“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.” (II Cor. 12:10)
Paul makes a rather paradoxical statement when he declares that “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This seems on the surface to be contradictory, “how can one be strong, when they are weak?”. Weakness to us seems to be antithetical to strength. Is Paul speaking like an “Eastern guru” seated in the Himalayas uttering non-sensical phrases that are passed off as wisdom? Or is Paul providing for us in this simple statement, the secret of the Christian life?
Paul had lived for the first 30 years of his life as a dedicated Pharisee, seeking to obey the Law of God with all that he could muster out of human strength and will power. No one could question this Jewish rabbi’s tenacity to keep the Torah of Yahweh. But Paul found that his human strength was insufficient for the task. He recognized that his religious effort only resulted in frustration. He saw the goodness of God’s Law (Rom. 7:12) but recognized the weakness of his own human flesh (Rom. 8:3).
It is in this recognition of weakness that Paul found strength. Not human strength, but divine strength. The strength that only God can provide. It was out of his failure that he met the victorious One – Jesus Christ. He found in Christ the grace (God’s enabling power) that was enough. Take note of the words of Jesus to Paul in the previous verse: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (complete) in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).
Paul tells us this same secret in his letter to the Galatians, where he says; ”I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
This is the secret we all must learn as followers of Christ. We must embrace our weakness and acknowledge our incapacity to live in obedience to God apart from the strength that Christ by His Holy Spirit supplies. It is this empowerment that distinguishes us who live under the New Covenant from those who lived under the Old. They had the commandments of God given to them. They knew what God required, but they lacked the ability to do it. We, on the other hand, have been given a “helper” – the Holy Spirit to be our strength (John 14:16).
Prayer: Father, I recognize my weakness and my inability to be a faithful follower. But I thank you, that you have sent your Spirit to be my strength. I yield myself to the Holy Spirit today and thank you for His strength in my weakness.