Asking Ourselves the Hard Questions, Preparing for Lent, How Is God’s Power Made Perfect in All of Our Weaknesses? 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

2 Corinthians 12:7-10Amplified Bible

A Thorn in the Flesh

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. 10 So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

A Thorn in the Flesh …

The apostle Paul was dedicated to God.

But Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”—possibly a persistently challenging and spiritually demanding circumstance or disease that bothered him quite a lot.

He called it “a messenger of Satan, to torment” him.

We don’t know exactly what it was, but somehow it made Paul physically or spiritually [or both] weaker than he wanted to be.

Thorns prick, scratch, and wound.

However, the point of Paul’s example is that because of his thorn in the flesh, God was able to work through him and his weaknesses ever more powerfully.

Although Paul had pleaded three times with the Lord to take his thorn away, the Lord only responded saying to Paul,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul notes that he was given his thorn “in order to keep . . . from becoming conceited.”

This means Paul knew if he did not have this thorn, he could have become self-reliant and proud of his ability to “power through anything by his own will.”

So Paul is teaching us that his thorn in the flesh was actually a good thing.

It was a sign of God’s grace to keep him focused on God, dependent on God, reliant on God and away from his becoming a proud “iron willed” follower.

And we can surely thank God for that.

This does not mean we should ask God to give us a thorn in the flesh.

We can trust that God knows what is best for us.

But if God does allow us to have a particular kind of suffering, we can also trust that he can use it to do good.

As Paul writes in another place,

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

How Is God’s Power Made Perfect in Weakness?

Although being a Christian doesn’t grant us the power to endure every physical difficulty, it does grant us ready access to the Holy Spirit who abides within us.

His Holy Spirit may not be a superpower, but it’s a genuine supernatural power.

It may not enable us to look like the Hulk when it comes to both spiritual and physical challenges, but Holy Spirit provides us with an otherworldly strength to live into our oncoming circumstances and to conquer the challenges of life.

This is the kind of strength that can only be manifested in our weaknesses.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul wrote, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 

So what is this power, and how can we, as believers, come to access it during the up and coming Post-Pandemic Lenten season and strenuous challenges of life?

What Does ‘My Power Is Made Perfect in Weakness’ Mean?

We often try to come across as the I-can-do-it-all Christian—making perfect grades in school or raising well-behaved children while maintaining the ultra squeaky-clean Christian reputation in church.

If we come across a challenge that seems too much for us to handle, we often blame ourselves for not being “strong enough.”

As though we some how an in some way believe that God automatically expects us to do all the things with “ease” and never cave beneath the pressures of life.

But we were simply never created to bear this life through our own strength.

In fact, we don’t even have within ourselves the ability to bear its weight!

So why should we or do we, try so hard to look like Miss or Mr. Independent “Iron” Christian when, really, God frowns upon this type of approach to life?

It is impossible for us to conquer anything apart from God’s sufficient grace.

Writing this, I wonder if God purposely created our bodies to cave beneath pressure—so we could realize we can do nothing apart from Him (see John 15:5).

But rather than allowing this to make us frustrated, get all of our faults and all failures and failings all bunched up inside our heads, perhaps we should instead use these weaknesses to propel us closer to our Savior Jesus Christ, and drawing supernatural strength from the power of the Holy Spirit – to rely more on God?.

God intended us to rely on this Holy Spirit day-by-day, moment-by-moment.

This is why Jesus said this to His disciples before He was crucified:

“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.” [John 16:7]

John 16:7Amplified Bible

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the [a]Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].

It is for our benefit that Jesus left the “Advocate,” which is the Holy Spirit.

If we did not have the Spirit abiding within us, then we would not have access to this power.

We would struggle through life, relying only on our own mental an physical muscles to face life’s battles.

But we do have the Holy Spirit.

This means as we abide in Him, we can draw strength from Him rather than ourselves.

We can ask Him to give us what we need to overcome this life.

Confessing ourselves before Him: “No, me, myself, I, simply cannot do it all.”

That’s a good thing!

If we could, then we would never have the opportunity to allow God’s power—which is far stronger than any human strength—to be made apparent within us.

We would continue through life as Miss or Mrs. or Mr. Iron Clad Independent Christian, never having a need to depend on God alone and gain access to His grave-conquering power.

What Is the Context of 2 Corinthians 12:9?

In this chapter, Paul shares about a heavenly vision God gave him that gained him access to spiritual revelations.

He was not permitted to share these insights with anyone and did not want to receive the credit for them.

To keep him humble, he says that God intentionally allowed him to have a “thorn in the flesh” (see verse 7).

Paul goes on to discuss the pain of this suffering, as well as its eventual advantage, in verses 8-10:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Obviously, the strength he refers to in the final verse is not human strength but a supernatural strength.

And it is only through experiencing the weakness that he was he able to receive this power.

In other words, Paul recognized that it was not through an independent attitude that he could boast, but rather a complete dependency, reliance upon God.

It was this dependency and reliance on God that kept him humble as well.

It is also interesting to take a look at the meaning of the Greek words used in this passage.

The phrase “is sufficient” is arkei, which means to assist, benefit, and to be satisfied.

Christ’s grace benefits us in our weaknesses by allowing us to grow stronger—not in our might, but in His.

Thus, we are more equipped to face the challenges and sufferings of life.

The word “power” here is dynamis, which implies a force and miraculous power.

It is pretty miraculous when His strength becomes manifested in our weaknesses!

“Is perfected” is teleitai, which implies bringing to completion, to accomplish and fulfill.

When we receive His miraculous power to strengthen us, we don’t just receive a portion of it.

