Thursday, April 14, 2011

powerful paradox: the "gift" of weakness

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

These are more than words of encouragement and comfort. They were the daily reality of the life of the apostle Paul. He was given a unique "gift" from God to keep him close to God. It was the "gift" of weakness. And it was in this daily trust in God that Paul found strength despite his circumstances.

We don't know all the details of this circumstance. Paul deliberately keeps us from getting too many details. Probably out of humility and obedience to His Lord, Paul keeps things deliberately vague. But he does share just enough for us to identify with his experience. He was given some kind of disability by God. Yes... God gave him the disability. That is not the kind of thing we like to say, but Paul was cool with it. It was enough of a disability that his description of it is that it is "a messenger of Satan to harass me" (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul does not explain away the tension of his experience. He just accepts it as something that God was using to extend His grace into Paul's life. Wow!

My goal is not to wrestle with the theology of how something could simultaneously be "given" by God, yet be a harassing "messenger of Satan". I think the key to understanding it all is in verse nine. It is the understanding that God's grace is sufficient in our weaknesses. No matter what may afflict us or strike at us, God's grace is bigger and can sustain us. Paul concluded that he'd rather have that kind of weakness with God's grace resting upon him than any other experience.

This is counter-cultural. Americans demand an easy life. And that is not what Jesus ever promised us. In fact, He said that in the world you will have trouble, but that our hearts can be encouraged because He has overcome the world. And when we live like He has overcome the world, it will show through His grace pouring over our weaknesses. In that power, our lives are changed.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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