The Blessing of Weakness

The Necessity of Infirmities

II Corinthis 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. {8} For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. {9} And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. {10} Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Paul had a thorn in his flesh (not his side) because of the great revelations God had given to him. This is something he needed, or God wouldn’t have given it to him. The thorn in his flesh was something he needed continually or God would have removed it from him. Paul said that he had prayed on numerous occasions and over a long period of time for God to remove it, but God would not. Sometimes this happens to us. Sometimes, we pray for God to remove something that we believe is hindering us from serving Him more fully. But the problem, or the circumstance, or the situation continues just as before, sometimes even getting just a little bit worse, sometimes getting just a little bit better, but never going away. When this happens, we ought to understand that God doesn’t want to remove it. It just may be that He sees things in our lives that we don’t see. It just may be that He knows the thorn is good for us, while we believe it is bad for us. We must learn to accept the things God puts in our lives, knowing that nothing happens by accident, all things happen on purpose, and everything that happens is for our good and God’s glory.

Paul states in verse 6 that the thorn in the flesh was given to him for others. Some people would think that Paul was “bigger than life”, that he was more important than God intended him to be. Some in the church at Corinth did think that some men were as important as Jesus Christ. Some were saying they were of Paul, some said they were of Apollos, some said they were of Cephas (Peter) and others said they were of Christ.

The fact is that sometimes we must endure some things for the sake of others. Some people need to understand that we are just people, we are just sinners, saved sinners to be sure, but still sinners. Some people need to understand that there are some things we all have to put up with. Some people get the idea that some preachers and some people don’t have to put up with the things “common” people have to put up with.

To some people we are like Mephibosheth, who was crippled from a fall when his nurse ran from what she considered murderers. David brought this son of Jonathan into his house and set him at his own table. Mephibosheth couldn’t walk and had to have people carry him everywhere he went, but when he sat at the king’s table, he looked exactly like everyone else. There was no way his handicap could be discerned. This is like all saved people. All saved people have a sinful nature, and within them remains the darkest sins imaginable. Yet the king of kings and the Lord of lords has brought us into His house, and set us at his table. When we are sitting at the table of Jesus, we feast on all the things He has provided. When people who aren’t see us feasting at the table of Jesus (worshipping Him in church services and enjoying good, clean Christian fellowship) they cannot see our sinful nature. They mistakenly surmise that there is more to us that meets the eye. The truth is exactly the opposite. There is nothing to us, but there is everything to God. He is the one who makes us look like we are completely whole.

Sometimes, people in the world believe that bad things don’t happen to people who serve God. This is error, but some people do believe this. I remember when Angie was in the hospital and nearly died giving birth to Joshua, a nurse in the maternity ward told me that she was amazed that this had happened to us. When I asked her why, she said that we were good people and that good people shouldn’t have to go through things like that. I personally was very amazed at her thinking because I don’t feel immune to the catastrophes of life. But when people think things like this, it is important for them to understand that bad things do happen in the Christian’s life, but they are able to handle it differently because God is with them through it all.

When others understand that the “big wheels” have some problems with sin, and other things, they will be more likely to understand the problems that appear in their own lives. Nobody ever gets to the place that they don’t have problems in this flesh. Many young, tender Christians get discouraged when they see older, stronger Christians who seemingly don’t have any problems with sin, or other things in their lives. They know they have multiple problems, and are likely to believe they are failing Christ in a terrible way because they still have some problems. They work to get rid of those difficulties, but they just won’t go away.

Paul states that this thorn in the flesh was sent to him for a specific reason, to humble him. Paul (like us) needed to understand that God was over him, he wasn’t over God. God put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden for the benefit of Adam and Eve. It was not placed there to hurt them, but to help them understand that, although they were in charge of the entire world, there was still One in charge of them. Satan told them the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a symbol of what God was withholding from them, not a symbol of good toward them. Sometimes, God gives us a “thorn in the flesh” to remind us that we also have One in charge of us. The things that happen to us are to remind us that there is One in charge of us, and that we can depend on Him. God will never allow anything to happen to us to hurt us, or to cause us to go astray. Like Paul, we need to understand that we haven’t “arrived”. There is still some work for us to do, and there will be work for us to do all the days of our life. The most important work is personal, internal; not external for others to see. God cannot and will not use a person who is self-sufficient, self-willed, and self-motivated. The world longs for people like this, but not God. God wants people that trust in Him, people that let Him tell them what to do, where to go, and when to go.

