On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 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. 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 12:5-10
This morning I was having a conversation with a young woman I disciple and we were talking about old responses like anger rising back up within us. Our conversation went something like this:
“I don’t know where it comes from,” she said. “It hasn’t been this bad in weeks.”
“Well, you’ve said yourself that you’re stubborn. Use that stubbornness for God’s glory and stubbornly refuse to give in to the temptation.”
“What do you mean?”
“God created you with a strong spirit intentionally. Use it for his glory instead of your own. Being stubborn is a good thing when you are stubbornly standing for truth.”
“That’s the first time someone has said my stubbornness isn’t a bad thing.”
But then one day I was preparing a lesson for a class while I was in seminary. I was studying Romans 10 in which Paul discusses the misdirected zeal of the Hebrew people. I thought about his life. He was so zealous for the Law that he persecuted and killed Christians. But when he was converted to a saving faith in Christ, his zeal didn’t go away; instead, God redirected that zeal to be used for His glory. God took Paul’s greatest character flaw and redeemed it to turn the world upside down.
The lights clicked on in my heart and mind! If we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139), then God knew that I was going to be a stubborn, independent knowledge-seeker. The very qualities I had been working in my own strength to repress in my life… What if they were characteristics God had intentionally given me to be used for His kingdom and glory? How could my weaknesses be made strong in Him if I would just allow him the opportunity to work in and through them?
What a revolutionary and freeing thought! God didn’t desire to obliterate my personality and identity—he wanted to use them for himself! He wanted to keep me, but make me better by fashioning me into a unique image of His Son.
So what about you? How could God use your character flaws and besetting sins for His glory? If you are a notorious talker or gossiper, could God use that love of speaking for his glory by spending time each day talking with elderly shut-ins? Do you shop for things you don’t need when you’re stressed? What if you started buying things for the less fortunate and focusing that stress on serving others instead of serving yourself? Are you a stubborn know-it-all like me? How about using that thirst for knowledge and desire to debate to study the Word and teach it to others? Do you find yourself in unhealthy, emotionally entangled relationships? What if you allowed God to meet your needs and then focused on pouring your life into others in discipleship relationships?
How can God redeem your greatest weakness instead of repressing it? Can your greatest liability become the greatest asset for the Kingdom? Give him all of you, not just your supposed strengths and gifts, and just see the strength He can display in your weakness.
Great thoughts on God’s power through my weakness. I couldn’t agree more! Thanks.
A few weeks ago I began reading R.T. Kendall’s book A THORN IN THE FLESH he suggest reading Luke 6:37-38 every day.—Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do I read this every day? I started reading it because God was dealing with me severely over my judgmental spirit. Reading this passage from Luke is a life sentence for me; because I do not trust myself to go a whole day without being judgmental if I am not careful, I just read it every day.
In the same way; the thorn in the flesh is God inflicting the pain to keep us in continuous reminder lest we lapse. It keeps us from competing with His glory. It ensures that we will not take any personal credit, and it gives Him all the glory.
In other words, the thorn hurts. It is a constant trial, and it is ever obtrusive. It is always there; to remind. It is a nuisance. Paul even says,”…to tornment me” (2 Cor. 12:7).
You may say, “God, that’s not very nice.” But to quote F. F. Bruce it is to give Paul’s pride a knockout blow. It keeps one’s feet on the ground. It keeps me from thinking that I have arrived, that I am good enough, that I am worthy. It hurts so that I might be driven to love more. It is obtrusive so that I might develop empathy and won’t be judgmental. Are you, like me, one of those who can hardly keep from pointing the finger? God has a way of sending a thorn in the flesh. It’s obtrusive, just to make you aware of it all of the time. It’s a reminder of your sin. It’s a nuisance that produces humility. Info copied pg. 16-17 R.T. Kendal’s A THORN IN THE FLESH.
That’s it, and in that weakness He is strong. Love the quote from F. F. Bruce.