2 Corinthians 12:7-10 :
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
As I was reading this yesterday, I couldn’t stop reading it because of how encouraging it was to me. A little interpretive work first, then I will bring it home.
At first glance, verses 7 and 8 might seem hard to understand, but I think the key is in understanding Paul’s specific call to ministry. And for that, we must look at Acts chapter 9. Verses 15-16:
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
God is speaking to Ananias in this verse, and He is calling Ananias to lay his hands on (formerly named) Saul. Ananias wonders why, for Saul was an avid persecutor of the church. But God tells Ananias exactly why He was calling Saul to be saved and to be a minister of the gospel. Paul is a “chosen instrument” of God, a very special worker in the early church because he was to boldly preach the gospel before the Gentiles, the kings, and the sons of Israel. Then God says “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Paul’s calling was special in that he was called to a life of intense suffering and affliction. So, I think in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is explaining exactly why he was to suffer so much, “to keep me from exalting myself!”.
So then, what was the comforting words that God gave in return, instead of removing the suffering? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”. Because of this truth, Paul will gladly boast in his weakness, so that the power of Christ would dwell in him. And on top of that, he is now content in all types of suffering for Christ’s sake. Why? Because when he is weak, then he is strong. Not that there is an inherent strength in suffering, but that he receives a surpassing strength, that is the power of Christ.
So what do we take from this? I think this is the lesson Paul learned in Phil 4:11 of contentedness. God will use whatever means necessary to sanctify the believer, but it is for our good! (Romans 8).
Personal example: my recent run-ins with health issues (seizures). Many times I have prayed that God would remove this suffering away from me. But I must realize that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and that the power of Christ is perfected in my weakness. And since God’s grace is sufficient for me, I will not grumble or complain over momentary light affliction, but instead will boast in my weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in me! Therefore I can be content in suffering, weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties for the sake of Christ! Because through my weaknesses, Christ power is made perfect! Not that I have earned merit of anything on my own, but that Christ saved a wretch like me, o wretched man that I am! Praise the Lord for His everlasting love and grace.
Let me know what you think!