Take Pride in Your Weakness
As you might have noticed, I’m spending a lot of time studying the book of Ephesians right now. The two verses that really stuck out at me today were Ephesians 3:8-9 which say, “8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. 9 I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.” It has always amazed me how humble Paul was even though he was used so mightily for God.
He also said in his first letter to Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all.” 1 Timothy 1:15. You see, this wasn’t some false piety that Paul was taking on, he truly viewed himself as the worst of all sinners. Of course, it is true that before Christ he persecuted Christians and that is pretty bad, but Paul knew that those sins were covered by the blood of Christ when he accepted Him as his personal savior. So, what kept Paul so humble?
To understand this, we need to go to 2 Corinthians chapter 12. The first 4 verses of this chapter are talking about some of the amazing things that God chose to show Paul. He even talks about being caught up into the third heaven and, in his own words, “heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12:4.
Paul goes on in verse 5 to say, “That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses.” So, Paul admits that the things he has witnessed and experienced are worth bragging about but says that he would rather brag about his weakness. He even goes on in verse 6 to say that the reason these are worth bragging about is that they are true. But, why wouldn’t he brag about it? “Because, I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,” 2 Corinthians 12:6. Paul wants it to be clear that every good thing he has in his life comes from God, so he can’t boast about things that he had no part in, he would rather boast in his weakness.
In verse 7 Paul says, “even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” Paul recognized that, what he called the thorn in his flesh, was there for a reason, it was there to keep him humble. It would have been easy for Paul to be proud of the gifts that God gave him, we see this all the time with people who God has entrusted with gifts, but Paul had this infirmity that kept him from being proud.
So, what exactly did Paul mean when he said that he takes pride in his weakness? Let’s look at verses 8-10, “8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” So, on three different occasions, Paul begged God to take this infirmity away from him. It is interesting that Paul never, in any of his writings, explains what the illness was. We assume, judging by some of the things he said and the fact that other people did most of his writing for him, that it was some kind of eye problem, probably a residual from when God blinded him on the road to Emmaus. But, the point is that Paul begged God on three different occasions to relieve him of this problem and got the same answer every time. What was that answer? God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Do you see that? God’s grace is all we need! God went on to tell him that His power works best in our weakness. In fact, Paul told the Church at Corinth, “26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. So, if we are so foolish and poor, where do we get our wisdom from? Look at the last 2 verses, “30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.’” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. God united us in Christ for our benefit. He made Christ to be our wisdom.
So, here’s the point, God usually chooses the foolish and weak things, so they know that it is of God, but in Paul’s case, he was considered wise by the world, so God had to give him something to keep him humble.
I have been told by many people that God wants us to be well, He wants us to be healthy and happy. The truth is that God want’s what’s best for us, even if that is being unhealthy. He doesn’t necessarily want us to be happy, he wants us to have joy, no matter what our circumstances are, read James 1:2-4, “2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” You see, joy is better than happiness. Happiness is a feeling, it comes and goes, but joy comes from God and you can have it even when you are flat on your back in the hospital. Galatians 5:22-23, “22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”