There are many paradoxes in the Christian life—truths that seem to oppose one another, and yet they somehow work together. We might call such realities “truth in stereo.” For example, God is sovereign over history, yet human beings can make real and meaningful choices. The Scriptures are authored by God, and yet they come to us through hands of human beings. Jesus Christ is fully human, and yet he is also fully divine. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. The list of examples is long.
The paradox in Paul’s famous “thorn in the flesh” testimony in 2 Corinthians 12 is likewise stark: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10b). But how could he say such a thing? Is he making a self-contradictory, self-refuting statement? No, Paul learned firsthand that the thing he most wanted removed from his life was the very thing God was using for the apostle’s good and heaven’s glory. That is why, paradoxical though it may seem, believers can learn to glory in their weaknesses. As Hershael York has said, “It is in our weaknesses—more so than in our strengths—that Christ is most clearly revealed.”
In sharing his testimony, Paul gives us three good reasons to glory in our weaknesses: First, glory in your weakness to direct people’s focus away from yourself. Paul’s goal in life was not to get people to think that he was wonderful. His goal in life was to get people to think that Christ is wonderful. As John the baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Second, glory in your weakness to distance yourself from your own strengths. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5a). Believers should take him seriously on that reminder! Besides, we tend to learn a lot more about God in the thorns of life than we do in our “third heaven” experiences, which Paul also describes in this passage.
Third, glory in your weakness to display the greatness of Jesus Christ. Somewhere in his agonizing “wrestling match” with God, Paul’s attitude toward his thorn changed. The very thing that troubled him the most was the thing that moved him into deeper intimacy with the Lord. It’s a good reminder that if we have a thorn in our life (and who doesn’t?), we can face it, and let God grace it. Just like Paul did.
Charles Spurgeon has said, “A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success…is a sense of our own weakness…. Dear reader, are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled.” Spurgeon was right. Our weakness is the vessel of God’s strength. If such a paradox is truth is stereo, then let the weak turn up the volume on this one and dance.
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