By Ryan Weber
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 NIV).
My favorite people in the Bible are David and Peter. According to the Bible, David was a man after God’s own heart and Peter was the rock upon which the church would be built. But that’s only a small reason why I love them so much. They’re my favorite because David was an adulterer and murderer, and Peter was brash with his words and denied even knowing Jesus.
And the Bible still says that David was a man after God’s own heart and that Peter is still the rock upon which the church is built. There is no addendum to those statements, saying they would have been this had it not been for the fact that they were idiots.
Nope. That’s why they’re my favorite. Because they’re just like me. An idiot. Weak. Sinful. We know we are weak. So what do we do with that?
• Be Authentic About Your Weakness
We used to live in an age where you demonstrated your power by hiding your weakness. If you wanted to gain the respect of your colleagues as a leader, you could not own up to the fact that you committed mistakes; you couldn’t be human. That has totally changed today. You gain respect by admitting your weaknesses, by owning your mistakes and then taking responsibility for them and getting back up when you fall. Bono from U2 once said, “My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them.”
Everyone knows you mess up, so do us all a favor and stop pretending that you don’t. We become closer as a body of local believers when our church exists not as a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. That’s what makes a church great, because we exist and subsist through weakness and reliance on the strength of God to empower our actions.
• Try to understand the power of Jesus within your weakness
Great things come from difficulty; in fact I would venture to say everything that is not born innately great has to go through adversity to find their way there. Precious metals have to be refined, lasagna has to go in a fiery oven to taste good, a football team needs grueling practice and games to prove its greatness, the writer needs to go through writer’s block to write anything worthwhile (case and point: me right now!).
If you’re not born great, you need trials to get you there.
And that is all of us, none of us are innately great. And life is difficult, praise the Lord. If it isn’t or hasn’t been difficult for you, it probably means two things: you were born perfect (not likely), or God isn’t taking the time to develop you (again… unlikely).
I find it interesting that in James 1, the only thing that the Bible says about what the testing of your faith will produce is perseverance (not more faith, not deliverance, not strength… just perseverance, the ability to keep going, to get up, to rise again). Romans 5 tells us that through perseverance character is revealed and character produces hope. And hope points to our complete trust in the work of Christ to finish His work in and through us. And this is what sets Christians apart from anybody else. We have hope. When adversity kills everyone else, it blooms us.
It blooms us because it magnifies the finished work of Jesus on the cross. It exalts His victory over every sin, every weakness, every idiotic thought and action I will ever commit for the rest of my life.
Did Paul boast in his weaknesses because he was a spiritual masochist, in love with a denigrated and hopeless picture of himself? No, he was in love with what Christ had done for him. In the middle of a zealous rage to kill and arrest Christians, Jesus encountered Paul and forever transformed his entire life and trajectory. Jesus didn’t appear when Paul was at his strongest, he appeared when he was at his weakest. A point of murderous rage. That’s where Jesus injects Himself: at your weakest point to prove His strength over the darkest areas of your life.
Paul knew this first hand:
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).