Reading through the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan I have been on a path through the Old and New Testaments. A couple days ago I read 2 Corinthians 12 and Paul writes something very striking. Paul is discussing his struggles in ministry and he tells the Corinthian church about a thorn in the flesh that God had given him (which he tells us is a messenger from Satan, think Job). Paul had pleaded three times for God to remove the thorn in the flesh, but this struggle was given to him on purpose and he receives an answer through prayer from Jesus:
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
First, there is no other god in any world religion who says that his power is made perfect in weakness, not one. Paul’s plea, Christ’s response, and the implications that has on us are profound. We should note that Jesus says his grace is sufficient, which means that no matter the circumstances of your life, however dire they may be, the grace of Jesus is sufficient power to see you through to whatever end God has decreed. This is a comforting grace that should never be forgotten. Also, this grace allows us to boast in our weakness. For some reason God shines all the more brightly when we are letting Him. When we recede, as we do in our weakness, God can show forth His power. How does the old maxim go? Less of me, more of You.
Think more about God’s choice to show His power in such ways. Would it not be better to show the power of God in someone like Alexander the Great? Or maybe God could have fashioned one member of His creation to be like Superman and thus be able to boast in such strength! But God, our God, chooses not to do such things. 1 Corinthians 1.25 says that God’s weakness is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1.27 says that God chose the weak to shame the strong. 2 Corinthians 13.4 says that Christ was crucified in weakness (that is, murdered) and he lives by the power of God.
Our God does not stop there. In Revelation 5 we read that Christ is like a lamb, but not just any lamb. John writes,
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.
The Greek word translated by the ESV as “slain” has a more picturesque meaning which can be translated as “slaughtered.” In other words, Jesus Christ, the Lamb without blemish, was slaughtered. This is why the Gospel is hard to believe for some people. As Paul writes,
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
If we think about the Savior of the world, the victor over death, the all-powerful one (read Colossians 1), we probably will not first think of any sort of lamb. We would like a conquering King, on a war horse, wearing hardened battle armor, and a great sword in his hand and a huge shield strapped to his back. You might throw in a cape for flair. But that is not our God. Our God is a slaughtered lamb. This is no New Testament phenomena. We read this in Isaiah:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
I cherish this God. Could you imagine living a life without Him? What if God were content to remain infinitely above His creation and never concerned Himself with the affairs of our lives? What despair that would bring! But our God is not like that. He humbles himself to meet us when we need Him. This God who came as a baby, was lead to the slaughter like a lamb, and tells us that his power is sufficient for all our weaknesses; for it is there, in the midst of our inability, that he shines the brightest.
If I may be candid with you, I am rather afraid to be a pastor. I imagine it is like having your first child, you think you know what you are doing until you have to do it. Though I know that in my weakness, Christ will be present, his power flaring forth, his grace sufficient for me, and the comfort of his mercy around the ministry.
Remember that Christ was weak so he could later be strong. Remember that his grace is a sufficient power for your desperation and I plead with you to memorize Scripture. When there is a thorn in your flesh, when your weakness seems to encompass your existence, I pray that you find relief in the grace of Christ and comfort in knowing that you are struggling not alone, but with the Savior of the world by your side. Take a few days and commit this to memory:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.