..."My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.] 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Paul is a man who would seem to have the rights to boast in himself. He was a man of missionary adventure, a man who laughed in the face of death and imprisonment, and a man with tender affection for the people that he ministered to. He even says in verse six of this chapter that if he were to boast in himself that his boasting would be merited. But what Paul does in chapter twelve is to boast in his weaknesses.
In verse seven Paul says that to keep him from the snare of pride that it was God who gave him a "thorn in the flesh" - a recurring or difficult temptation that pricked his pride and kept him humble. In verse eight he says that he pleaded three times for God to take it away but God would not. God instead replies to Paul's request by saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
God is giving us a marvelous insight into his will. How often do we scratch our heads and wonder why he doesn't take away afflictions in our lives? God says that the "thorn in the flesh" is intentional, that his wonderful and glorious power is made perfect in our weakness. What does that mean? Well, Paul tells us in the next few verses. He says, "Therefore (in response to God) I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Paul's resolve is that he will boast in his weaknesses because it means that he is dependent. His display of self-sufficiency does not display to the world how tremendous God's healing and preserving graces are, they just display to the world a man of anxiety who tries to overcome his weaknesses by his own power. How often do we hide our frailty from others to appear strong? Paul says that it is much better to boast in our hardships because it is a magnifying glass to the world as they see our hardships overcome by God's grace. And in that spirit he exclaims that, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Candles are hardened when they are not in use. Once you light it and the wax becomes exposed to the heat of the flame the wax becomes weak. What happens to the weakened candle, though, is the release of a powerful aroma. Our lives are much like that. We boast in our sufferings because the attempt to cover them up keeps us odorless and lightless. I am reminded from these verses to repent of my self-sufficiency. I am reminded that I need to be happy to share my struggles to a watching world. Christian lives should be great stories to watch.
Lord, thank you for the trials. Thank you that you keep the trap of pride at bay even if the attack is the exposure of my frailty. Thank you that our power comes from you and is therefore magnified when seen working in the lives of people of insults and hardships and even calamities. The glory of your name is our treasure. Amen.
"For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life." 2 Cor. 2:15-16
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Rom. 8:18
..."though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7