Not literally – you can exhale and imagine something less disturbing. But what I experienced was on a similar emotional and mental level.
It’s been a c-r-a-z-y season time-wise for me for about the last month. I generally stay pretty busy, but this was my version of silly season – the time demands were beyond ridiculous. And under that kind of stress, I tend focus on what I do well and throw everything else into automatic pilot.
Probably not a good plan. In fact, not much of a plan at all – I was pretty much in survival mode. And so, in the process of focusing on what absolutely had to be done and what I’m good at, I dropped my guard over my weaknesses. And boy did they show up in some embarrassing ways.
Weaknesses are like underwear. We all have them but most of us would prefer not to expose them to the world. And we spend quite a bit of energy or money covering them up.
Weaknesses remind us that we’re human. Flawed. Needy of help or extra work. And that messes with all sorts of things – mostly our pride. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when other people are recognizing things in you that you don’t feel good about. And we have to feel good about ourselves, right?
Anyway, one of my many weaknesses is attention to details. And I routinely mix it up with people who eat details for breakfast. So when I dropped the ball on some important details last week I felt stupid, exposed, and embarrassed. I wanted to call a time out and remind everybody who was watching about my awesome abilities.
I think the Lord may have had other ideas.
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).
This won’t make sense to your flesh or your pride. But God doesn’t use us in spite of our weaknesses. He uses us because of them. God uses weakness so that His power may be conspicuously displayed in our lives. In practical terms, that means if you’re useless to God, it isn’t because you’re weak, but because you are so talented.
Think about it. When Jesus chose twelve men who would change history, who did He select? A ragtag group of unschooled ruffians. A political scoundrel and a trained assassin. A really short guy, for crying out loud! Not a preacher or seminary grad in the bunch.
When God called Moses, he called someone with no message, no authority, no ability, no eloquence, and no previous experience except for one colossal failure. God said, “You’re just the man I’m looking for.”
Jeremiah, when called, said, “Lord, I’m slow of speech, I’m not eloquent, I don’t know what to say.” Exactly. He got the job.
So does that mean God isn’t interested in our strengths or gifts at all? Of course not. The problem comes when we start taking the credit for those strengths.
Take Paul’s experience, for example. Something motivated God to take action in Paul’s life. That motivation was Paul’s own success. God knew that our greatest enemy is our own pride. So God sent a weakness for the purpose of keeping Paul from exalting himself.
Paul calls this weakness a “thorn in the flesh,” but doesn’t say what it was. But whatever it was, Paul considered it a “messenger from Satan” and begged God three times to take it away.
God loved him enough to say no.
The word “thorn” literally referred to a big wooden stake by which things were nailed to the floor. What Paul is saying is that God gave him this weakness to keep him nailed to the floor. He uses your weaknesses to do the same.
This isn’t bad news to anything but your pride. In fact, your weaknesses create some pretty exciting possibilities.
How about the possibility that you can have victory in every adverse circumstance? Only a person who has tasted the grace of God can testify of that.
Also, because of God’s grace, the door of usefulness is open to everyone. There is no excuse for a Christian to ever feel inadequate or inferior.
What’s more, the power of Christ is available to everybody because of our weaknesses. The word for “power” means to dwell in a tent, or to be spread over. What Paul was saying was that there was a “tower of power” spread over him when he was weak.
“My grace is sufficient for you,” God said to Paul.
When I’m confronted with embarrassing weaknesses, I want to run to people to tell me I’m OK. I start fishing for compliments, asking for forgiveness, or making excuses. Anything to get another human to make me feel more comfortable about myself. The problem with that is that while encouragement has its place, the words and opinions of people are fickle and short-lived. And like any other drug of choice, it takes more and more of it to satisfy the craving.
My pride says that I want my abilities to be enough, but they aren’t. Using your strengths to cover up your weaknesses is sort of like Adam and Eve using fig leaves to cover up their you-know-what. They thought it was a good plan, but failed to realize how ridiculous it made them look. Only a covering made by God, based on shed blood was adequate for them – or for you.
The key word in God’s encouragement is the shortest one – “is.” Not “will be.” Not “used to be.” Is. Right now – no matter how painful or shameful the weakness, the grace of God is actively at work, ready to express His life and power at precisely the point of that weakness.
The beautiful purpose of weakness is to teach us how adequate God’s grace is. But like most every other priceless commodity, you only recognize its value when it’s all you have left.
When all your physical strength is gone, His grace is enough.
When all your self-respect has vanished, His grace is enough.
When all the praises and compliments of people have drifted away, His grace is enough.
When you’re out of time or don’t have two dimes to rub together, His grace is enough.
Instead of congratulating yourself today on your accomplishments or abilities, try something radical. Try glorying in your weaknesses. Enter in to the Tower of Power and revel in the fact that while you may be anchored to the floor, the grace that covers you can still reach higher than you ever could soar without it.
It’s there – in the matchless grace of God – that your weakness becomes your greatest strength. Now that’s something you can brag about.
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