When the world crashes down around us, when we finally come to the end of the ropes of control we cling to and when life, as we thought it once was is not; our response will reveal the true colors of our faith. How strong is our faith? How much do we rely on our faith in God? How much have we coasted along in our lives, relying only on self because we thought we had full control over life? Is our first response blame? It seems natural and immediate to blame circumstances, people and current conditions. Is our first response self-loathing? As humans, most of us like being “in charge”, independent, with thoughts and words that display “you can’t tell me what I don’t know, who I am or what I cannot do!” attitudes. We like to be strong—or at least appear strong. “Never let ‘em know your weakness” is the world’s mantra.
Then there’s Paul. Saul/Paul was a learned, fierce Pharisee who thought he had complete control over his life and the lives of others. He deemed himself a vigilante of God’s Law, convinced that forcing others to their knees, beating them into submission against the teachings of Jesus is what God wanted. Or did Paul simply love the power over people? Either way, with this mindset, he forced others to submit to The Law, as he interrupted it. God was not considered in the equation. Relationship with God and others was considered weakness. (Sound familiar as worldview thinking today?)
Then Jesus changed everything in Paul. Jesus, in all His glory, came to Paul right in the middle of the road. Paul was traveling with a posse aimed at more terrorizing of believers in Damascus. Jesus stopped Paul dead in his tracks and blinded his eyes. Paul fell helplessly to his knees and heard Jesus ask, “Saul (his Pharisee name), why do you persecute Me?”
This encounter with Jesus Christ, revealing His glory and His message to Paul, left Paul with a physical weakness. We are not sure what the “weakness” was exactly. Many theologians and historians think, because of his “blinding encounter” it could have affected his eyesight. Paul prayed for this “thorn in the flesh”, this “thing” that was troublesome to him to be taken away, but God didn’t take it away.
Paul is honest about his strengths and weaknesses to the Corinthians. Paul admits he is weak, which was counter to worldview thinking then and is now. Paul goes further in his “testimony” about his weakness actually becaming a gift. Wait, what? Yes! This “weakness” was a constant reminder of the grace and strength of Jesus Christ in him, who was not only his Savior but now his Lord. The “weakness” reminds Paul daily that he is no longer in charge. Jesus is in charge. Jesus changed everything about Paul from the inside out and outside in. Paul’s new life message comes from seeking to become more and more like Jesus. “I want to know Christ and share in his sufferings”. (Philippians 3:10)
Yes, Jesus is Paul’s everything. Paul’s passion for others to know Jesus comes from Jesus who stopped him on the road that day. Jesus is how Paul bore the beatings, slander, gossip, humiliations and imprisonments. Paul was tenacious in his work to tell others to also become more and more, in every way, like Jesus.
Paul knew he was in direct opposition the Satan who hated the change Jesus made in Saul the destroyer of life, to Paul who now pointed people to the Giver of Life eternal. Paul looks at the attacks of evil as a good thing, “Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.” To Paul (and to us) our real power comes from the strong position of being on our knees, praying, calling on the Name of Jesus! Satan hates believers who fall down before Jesus, calling on His Name. Satan knows he cannot defeat the real One and Only who is Lord. He really hates it when believers cry out in victory, “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world!” (1 John 4:4)
So, this is Paul’s faith response when his “I’m in charge” world came crashing down. Though left with a “weakness”, Paul saw it as a gift left behind to remind him of the wonderful, life altering, hope giving, relentless love given to him at his encounter with Jesus Christ who saved him from death to life eternal. The following is Paul’s testimony of Jesus in his crisis of faith that changed his mind. Forever.
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
2 Corinthians 12, The Message
Strength from Weakness
12 1-5 You’ve forced me to talk this way, and I do it against my better judgment. But now that we’re at it, I may as well bring up the matter of visions and revelations that God gave me. For instance, I know a man who, fourteen years ago, was seized by Christ and swept in ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I really don’t know if this took place in the body or out of it; only God knows. I also know that this man was hijacked into paradise—again, whether in or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. There he heard the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard. This is the man I want to talk about. But about myself, I’m not saying another word apart from the humiliations.
6 If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I’d still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I’ll spare you. I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk.
7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
WHAT DO LEARN?
- God’s grace is enough. More than enough. God is always all we need.
- God’s strength is made stronger still in our weakness.
- Whatever our world throws at us, God is still in control.
- Stop focusing on what we what we think we need to the gift of salvation, power over weaknesses, and the daily strength given to us to face whatever hardships come our way.
- God is for us, not against us. Always.
What a lesson of pure faith from Paul! Help us all to take our focus from our weaknesses and look fully into your wonderful face of glory, power, strength, wisdom, love, mercy and grace. Yes, by your grace we have more than enough. When we are weak, you are made stronger still in us. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for pushing to our knees in prayer to you as a first response. You are God. We are not.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!