2Co 11:18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast….2Co 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
2Co 12:9 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. 2Co 12:10 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.
Chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Corinthians are some of the most important for the Christian’s ability to live godly and patiently in this life. They pretty much sum up the book as Paul is defending himself against the “Super Apostles” who are trying to discredit him as a worthy servant of the Lord. Their argument is one that we hear today in what we refer to as the “Health and Wealth Gospel”.
One of their basic arguments is that Paul’s life is so miserable and his preaching is so crude compared to their lives and their gifts of speaking that there is no way he can be in God’s will because the Lord would be blessing him if he was being faithful. On the other hand, they had their act together; they were slick speakers, had letters of recommendation from the “right” people; they had money, gifts; it is clear that they had the Lord’s blessings and therefore the people should follow them and not Paul.
Paul has defended himself throughout the book but in these two chapters he basically says that the Super Apostles have it exactly backwards. Notice in the above verse from ch. 11 that he will boast but not in the things they were boasting in but in the very things that they saw as weaknesses. The false apostles thought that having a life without problems was a sign of God’s blessings and Paul says not so fast; in fact, in most cases the very opposite is true.
We fall into this trap today by referring the good things that happened to us as God’s blessings but the “good” things are always things that pamper the flesh. And we thank God for his “blessings” at our testimony meetings. For sure we should be thankful to the Lord when he supplies our needs but when we are only willing to define blessings as good things for our flesh and not also those things that build up my faith and ability to serve the Lord, then we fall into this very trap.
Paul uses his weakness, his poverty, his inability to speak well, his constant persecution and scars on his body, etc. not as a sign that God is displeased with him but as proof that the Lord is using him. This is why he sums it all up in chapter 12 with these words, 2Co 12:9 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. 2Co 12:10 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.
When the Lord humbles us by taking away our money or health or just reduces us to a very humbling state, he is giving us the ability to display his glory more clearly than the one who has “it all together” in the flesh can display. Paul had learned to serve during the good times, Php 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Php 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Php 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. But he was aware that it is when we are the weakest that we have some of the best opportunities to magnify the glory of God in our lives.
The reason this is so fundamental to a Christian’s spiritual health is because it gives us the ability to be patient in trials and afflictions. Instead of wasting time wondering why God is “punishing you” or complaining and being bitter and jealous of others, we can see our trials as unique opportunities to serve the Lord that ease can’t bring. Yes, they still hurt and are no fun and we might pray for relief but in the meantime we serve! In the meantime we are full of the joy of the Lord and so rejoice always because our names are written down in Heaven.
It is clear from 2 Cor. 12:9 that Paul didn’t give up because God didn’t answer his prayers the way he wanted. And the reason is because God tells him that when he reduces us to weakness, when he humbles us so that others pity us, that he is going to display his glory through us provided, of course, that we are looking for ways to serve and not having a pity party.
This takes a strong faith but the effect on our lives can’t be overstated. If we are taking up our cross daily to follow the Lord, then we should expect suffering and not listen to those that tell us that God wants his children to have whatever they want and if we have enough faith he will give it to us. The question is do we have enough faith to believe what the Lord says in his Word about our present condition and our future hope?