The fact is that the grace of God is sufficient for us. It is not until we fully depend on the grace of God that we understand this fact. We are likely to depend upon ourselves, thinking that our ideas are God’s ideas, when in fact, they are ours. These ideas could also be Satan’s! We don’t like to think about it, but Satan is very capable of putting ideas into our heads, and then make us think those ideas are our own. When this happens, we are following Satan, and thinking we are following God, not knowing that we are actually following our own ideas.

Verse 9 - My strength is made perfect in weakness. We are the weak ones. God is the strong one. We are to trust God, not ourselves. We are to understand and know with all we can know that we are weak and need God to lead, guide and protect us every instant of every day. We simply can’t live without him, and certainly can’t do anything profitable for him by ourselves. The only way we can really be strong in Christ is to be weak in ourselves. This is not a “put on” or something we are fooling ourselves with, but to be truly unable to perform any Christian act without Christ. We must understand that our weakness, our inability, our unability, is what God uses. He does not use our strengths, or the natural, fleshly talents in His service. This is not to say that God doesn’t use our weak personalities or the natural talents He has given us. But He does not use those natural, fleshly talents of those people who are not depending on Him. All of those talents He has given to us, we should use for Him, but only when we are trusting God in those talents. If there is a weakness, then we can praise God the more, understanding that through those weaknesses, God will manifest His strength in us. If we are weak in a certain matter or talent, then let us acknowledge that weakness to God and to others. Let God make up what we cannot do. Let us work for God with that weakness (and with our natural strength and talents) always giving to God the glory for all things. There is not an area of our lives that we do not need to yield to Him. It is not true that there are some things we can do, therefore, we don’t need to pray to God in those things. We can handle that. It is also not true that there are some things we can not do, therefore, we need to pray to God about those things. We need to understand that we need God in every area of our lives, both those things we can do, and those things we are weak in.

Verse 9 states that Paul has come to the place of understanding what infirmities are for. Some people never learn what these are all about. The vast majority of people, including Christians believe that infirmities are what we are supposed to “work on” to get rid of. This is what the world teaches, and most Christians get their information from the world, not from the Holy Word of God. Paul stated that he would glory in his infirmities that the power of Christ may rest on Him. This principle is exactly the opposite of what the world believes and what the world teaches. The world teaches that weakness is bad. This is why little boys are constantly trying to beat each other up - this is how they prove to themselves and to others who is the toughest, the meanest, and the most self-sufficient. Little girls often don’t fight - they primp and prune themselves so they are the prettiest girl on the block. If there is a blemish on their face, they want to be sure to cover it up because they don’t want anybody to see any sort of blemish - that is like admitting there is a deficiency in their looks, and to most little girls, and big girls, their looks are the most important part of themselves. This is why cosmetic companies sell so much of their product. There is a difference between trying to look nice, neat and clean and trying to be some sort of super woman in looks.

The Christian takes his weaknesses directly to God, right out in the light of God’s holiness, and lets Him see them all openly. He never tries to hide anything from God, but confesses everything. God will make up the difference, and the Christian knows this.

In Verse 9, Paul states that he will glory in his infirmities, not in himself: see verse 5. Also see II Cor. 11:30 which states, If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The word “glory” means to boast about, to rejoice in, or to have joy about and toward. This is marvelous indeed. Often, we want to glory or have joy in the things of ease, the things that make us look important in the eyes of our friends, enemies, and people in general. Paul is not like that. He is not carnal. He is spiritual, and he will have joy in spiritual things, not carnal things. If we would be spiritual, we would also have joy in these things.

Verse 10 - There are several things Paul said he would delight and pleasure in. Pleasure means to be well pleased, to be pleased, to have pleasure in, to be willing to endure as gratification or delight, amusement, or enjoyment. Infirmities are a lack of strength, whether it is a native weakness, or a frailty of the body, sickness or a want of strength and capacity. Reproaches is insolence, impudence, pride, haughtiness. Necessities is defined as those things imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one's advantage; things necessary because of custom, or argument. Persecutions means undergoing oppression or harassment with ill-treatment, especially because of religion, although persecution can also be caused by race, sexual orientation, or other beliefs. Distresses for Christ’s sake are those particular straightness of situation caused by taking a stand for the Words of Christ.

The reason given in verse 10 for Paul taking pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, and distresses for Christ’s sake is because Paul has discovered the source of real strength. It is when he is weak and when he knows he is weak.