On the side of my sister-in-law's refrigerator is a sign that says,
I live for chocolate. She wears a sweatshirt showing a mean looking bear that says,
Nobody gets hurt if you just give me chocolate. She drinks from a coffee cup that says,
In case of an emergency, administer chocolate.
You might say that she has a weakness for chocolate.
We all have weaknesses of various kinds. Some of those weaknesses deal with our work, some our family life, some our relationship with Christ. Some of us, for example, have short tempers, others lack diplomacy. Some of us are too proud, others lack back-bone. There really are no perfect people. Maybe that is just as well.
Saint Paul, the famous apostle, had his weaknesses. One in particular caused him much heartache. We don't know for certain what it was. He called it his
thorn in the flesh. St. Paul prayed three times that God would deliver him from his affliction, but God's answer to him was,
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. In other words, God seemed to be saying to Paul,
Trust me, Paul. I will take care of you. But I can use your weakness to demonstrate my power.
We can learn from Paul's experience. He not only learned to accept his thorn, he even boasted about his weakness in order to show the power of Christ. Our weakness can become our strength as well, when our weaknesses are perfected by God. Indeed, our weaknesses can become our greatest strengths when they remind us of our dependence on God, and move us to trust only in him. St. Paul had to battle his humiliating affliction, his thorn in the flesh. Yet Christ has used him to plant churches all over the known world. Paul was a man of tremendous intellect and persuasive powers. Perhaps if it had not been for his thorn in the flesh, he would have leaned upon his own ability rather than God's power working through him. You and I might never have heard the name of Paul. His weakness became his strength.
But that is the way it is with all of God's people really. We think of Moses who stuttered, yet was one of God's greatest prophets. King David was an adulterer and a murderer, yet because of his penitent heart and great faith, God spoke of him as a
man after his own heart. In the New Testament, Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, was barren up to her old age, but then she became the mother of one of the greatest prophets that ever lived, John the Baptist. Peter was one who at times showed himself to be cowardly and lacking in faith, yet he became a bold apostle for the Lord.
All of these Christians had something in common—reliance on the grace of Christ. They all recognized the greatest weakness of mankind, their own sinfulness. And they all put their trust in him who came to remove that sin, Jesus Christ. He is the most perfect example of weakness perfected. He who is the almighty God set aside all of his power to come into the world and save mankind through weakness. He allowed himself to be arrested, humiliated, and finally crucified. He gave himself into the hands of weak and sinful men who thought that they were being big and powerful; and he did it to redeem them from their evil delusions of grandeur, and attempts to put themselves above God.
But God's power was perfected in Christ's weakness, for three days after he was buried, he rose again. He broke forth from death's bonds and showed that indeed he is the Victor, the Resurrection and the Life. And he still lives and rules on high in order to keep proving that God's power is perfected in weakness; for the message of the cross may seem weak to the world, but to those who believe, it is the power of God unto salvation.
And when we believe that message, and put our trust in Christ, then our weaknesses become God's strength. God's word to Paul applies as well to us,
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. And even our biggest weakness can become our greatest strength—if our weakness helps us to grow in love, if our weakness makes us more determined to succeed, and especially when our weakness causes us to rely on Christ and his grace.
As Christ's servant in your midst,
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