Monday, May 4, 2015

God's Strength in Our Weakness

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?

7 comments:

  1. Loved the ideas you put forth in this post.

    I tend to gravitate towards the counterintuitive ideas in general and you present one here--we aren't necessarily "blessed" when good things happen to us, perhaps we are "blessed" when the going gets tough.

    I recently was addressing a particular interpretation of 2 Cor. 10:4-5 which I thought was specious. As I read chapters 10-12, I came to the conclusion that the WHOLE THING was in regards to those dastardly "Super Apostles", as you say. Indeed, my Ryrie study Bible groups those chapters together.

    Would you mind weighing in with what you might imagine Paul is saying when he speaks of "speculations and every lofty thing"? Would you mind weighing in on who is the "we" in "we are destroying"?

    Would love to get your opinion on this tough-to-figure verse that I personally think is used wrongly in various wrong ways by many Christians.

    Kenny B

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  2. Well, I am only in chapter 3 right now and so I can only offer what I see at this point. I might tweak it some when I get to chapter 10. I think the "we" is used in the royal sense as in verse 8 and really the whole chapter. He is defending himself but uses "we" and "us" throughout.

    As for verse 5 the ESV translates it, "arguments and every lofty opinion" which I think explains it well. Our weapon against the philosophies and wisdom of the world as well as our defense against our own minds is the truth of the gospel.

    If I put it in the context of my blog, the "flesh" or poverty, sickness, the sword, etc. are not the Christians enemies, it is a weak faith that let's those things undo them.

    That is quick but I think it gives the sense of where I would see these verses.

    Thanks

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    1. Thanks Nathan.

      I was thinking the same thing--"we" is the royal "we", or maybe speaking for his whole missionary entourage. I've always found a big key to Bible interpretation making sure you get a grip on pronouns.

      "Arguments and lofty opinions" appear to me to be those wrong doctrines put forth by those bad "Super Apostles". Those philosophies and wisdom of the world, as you say, that contradict the gospel.

      So it is probably: Paul v. Super Apostles' bad doctrine

      Not--Christians in general v. their own internal hang-ups that hold them back in life

      What do you think?

      Kenny B

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  3. It seems to be a general point that applies to both as far as I can see. What the people in the pew need, as well as the one standing behind the pulpit, is to grow in truth, in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It guards us from false teachers and from our own internal bad thinking. I don't see how it doesn't apply to everything.

    Nathan

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    1. Sounds like a fair opinion to me.

      Thanks for weighing in.

      Kenny B

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  4. PS

    Just listened to and loved your quick diversionary discussion on alcohol in "Vashti Says No". Jotted some notes down. Was the best balanced thing I may have ever heard on the subject.

    I kinda say her name Vash-tee though.

    Kenny B

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  5. thanks, there is no accounting as to how I say biblical names sometimes. As a side note, everything I said about alcohol I said as someone who enjoys a Sam Adams!

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