Is it financial weakness? Or relational weakness?
Let me tell you about a weak preacher. He wasn't a good speaker. He was a good writer, but he was timid in person. He didn't make a good first impression. Sometimes he changed plans at the last minute, leaving the impression that he was not reliable.
This preacher went off on a mission trip, and while he was away, some rival preachers with a different message came in and tried to take over his church--the church he started! These rival preachers said that they were the real leaders. They ran down the original preacher, pointing out all his weaknesses in an effort to turn the people of the church against him. And it looked like they were succeeding.
The preacher I'm talking about is the Apostle Paul. And 2 Corinthians is his response to the critics in Corinth. His argument comes to a climax in 2 Corinthians 12. In verse 5 he says, "...I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses."
Boasting in weakness. Think about how much this runs against the grain of our culture. Could you imagine kids on a playground saying, "My old man's weaker than your old man!" Could you imagine putting together your resume and listing all your weaknesses? Right now the Olympics are going on. The Olympic motto is "Faster, Higher, Stronger." Could you imagine if they changed it to "Slower, Lower, Weaker?"
Why would Paul boast in his weakness? Because of something he learned from a painful experience. "...I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me" (vv.8-9). We don't know exactly what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was. (My theory? It was an illness, possibly an eye disease. See GALATIANS 4:13-15). What we know for sure is that it tormented him, and he wanted it gone.
But instead of taking it away, the Lord just said this:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (v. 9).Of course, we have no idea what Paul thought when he heard that. But maybe he thought of Abraham and Sarah--a weak old couple who couldn't have children--and yet, by the power of God, they became the parents of Israel. And maybe he thought of Gideon, who said, "I am the least member of the weakest clan of Israel"--and yet, by the power of God, he and a reduced army defeated the armies of Midian. Maybe he thought of David, Jesse's youngest son--the runt of the litter--so unimportant that when the prophet came looking for the next king he wasn't even invited to the party--and yet, by the power of God, David became the greatest king Israel ever had.
Maybe Paul thought of Jesus. He had the power to heal, the power to teach, the power to walk on water, the power to feed thousands with five loaves and two fish--the power to raise people from the dead--and yet, he won his greatest victory through the weakness of crucifixion.
And maybe Paul realized that it made sense. God has always had a thing for the weak. He loves to reveal himself through those whom the world considers weak. God loves to give power to those who can admit that they are weak.
And maybe after reflecting on all that, Paul wrote these words in 2 Corinthians 12:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in 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 (vv. 9-10).How could God's power be made perfect in your weakness? Maybe your weakness can drive you to the arms of God where you find more power than you ever thought possible. Maybe your weakness can make you able to help someone else going through the same thing--God's healing power unleashed through your weakness.
Maybe God can use your weakness to lead someone else to Christ. Some years ago a man with a disability invited a 14-year-old boy to church. The boy laughed it off, but precisely because of the man's disability, he couldn't quit thinking about it. He finally decided to go. One thing led to another and the boy committed his life to Christ. His name is Adam Hamilton, and he is the founding pastor of Church of the Resurrection--a church that now has 12,000 members.
And it all started when God used a man's weakness to draw a young boy to Christ.