2 Corinthians 12:1-10
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. 5 That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We all want to get into shape the problem is we don’t want to do the workout. Part of the problem is that we miss the main goal of working out, we make it looking good instead of living good. It’s not so much about how you look but how you live. We want to get stronger which requires some strength training. But in order for us to be successful in strength training, we need a good trainer. When it comes to our spiritual strength training many people fail because they try to train by themselves. Instead of getting stronger they strain and hurt themselves or get less strength than they would have, had someone been there to guide them. In Psalm 29:11 David declares “The Lord gives his people strength, The Lord blesses them with peace.” This is a promise directly from God, He is offering to be your strength trainer. But too often we don’t want His strength because we think we’re strong enough on our own. Pastor Kyle Idelman tells a story about the time his 4-year-old daughter came into his office as he was rearranging the furniture. He had this large heavy desk and was pushing it from one side of the office to the other. His daughter wanted to help so she got between his arms and just started pushing with all her might. She huffed and puffed, stained and struggled with her dad behind her. At one point she stopped, looked at her dad and said, “Daddy, you are in my way, just stand over there.” Kyle hid his smile and did as she said. Again, she huffed and puffed, struggled and strained but this time the desk didn’t budge an inch because her Daddy wasn’t behind her pushing any longer. This is the sad story for many Christians today, instead of coming alongside and working with God we end up consigning Him to the corner while we struggle in our own strength. This points to another reason why we need to understand the truth that we are weak and He is strong. You see until we realize God is strong and we are weak we’ll tend to live our Christianity backward. Where we live life as if God needs us, instead of the other way around. We will buy into the belief that God needs OUR time, talent, treasures. We’ll believe God depends on us far more than we depend on Him because He just couldn’t live without us. But here is the truth if God is not impressed by the biggest, baddest, bad guys on earth, He’s certainly not going to be all that impressed with my puny efforts. It’s here in 2 Corinthians 12 that we see Paul being tempted by that feeling, as he says in 2 Corinthians 12:7 “So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” It’s not hard to picture Paul being tempted to pick up pride and becoming conceited. I mean the man’s a legend. When he spoke large crowds of people gathered and were convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ. He was instrumental in starting many new churches throughout Greece and Rome. He not only knew the Bible backward and forward but He wrote half of the New Testament. To top it off according to 2 Corinthians 12 God had given him a vision where he experienced the glory of paradise and saw and heard things he wasn’t permitted to tell us about. How easy would it have been for him to fall victim to the poison of pride? The problem with pride is it would have poisoned Paul’s ministry and made it about self instead of the Savior. It would have gotten in the way of what God wanted to do thru him. But as Bill Cosby once said: “People say: ‘God will find a way.’ God can’t find a way if you’re in the way.” And Paul’s pride would have gotten in the way of God’s will, so God sent a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment” him. Now while on the outside this may appear to be mean on the inside it helped Paul’s heart not to become puffed up with pride. While this thorn hurts his flesh and didn’t feel good it actually served to strengthen his faith. God allowed Paul to suffer because if he hadn’t Paul’s pride would have made him think God was weak and he was strong. It would have made him believe that God needed to do things Paul’s way rather than the other way around. Paul’s suffering served to strengthen him by stripping him of selfish pride. As the old Gospel hymn proclaims: “I am weak but thou are strong… Jesus keep me from all wrong”. It’s a good thing to remember, you and I are weak, but God is strong. For if we don’t remember that, then we will end up doing wrong because we’ll get in God’s way and not give Him the room He needs to work in our lives. Where do you need to admit your weaknesses today? Until we face the fact that we are weak and He is strong we will keep relying on self-strength instead of the Saviors.