Main point summary
I will gladly endure and remain content in all kinds of hardships so that Christ's power is clearly displayed through my life.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
So f to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, 1
καὶ τῇ ὑπερβολῇ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων. Διὸ ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι, ἐδόθη μοι σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί, ἄγγελος σατανᾶ ἵνα με κολαφίζῃ ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι.
g a thorn was given me in the flesh,
h a messenger of Satan
to harass me,
to keep me from becoming conceited.
i Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this,
ὑπὲρ τούτου τρὶς τὸν κύριον παρεκάλεσα ἵνα ἀποστῇ ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ.
that it should leave me.
But he said to me,
καὶ εἴρηκέν μοι· ἀρκεῖ σοι ἡ χάρις μου· ἡ γὰρ δύναμις ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελεῖται. ἥδιστα οὖν μᾶλλον καυχήσομαι ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις μου, ἵνα ἐπισκηνώσῃ ἐπ᾽ ἐμὲ ἡ δύναμις τοῦ χριστοῦ.
j “My grace is sufficient for you,
for k my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that l the power of Christ may rest upon me.
m For the sake of Christ,
διὸ εὐδοκῶ ἐν ἀσθενείαις, ἐν ὕβρεσιν, ἐν ἀνάγκαις, ἐν διωγμοῖς καὶ στενοχωρίαις, ὑπὲρ χριστοῦ· ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ τότε δυνατός εἰμι.
then, n I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
For o when I am weak,
then I am strong.
Observations : 2x in v.7 Paul says that God gave him this thorn "to keep him from being conceited." There is a propensity to become conceited because of our relationship with God. The thorn in the flesh is further described as "a messenger of Satan" sent "to harass" Paul. This thorn was designed by God because its purposes are good. Satan has no interest in keeping people from being conceited. But the thorn is a messenger of Satan, which undoubtedly causes Paul to move towards God in greater dependence on him. Paul's response to the thorn is in v.8. Paul did not like the thorn. He wanted it to go away. It was uncomfortable. It was unpleasant. We don't endure pain, trials, discomfort because we go from viewing them as unpleasant to viewing them as pleasant. They don't stop hurting. Nor should we tell people to stop hurting. We endure pain, trials, and discomfort because we know that (1) someone is sovereign over and above them and (2) that person is with us in the midst of them and (3) that person can use them to demonstrate His power in our weakness. God's response to Paul's pleadings is in v.9. God's grace is sufficient for Paul. This reminds me of Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount: "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt 6:34). We are not sufficient in trials. Our willpower is not sufficient. God's grace is sufficient. BUT "My grace is sufficient for you" is not a platitude. It's not just words thrown out there to make someone feel better. It comes with an argument for why this is true. God's grace is sufficient because "his power is made perfect in weakness." Weakness is the on-ramp for God's power. Self-sufficiency is the antithesis to God's power being at work. Complete dependency (weakness) opens the door to God's power. Why is this? Because there's no other explanation for someone persevering and thriving in apparent weakness that they don't desire to be experiencing! God's power shines through in those who persevere with joy through their trials (see v.10 - "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities" - far ranging application). Paul's conclusion of the matter is two-fold. If everything said above is true, then here's Paul's conclusions/applications: (1) I will (not decry or complain about or sulk in but rather) boast in my weaknesses so that Christ's power is manifest in my life (1 Cor 12:9). (2) For the sake of Christ's name and power, I will be content in whatever situation I am in (1 Cor 12:10; cf. Phil 4:13). Application : The weight of the application seems to be in Paul's conclusions in 9d-10c based on the truths in 7a-9c. First, in 9d-e, Paul will boast more gladly in his weaknesses. This is a shocking statement. I don't boast in my weaknesses. I boast in my competency, my successes, my accomplishments. Paul's conclusion from the above truths is that he will boast more gladly in his weaknesses. SO THAT the power of Christ may rest upon me. Paul will be happy to minister in weakness in order that the power of Jesus may be clearly displayed in his life. He will happily speak simple, gospel words that God will powerfully use (1 Cor 2:1-4). What is my goal in ministering? Is my goal to be well thought of? Or am I glad to be weak? Is my goal to be viewed as competent and successful? Or is my "so that" (the reason for what I'm doing) that "the power of Christ may rest upon me." The driving goal of Paul's desire to minister in weakness is that Jesus' power is more clearly displayed in his weakness (than in his "strength"). 9e makes this clear. So, what is ministering out of weakness? Ministering out of weakness means that I humbly receive criticism and trust that God can use me in spite of my failings. Ministering out of weakness means that I joyfully persevere in difficult circumstances (weakness) in order that Jesus' power is displayed more clearly. Ministering out of weakness means that I don't have to force my own views on other people but rather can rest in (and stand on and point to) the Word of my God. His words reign. My words don't. His words are power. My words are weak. Ministering out of weakness means that my words are filled with His Words. Second, in 10a, Paul says that the truths above lead to his being content in all areas of weakness: weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. God's sufficient grace (9b) makes Paul content in situations in which he (and I!) would otherwise be utterly discontent. It takes a large helping of grace for someone to be attacked, suffering insult after insult and say, "God, I'm completely content right here. Your grace is sufficient for me." It takes a large helping of grace for someone to experience physical persecution and say, "God, I'm fine with where I'm at because your power is made perfect in my weakness." This is hard to even comprehend. So, where is my heart? Am I quick to complain about my circumstances? Am I prone to quit when I run into hardships of insults? Do I quickly doubt God when calamities or undesired circumstances come? Or do I say, "I am content with _____________ for the sake of Christ, so that his power can rest upon me. In my weakness his strength shines through"? What this means is that those times in my life when I feel weak, ineffective, and unable to minister (times of weakness, insults, hardships, calamities, etc.) are actually times when God's power can be most clearly displayed through my life .