Read 2 Corinthians 12
Focus on verse 7-9
It would seem logical to most of us that the opposite of weakness is power. It is a theorem that is relatively simple to prove by experimentation. Most of the sporting events that take place around the world are demonstrations of how those who are more powerful win over those who are weaker. In some cases skill and agility also come into play, and I find it intriguing that those who observe and attend sporting events often find it more entertaining when the physically weaker opponent can somehow outsmart and defeat the obviously stronger one. For some reason many of us prefer to cheer for the underdog.
In today’s reading, Paul is coming to the end of a lengthy defense of his apostolic authority, yet after all his boasting about power and authority, he reminds us that as followers of Jesus, the power He provides through us is perfected, not in our personal strength, but in our personal weakness.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (v. 7-9)
Here we encounter another of the many apparent oxymorons of the the faith. In order for true strength to be experienced in our lives, we must learn to accept and embrace our weaknesses. While this seems antithetical, it actually makes sense when we understand the nature of life as a follower of Jesus. In my own experience I would have to admit that what has tripped me up most often and caused me to fail in my walk with God has been when I have felt confident in my own ability to do great things for God.
It is not that God does not want us to do great things, it is just that we need a constant reminder of where our strength comes from. Everything we have – life, breath, strength, intelligence, etc. – it all originates with God. It is all borrowed, He gives it to use for Him as His stewards for the span of time that He has allotted for us to spend on the earth. When we lose that perspective and begin to function as if we are the sole proprietors of all we have been given, or that we somehow gained all this by our own strength and cleverness, this opens the doorway of selfishness and greed which causes us to do all sorts of nasty things to each other.
The weakness we experience simply shows us more clearly where the power comes from. Perhaps it merely appeals to our affinity to the underdog, for when we experience weakness, it provides us with an opportunity to notice that the power we have comes from a source much greater than ourselves. This is why Paul states that he would rather boast about his weakness, since then the power of Christ in him is more obvious.
The world apart from Jesus Christ tends to operate by the equation “power is greater than weakness”. In God’s economy, the equation seems to read “weakness equals access to power”.