2 Corinthians 11–13: Weakness & Strength

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 21: Sunday

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! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 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. Therefore 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.
2 Corinthians 12:7–10

Sunday’s Bible reading of 2 Corinthians 11–13, finishes Paul’s letter. In these final chapters Paul strongly exhorts the Corinthians. He knows the areas of weaknesses in which they need strengthening, and as he closes, his great love and deep concern for them shine through his words.

Weakness and strength are key thoughts in these last chapters, and 2 Corinthians 12:7–10, could serve as a lens through which to view this letter with its interwoven themes of love and suffering in the fabric of ministry.

In Jeremiah 17–21: Discouragement & Faithfulness, I quoted Francis Schaeffer from his book, Death in the City, as he alludes to 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.

“So many people seem to think that if the Holy Spirit is working then the work is easy. Don’t believe it! As the Holy Spirit works, a man is consumed. This is the record of revivals; it is the record of those places in which God has really done something. It is not easy!

“As I stand and try to give a message into the world—at the café tables and in the universities, to individuals and large seminars, publicly and privately—a price has to be paid. Often there is discouragement. Many times I say, “I can’t go up the hill once more. I can’t do it again.” And what is God’s answer? Well, first it is important to know that God doesn’t scold a man when his tiredness comes from his battles and his tears from compassion. Second, this involves learning to say, and mean, “Lord, please make your strength perfect in my weakness.”

“Jeremiah, we recall, was the weeping prophet. This has psychological depth as well as historic meaning. He is really the man weeping. But what does God expect of Jeremiah? What does God expect of every man who preaches into a lost age like ours? I’ll tell you what God expects. He simply expects a man to go right on. He doesn’t scold a man for being tired, but neither does He expect him to stop his message because people are against him. Jeremiah proclaimed the message to the very end…”1

As did Jeremiah proclaim his message to the end, so did Paul. A prophet who wept and despaired. An apostle who knew sorrow and depression. Both sustained by God in His lovingkindness and compassion; both faithful unto death.

“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…”
2 Corinthians 4:5–7

What about us? We are earthen vessels and because we have God’s treasure it does not mean we no longer weep or never tire, it means the surpassing greatness of the power is of God and not from ourselves. These truths are very clear in this letter. We cannot forget them or deny them, for if we do we will either grow proud or falter under our own strength. We must help each other, as Schaeffer urged, learn to say and mean, “Lord, please make your strength perfect in my weakness.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City, “The Persistence of Compassion.”

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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