Friday, 1 January 2016
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
This verse is one which has brought two thousand years of comfort to those faithful Christians who are facing affliction, anguish, pain, or trial. Knowing that Christ Jesus spoke to Paul, and that his words are recorded for our benefit, allows us to know that the Lord is speaking to each of us through his words. Paul had asked three times for his thorn to be taken away. But the divine answer came back with soothing words for the path which lay ahead of him. The thorn would remain, but the Lord would be there with him through it.
What the words, “He said to me” mean can only be speculated upon. Did the Lord audibly speak to him? Was it in a vision? Or was “no response” a response in itself? In other words, did Paul deduce that this was the Lord’s chosen path for him while reading Scripture and contemplating the silence concerning the removal of the thorn? Though the third option seems unlikely at first, isn’t this exactly how we now receive our response? We pray for relief, we wait on an answer, and while we read Paul’s words here, we realize that the affliction we are suffering is intended to be there. Maybe Paul was reading Job and came to this conclusion.
No matter how the Lord spoke to him, His answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you.” We have an infirmity which limits us, we think it is a hindrance to our walk with the Lord and the accomplishment of His mission that we are trying to carry out, and yet we find that the affliction is what allows us to be fruitful in our mission. Think of Joni Eareckson-Tada! The Lord has used her because of her affliction and His grace has been sufficient.
Paul continues to cite the thought in the words, “for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Moses had an affliction of speech and yet the Lord’s power was made perfect through his weakness. In fact, maybe it was Moses who Paul was thinking of all along! Moses questioned the Lord’s decision three times (Exodus 3:11, 4:10, and 4:13) just as Paul had done. However, he eventually yielded to the Lord’s will.
However the Lord spoke to Paul, it was evident that he finally realized that God could do great things through one with an affliction. And not only would great things be done, but He would be the One to receive the glory. Who else could use the weak, infirm, dull, poor, or shunned to do such great things!
It should be noted that some manuscripts leave off the word “my.” If this is correct, it turns the verse into a general proposition by saying, “Strength is perfected in weakness.” If this is the correct rendering, it might make it seem cold and impersonal, but it is not. The fact that the Lord is the one who is speaking keeps it both personal and powerful.
After his realization that the thorn would stay and yet not be a hindrance to his mission, Paul says, “Therefore… Yes! Because of these things, a good result will follow and I will be honored to carry the thorn as a badge of that surety! “Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities.'”
Paul was let down the wall of Damascus in a basket because he couldn’t do it himself. He was conducted around by others as he traveled because he couldn’t conduct himself. He struggled through his thorn with pride in the Lord who sustained him and used him despite of it. His infirmity was the greatest point of his boasting. As he says, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The word for “rest upon” is episkénoó. This is its only use in the New Testament. It comes from two other words: epi (on) and skénoó (to dwell in a tent). Thus it means to “arise a tent (over), dwell, spread a tabernacle over.” The word skénoó is the same word used in John 1:14 when speaking of Christ coming to “dwell” or “tabernacle” among us.
What Paul is saying with this special word is that it is as if the power and glory of Christ Himself enveloped him like a tent. It rested upon him and the shining glory of Christ blazed upon him because of his thorn. He therefore had every reason to boast in this. For Paul, the Lord’s power and majesty were on display because of his infirmity! Again, think of Moses, Jone Eareckson-Tada, or any of the vast number of people in redemptive history who shined forth more brightly because of their affliction. What a great God to use the weak and fallible to reveal His power and love to the world!
Life application: If you have a limitation which you feel hinders you from a ministry for the Lord, think again. The Lord is probably waiting for you to realize that it is this very limitation which He can use most effectively.
Lord Jesus, You have said that Your grace is sufficient for us and that Your strength is made perfect in weakness. For those of us who bear an infirmity or who are weak in this body, be pleased to use us to Your glory. May Your strength be on display in us as we share our lives for Your glory. Use us as mighty warriors as we rely on Your grace to succeed in living out our lives as faithful servants. Be glorified through us, weak and weary as we are. Be glorified through us, Lord Jesus. Amen.