We remain in a stay-at-home order for much of us who are listening, and it’s really an interesting.
There are so many things to contemplate and consider for many of you staying at home—the concerns you face with what’s going on in the world around us. Can I ask you to do just a couple of things? Use this time to think about and pray for others in your church. I want to also mention those who are working in our healthcare system—pray for them, pray for all the facets of their life that they’re giving to right now. They’re having to stay away often from family, so I want to mention that as a point of introduction today, as a kind reminder for us to remain selfless in these times where we’re isolated from the world.
Now our primary topic today is the issue of weakness. I don’t know about you, but sitting in my house I’ve had a lot of opportunities to reflect and contemplate what’s going on. Extreme weakness are revealed in us during this time. That makes us very uncomfortable. We’re taught in the very opposite direction, particularly in the Western world. We’re taught to hide our weaknesses, to cope with our weaknesses, or focus on the strengths that we have in and of ourselves. That’s the way we’re taught to deal with life. If there’s a weakness, take some training, or do something to build yourself up, to strengthen that particular weakness. “If this is a weakness, let’s cope with this in such a way so that we can highlight the strengths that we have.”
Can I talk about weakness for just a moment? I think biblically we have this idea of weakness quite backward in our country. I think right now what we see happening with the pandemic is our weaknesses are being revealed on a consistent basis.
Those weaknesses could look like a thousand things. The things that you thrive in on a daily basis, that you feel like give you identity—if you’re not able to do those, you may be feeling helpless and weak. Maybe you’re around your family more and with that interaction, the first few days were wonderful and great, but now we find that conflict is happening. We’re finding areas that we’re not very strong, where we’re actually quite weak.
Boast in Your Weakness
Our natural instinct is to ask, “What can we do to find some sort of method or mode to help us strengthen that weakness? How do we cover that weakness? How do we cope with this issue? How do we run from this weakness? How do we dismiss it out of our mind?” I want us to think today about 2 Corinthians, where Paul is coming to the conclusion of that letter. He’s at the end of chapter 11, and he goes into chapter 12, and he’s talking particularly about weakness. I think it’s important for us to learn the disposition that Paul speaks about here regarding weakness.
In 2 Corinthians 11:30, he says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
Wow, that is completely paradoxical to the way that we think. We want to do everything we can to boast in the things that we’re good at. We build resumes to this end, we build CVs to this end, we build a picture and portrait of ourself that we hope the rest of the world sees. That’s to boast in the strengths that we have. Yet, Paul here is saying, “I’m going to be intentional about how I boast, and I’m going to boast in the things that actually reveal my weakness.”
Aren’t the circumstances right now revealing our weaknesses? Are we afraid of those? Do we get timid about those? Do we get fearful or terrified about those weaknesses that we begin to see revealed in us? Paul here seems to indicate and take an interesting turn in the way that he thinks about his weaknesses. He doesn’t have to run from weaknesses or hide from them. He’s going to utilize these to magnify the glory and the grace of Christ.
See the Grace of Christ
Why does he say something like that? If you continue on in that passage, he helps us to understand that when I try to hide my weaknesses, Christ doesn’t seem to me to be all that strong. But when I flourish in those weaknesses—when I recognize and I acknowledge those weaknesses—I begin to see the depth at which Christ has to be strong. I see the depth of the grace of Christ necessary for me, so that anything good would come out of me.
For you who counsel, oftentimes you’re dealing in an intimate way with the weaknesses of people. I would say right now, we’re all dealing with our own personal weaknesses. Can I encourage you with the shape of the way Paul addresses this idea of weaknesses? He uses this word “weaknesses” several times throughout the beginning of 2 Corinthians 12. This is what he says starting in verse 5, “On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations.”
Paul is saying that he’s going to be intentional, he’s going to pursue those weaknesses. He’s going to acknowledge those weaknesses. I was thinking this week, right now we’re so desperate to be able to gather together and go to church. But when we go to church normally, we walk around, we greet, we say hello, but often we keep a facade where we don’t want anybody to get close enough to see the weaknesses in us. When we get an opportunity to be back together, can we all acknowledge that we are weak in so many ways?
Weakness is a display of our humanity—the reality of the brokenness of sin in our own life. When we’re in moments like this with a pandemic, we’re rubbed up against the reality that we’re not in control. We don’t have things figured out. We don’t have all wisdom to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We have to trust day-by-day. These types of situations reveal to us what’s true and real. We’re living in the reality of dependence upon God day-by-day for wisdom to know what we should do about tomorrow. We have to live in our weakness. We are forced to face the reality that we are weak in so many ways. I love the way in which Christ encourages Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”
Jesus is speaking to Paul and Jesus is encouraging Paul—he says, “I don’t worry about your weakness. Actually when you are weak, I am demonstrated to be to be strong.” What Paul’s saying is, “In my life, as I embrace weakness, this is the time at which Christ and all of Christ’s strength can be displayed in me, because if any good comes from me, it can’t be explained from me.”
Now, it’s beautiful how Paul goes on to say that he rejoices in this fact. In verses 9-10, he continues, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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.”
Do you see the contrast here? In a normal day in the Western world, we often thrive in our strengths. By thriving in our strengths, we minimize the glory and the power of Christ working in us in moments just like right now when we all feel broken, isolated, and helpless. We’re seeing the reality of the weakness of our own humanity.
Turn to Christ
Can I just tell you to pause for a second and refrain from trying to just cope with those weaknesses or dismiss them? Run to the cross of Christ in same way that Paul does here. We can find ourselves being okay and gladly boasting even in the weaknesses that we have, because it’s in that disposition that we find that the power of Christ is strong in us. It is displayed in us.
At the end of that passage in verse 10 he says, “For the sake of Christ, I am content with weaknesses.”
Do we meditate on the power of Christ to such a degree that we become content with the weaknesses that we have? So that right now when we’re facing difficulties, hardships, and calamities of all sorts, we’re content in this place. This is something that Paul learned over time, that he could glory in the power and the strength of Christ, knowing that Christ’s grace was sufficient for him day-by-day through his weakness.
I want to encourage you today to not be afraid of your weakness and to not run from your weakness. I want you to be like Paul in learning to own your weakness for the glory of Christ, being unafraid to even boast in how weak we are, so that the strength of Christ can be demonstrated through our life.
This is an intentional pursuit. This is really the same way that Paul talked in 1 Corinthians 2 when he initially came to the Corinthian church, and he said to them, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
That really should be the testimony of our life. Not self-promotion, not trying to raise an identity that’s a facade so that everyone else sees something and they glory in us and what we’ve accomplished. That won’t prepare you for moments like this, where we won’t be content when our weakness is exposed, when hardships and calamities happen. If we do that, we will retract in shame, guilt, and fear, and allow our weaknesses to be our identity, instead of embracing them.
Acknowledge the weakness in our humanity, so that Christ can be made strong in us. Paul says, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Can I encourage you today to walk in that Christian paradoxical truth that by pursuing and acknowledging our weakness, we see the grace and the glory and the beauty of our Lord Jesus, and the work that He’s done in us, so that anything good that comes from us in ministry could be accomplished for His sake, for His glory, and by His work.