Power in Weakness
Difficulties, disappointments, failure, and weakness are all inevitable in life. But have you ever considered the possibility that these limitations may be the key to usefulness in the service of Christ? We often find ourselves saying or thinking something like “If I wasn’t like this, or if my circumstances were different, or if I was healthier or in better shape, then God could and would better use me.” It is easy to wish we could be someone we’re not, instead of believing what the Bible says: that God formed us purposefully, divinely, and intricately in our mother’s womb and has overseen each of our days since then (Psalm 139:13), making and molding each of us as a unique individual.
When we doubt our worth, Satan is quick to encourage us to question the integrity of God’s character and promises. Indeed, Paul calls his weakness, his thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan. Why? Because Satan had used it to bring about doubt in Paul: Why you, Paul? Why didn’t Peter have this thorn? Wouldn’t your ministry be more effective without it? God’s not coming through for you, is He? But our heavenly Father knows best, and He is painting on a far bigger canvas. His purpose is not to make our journey through life pleasurable or to make all our dreams come true. His purpose for us is far grander: to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
John Berridge, an 18th-century preacher, observed, “A Christian never falls asleep in the fire or in the water, but grows drowsy in the sunshine.” We grow too comfortable, too self-reliant, when life is easy and our strengths are apparent. And so God graciously gives us thorns to wake us up.
When God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” He didn’t change Paul’s pain. He changed his perspective. Paul was able to quit focusing on his weakness and begin appreciating the gift that came through it: Christ’s own strength. The thorn suddenly became a rose: something redemptively given instead of something only unwanted. God makes even Satan’s insinuations work for our good, causing us to turn to Christ in childlike and prayerful dependence upon His promises.
The things about ourselves that we want to run from, hide from, or cover up are the very things that could suddenly open the door to phenomenal ministry. Have you considered this truth? Have you considered the possibility that your limitations, your disappointments, and your weaknesses are not detriments to effectiveness but true assets, as they bring you to lean on His strength? Do not see your weakness as an obstacle to serving God but as an opportunity for it.
Treasure in Jars of Clay
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self4 is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
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