternly rebuked those who were boasting that their sin displayed the grace of God to an even greater degree (Romans 6:1-2). The best way I know to explain the difference between weakness and sin is this: God gives us our weaknesses to cause us to turn toward Him and depend upon Him more; our sin, on the other hand, turns us away from God as we depend more upon ourselves. In our weaknesses, God’s power is put on display for all the world to see as we trust more in what God can do for us than what we can do for ourselves.
Paul saw his thorn (that is, his weakness) as a liability to His ministry at first, calling it a messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7), and he pleaded with God to remove it. But in time, he came to realize that God was using both his strengths and his weaknesses to advance the cause of His Kingdom. Now, if you are anything like me, learning to see weakness as a gift from God does not happen as anywhere near as quickly as it did for Paul. He only asked three times for God to take his weakness away; I sometimes still ask God to take it away. But over time, I am slowly learning how to trust and depend more and more upon God, and less and less on Tommy Boland.
How do you see your weakness and limitation? When was the last time you considered leaning into your limitations for God’s glory and your good? Never forget that Paul said he was given his weakness to keep him humble; that is one of the great blessings of our limitations. The more we lean into our limitations, the more God humbles us; the more God humbles us, the more we become like our Lord Jesus.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:9 that “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” He was not confining the word “trust” to our strengths; Paul was stating that everything God has given us is a trust, and that includes our weaknesses. May the confession of our lives demonstrate our utter dependence upon God as we lean into our limitations.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!