Strength; November 20, 2020


2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

This passage, along with the last line of the next verse, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” is justly famous, and I have quoted it many times. The reason for that is that it directly contradicts human expectation and logic. That’s actually a very good thing, because without such shocking contradictions, we tend to be totally man-centered, thinking that we are the be-all and end-all of everything. We need reminders, and sometimes strong ones, that God is ultimate and He is sovereign. In other words, it’s not about us, whether we like that fact or not. Being self-centered seems to be something of a given when it comes to human beings, but our goal is to become like Jesus Christ, and He was fully centered on His Father. This verse is very much part of that. When we are properly centered on Christ, His grace is indeed all we need, because He manifests Himself through us. God alone knows how many people have been encouraged by this passage, but that number is doubtless huge. It probably includes just about every believer who has read it! The difficulty lies in the fact that it leaves no room for pride. We like to boast of our strengths, but Paul rightly turns that around to boasting of weaknesses. That’s a very good thing, because we all have plenty of those! The thing is, as long as we think we have strength, we try to be in control, and that’s a problem. We aren’t to be passive or lazy, but the sooner, and more clearly, we learn that Jesus is indeed Lord, and all that means, the better it is all the way around. Every time we run out of our own strength, ability, resources, or whatever, we should rejoice, because that means that God can manifest His infinite strength, grace, and love through us.

This is something I have learned time and time again, which is to say, I haven’t really learned it! I have to have repeated refresher lessons, because my stupid pride keeps getting in the way. God has gifted me in many ways, so when I start comparing myself to people I easily get tripped up. I was blessed with parents who never told me anything was too difficult for me, as far as I can remember. They did stop me when a project was potentially illegal and they cautioned me when it was risky, but in general they encouraged me to discover and exercise the gifts God had placed in me. Sadly, that fed into conceit, and that’s a very bad thing. Running into walls has been a real blessing for me. I well remember one time when a very perceptive prayer partner said to me, “I most smell Christ in you when you have been having an argument with your wife.” My marital relationship is an extremely high priority in my life, so difficulties in that area drive me to God very strongly, and that’s what he was talking about. I’m not to seek arguments with my wife, but I am to recognize at all times that any real strength and ability I have is by the grace of God, and give Him praise and thanks.

Father, thank You for this reminder. My schedule from now through the end of the year is really packed, and I certainly can’t get through it without You. Help me not be anxious about any of it, but rather rest, relax, and rejoice, just as You have told me to. Keep me from allowing the various stresses to make me lash out at those around me. May I rather be a useful instrument of Your grace and love at all times, whether I am tired or rested, pleased or angry, or whatever, for Your glory alone. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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