We can receive it to the full—and all for the singular purpose of accomplishing His perfect will.

Finally, the phrase “may rest” is episkēnōsē.

This is translated to mean to pitch a tent upon or to dwell and abide within.

How interesting is that?

So, If you like camping out under the stars …

So, if you like staying dry against the rains …

In a strong, dependable, reliable, long lasting, enduring, well staked tent,

Psalm 19Amplified Bible

The Works and the Word of God.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

19 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And the expanse [of heaven] is declaring the work of His hands.

Day after day pours forth speech,
And night after night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there [spoken] words [from the stars];
Their voice is not heard.

Yet their voice [in quiet evidence] has gone out through all the earth,
Their words to the end of the world.
In them and in the heavens He has made a tent for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.

The sun’s rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect (flawless), restoring and refreshing the soul;
The statutes of the Lord are reliable and trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.

They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned [reminded, illuminated, and instructed];
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors or omissions? Acquit me of hidden (unconscious, unintended) faults.

Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous (deliberate, willful) sins;
Let them not rule and have control over me.
Then I will be blameless (complete),
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable and pleasing in Your sight,
O Lord, my [firm, immovable] rock and my Redeemer.

Let that love for camping become one more “JEHOVAH” sized reminder …

Christ’s power can literally descend upon us as we dwell and abide in Him.

This “tent” of Christ can remain our safe place of refuge.

It’s interesting to note, too, how the phrase “may rest” in this passage compares to the phrase “made His dwelling” in John 1:14:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

The passage “made His dwelling” is translated eskēnōsen, which means to dwell in a tent, to occupy or to reside.

So, Jesus came to earth so that He could dwell with us—and when He departed, He gave us the Holy Spirit so that He could continue to do the same.

He still dwells with us, and we can dwell in Him.

But we must crucify our desires to work and face this life apart from Christ.

After all, it is only as we abide and dwell in Him that we will display His full power within us, bearing “much fruit,” as mentioned in John 15.

What Does the Bible Have to Say about Weakness?

The word “weakness” in 2 Corinthians 12:9 implies suffering, insults, and persecution.

These aren’t exactly physical limitations but rather limitations we face in our everyday lives, such as the temptation to sin, heartache, and distress.

It is evident throughout the Bible that God does not intend to remove these weaknesses from our life.

If He did, then we would never have the pleasure of witnessing His power overcome.

We would never have the privilege of allowing our weaknesses to find their rest and completion in His strength.

Sadly, the idea of depending on someone may look like a weakness itself to our society.

We love to come across as strong, independent, and self-reliant, needing nothing and no one.

It is true humans are strong and intelligent—but this type of “Iron and Steel” independent mentality is frowned upon in God’s eyes.

And our strength is nothing to boast about, because according to 1 Corinthians 1:25, “God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

So if God’s weakness is even stronger than our greatest strength, then why shouldn’t we willingly want to receive His power?

One of the reasons why God allowed His Son to come to earth was so that He could understand our human condition.

Basically, He wanted to become familiar with our weaknesses. 

Hebrews 4:15-16 makes this clear:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus understands our sufferings.

Why, then, should we try to stubbornly fix our issues by ourselves when the One who has already conquered this world invites each and every single one of us to completely, utterly, and fully, rely on Him?

It is only when we relent in our own efforts and apply the above Scripture to our lives that we will then fully appreciate and abundantly receive the help we need.

God’s power being made evident in our weaknesses is also illustrated in stories throughout the Old Testament, such as David conquering Goliath, as well as in the following verses:

“He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength” Isaiah 40:29.

“So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 4:6.

Apostle Paul also spoke of God’s strength being made known in his weakness in Philippians 4:11-13: 

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

When I read these passages of scripture, enormous joy arises within me because I realize just exactly how empowered I am.

Whatever trials or temptations God allows into my life, I can overcome.

Not in my own strength, of course, but in God’s power being made perfect in my weakness.

Another reference to our fragility finding completion in God’s strength is in 2 Corinthians 4:7, where Paul wrote: 

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

Perhaps this is why God often uses the weak of the world to demonstrate His greatest power and to “shame the wise” (see 1 Corinthians 1:27):

So that more of His glory can be on display.

When we overcome a weakness we would not be able to conquer on our own, then it is obvious, just like the above verse says, the great power came from God and not from ourselves.

And shouldn’t that remain our main goal as Christians?

To spread more of His glory rather than our own? 

But the only way we can gain this strength is to give up our independent tendencies and learn how to rely on the Holy Spirit within us. 

Ephesians 3:16 says, “I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”

I believe God is searching for Christians who can admit their weaknesses and shortcomings, because only in doing that will His purposes be accomplished.

This is why Jesus left behind the Holy Spirit, after all.

So as we dwell in Him, we could be empowered to embrace the uncomfortable, including sufferings and persecution.

All for the sake of extending His Kingdom.

This means that the weaker we are, the more His power can be displayed within us and through us.

Apostle Paul was right—we now have every right to boast in our weaknesses!

This Lenten Season, Let’s choose to Go ‘camping’ with God, Son, Holy Spirit.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your grace is sufficient for all my needs. Help me to recognise and rejoice in the knowledge that Your power is made perfect in my own weakness. Help me to boast all the more gladly in my inabilities so that Your great ability may be manifest in my life. By thy Holy Spirit, May everything I do be to Your praise and glory, my Lord and my God. Creating and eternal God, whose grace is sufficient for us and whose power is made perfect in weakness, in our weakness and insufficiency, we offer our lives and the gifts of our living for the work of your mustard seed kingdom; in our Lord, King and Savior Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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