Sunday, January 30, 2011

2 Corinthians 12- Human Weakness & Divine Power

2 Cor 12:7-9 So  to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations,  a thorn was given me in the flesh,  a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me,  "My grace is sufficient for you, for  my power is made perfect in weakness." 

Paul experiences a "thorn in the flesh" which he qualifies as "a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated." This sounds familiar enough for most preachers & pastors that there is no need to wonder if this "thorn in the flesh" is an infirmity he suffers or a metaphorical reference to a "loyal" opposition within the church. Much as the enemies of Israel were described in Judges as "thorn in Israel's side" (Judges 2:3) so I believe that is the same metaphor that Paul has in mind when he said that he had a "thorn in his flesh". Anyway, there is nothing more humbling and deflating to a preacher's ego than someone within the congregation who constantly wears him down with "feedback" that is more often negative than positive. So, as Adam Clark suggests and I agree, this "thorn in the flesh" is likely to be someone, maybe a self-proclaimed "super" apostle who has been opposing and undermining Paul's authority. We won't call such a  person  a "thorn in the flesh" today but more likely a "pain in the neck"! 

Every pastor has a "thorn" in his flesh. But Paul sees this as God's way to keep his ego deflated in case he gets too carried away by his achievements. Like all pastors, he has prayed for this "messenger of Satan" to be eliminated, but instead God's solution is to grant him grace to survive this on-going assault on his ego. So Paul concludes: "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."

So those who wants to serve in full-time ministry must give up the idea that the ministry is the place of unceasing adulation from an adoring congregation. More likely, he is going to get his share of "thorns in the flesh." But for those out in the marketplace, this may take the form of harassing and jealous colleagues. Instead of praying for God to remove them, we should pray for grace to endure them and thank God for them, without whom we will not stay humble.

Father, thank You for all the difficult people You put in our path to humble us and deflate our egos. In Jesus' name, Amen.

2 Cor 13:3-4 (Christ) is not weak in dealing with you, but  is powerful among you. For  he was crucified in weakness, but  lives by the power of God. For  we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you  we will live with him by the power of God.

Though we are humanly weak, as believers we have the power of God. Twice in these two verses, Paul mentions the human weakness and divine power as coexisting realities in a Christian. If we focus on the natural, we become weak (caused by human nature), but when we are focus on the spiritual, we become strong (because of the indwelling Spirit within us). While we experience weaknesses because of our human nature, we don't allow that to limit our life and ministry because we can always rely on the power of God that is available. We are like electrical appliances plugged into the electrical socket that is powered by God. In ourselves, we are running on battery and it doesn't last long. But when plugged into the main, we can operate indefinitely, no longer on battery power but on the power from the mains. So if we ever catch ourselves saying, "I can't do that" then we know that we are relying on "battery power." We should instead immediately get "plugged into" the mains through prayer. A simple prayer that will empower us is: "Come Holy Spirit! Fill me up with Your power and presence for this task today! I thank You I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Amen." 

2 Cor 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and  the love of God and  the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 

The familiar benediction speaks of the three-fold work of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is through Jesus Christ that we experience the grace of God, through the Father we experience the love of God and through the Holy Spirit the fellowship/partnership of God. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we are transformed from sinners to children of God. Through the love of the Father, we have access to the total resources of God's house. Through the Holy Spirit, we experience the partnership in ministry & mission. Thank God that the ministry we have is a Trinitarian ministry of the Father, Son and the Spirit, not ours alone to work out. In ministry, we do not do what we want or like to do but we simply work out God's purpose and plan. 

Father, let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done through us! Amen

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