“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 weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
2 Corinthians 11-13 (Psalm 4)
Our biggest weakness is our dependence on our own strength; our self-sufficiency. It seems that this early church is being lured by the appearance of strength and the appeal of ‘super-apostles’ who teach a false gospel (11: 1-5). Paul in contrast, who seems not to be an eloquent speaker, simply came in humility and truth (11: 6). Paul then details a quite incredible list of his own qualifications that demonstrate an amazing strength, spirit of endurance and motivation of love (11: 16-33). He truly is a ‘super-apostle’ who would prefer not to promote himself but Christ. However, because the Church is being drawn to the false light of human appeal he declares his credentials. Paul goes one step further though. He explains that his real boast is in his weakness as this is where Jesus’ grace and power is truly revealed. Paul suffered from some form of physical ailment (much debated) that he asked the Lord to take away. God’s direction was that it remain, so that Paul trusted God and not his own strength. God’s light shines most truly in the broken vessels of our humble submission to Him (2 Cor. 4: 7).
Towards the end of this letter Paul encourages the Church to truly repent and turn away from sinful ways that he has previously spoken to them over (12: 20-21). It seems that a focus on false apostles and their teaching has drawn them away from their relationship with God. Instead he calls them to examine themselves and faith in light of the truth and to be united (13)
Coincidentally I touched on part of these passages in my sermon on the 7th November (click here).
The lure of human strength and self-sufficiency in ourselves and towards others is the root cause of many a conflict and failing. Essentially it is pride; the belief that we know better than God our creator and can do better on our own. In this state of need and rebellion God will often work through difficulties and suffering to wean us off ourselves so that we place our trust in Him. Not only do we find that His grace is sufficient for all our needs, this reliance on God causes His light to shine out of us towards others. Faith magnifies God’s grace. For us personally we suddenly find a strength beyond ours and an ability to rejoice in God despite our circumstances. Wonderful truths for our times of challenge and risks of division.
The hymn that I have chosen for today was written by George Matheson a Scottish preacher. He was known for his life of love and sacrifice despite the huge ‘thorn in his side’ of blindness. He wrote this hymn during a period of time which he described as, “the most severe mental suffering.” Please listen to and read the words carefully and marvel at God’s grace.
The Question of Application
Who do we trust most of all: ourselves; others; or God? Who do we seek to glorify most of all: ourselves; others; or God?
God of grace and love enable us to rejoice! By your grace and in your power may we strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind and live in peace. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen
From 2 Corinthians 13: 11-14
O Love that wilt not let me go
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.