When I am Weak I am Strong

by LA UBF   07/07/2007     0 reads


When I am weak, I am strong

When I Am Weak, I Am Strong

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Key Verse 12:6

Read verses 1-6. What does Paul mean by my “weaknesses”? Why is it important: 1) for you to know your own weaknesses; 2) for you to let others know about your weaknesses; and 3) for you to know others’ weaknesses? 

Read verse 7. What does it mean to be (or become) “conceited”? What risk/dangers are involved in being (or becoming) conceited? 

Verse 7 indicates that revelations (or visions) can cause a man to be conceited. What else can cause a person to be conceited?

Read verses 8-9a. What did Paul do with his bodily discomfort? What does ‘my “grace” is sufficient for you’ mean? What does “my power is made perfect in weakness” mean? 

Read verses 9b-10. What does it mean to “delight” in something? How do people normally respond to the “weaknesses”, “insults”, “hardships”, “persecutions”, and “difficulties” ? For whom does Paul delight in them? 

Read verse 10 again. What does “weak” or “strong” mean? 



When I am weak I am strong

When I Am Weak I Am Strong

(The Way Of Jesus, The Good Shepherd)

2 Corinthians 11:30 – 12:10

Key Verse 12:10

In Psalm 23, King David said, “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not be in want.” In the passage for today our Lord Jesus himself says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient.” The expression “I shall not be in want” and the statement “My grace is sufficient for you” talk about the same idea, that is, when we are in the Lord we are all sufficient; as we follow His guide, we are going to be fully satisfied. How then does the Lord lead us to the place where all of our needs are fully met, that we too can say like King David, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want”? Two things can be said:

Part I. I will boast of my weaknesses (11:30)

The first thing we need to know on the way of the Lord’s guidance is to know that the Lord wants us to acknowledge and even boast about our weaknesses, that as we come to Him exposing all of our weaknesses, the Lord gladly works on us, and leads us to green pastures where we can have all of our needs fully met. 

In the passage the Apostle Paul did not make this point obvious. But in view of the general flow of his writings particularly the Book of Romans, we can rest assured that this is what he had in mind when he talked about boasting of his own weaknesses. In the Book of Romans he says we are saved by faith from first to last, for in Rome 1:17 he states, “[I]n the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Essentially faith is reliance. When one says, “I believe in Jesus,” he in fact testifies, “I rely on Jesus for my salvation.” Why do we rely on Him? The answer is obvious. You cannot rely on yourself nor someone else other than Jesus. Why? Again the answer is clear: As far as salvation is concerned it is only Jesus Christ who can save us, so we can rely upon him, and him alone.

So Paul admits that he cannot rely on himself. For this reason he says in 2 Corinthians 11:30, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” In Romans 12:5 Paul then uses the word “weaknesses” which is plural. Like all of us he has not one or two weaknesses but many weaknesses. 

Specifically what does Paul mean by weaknesses? Again in view of Paul’s writings, we can say that by weaknesses the Apostle Paul means the fallen condition of a man. In Romans 3:23 for example the Apostle Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Man came to be subject to many weaknesses as a result of fall. Man lost faith in the Lord and fell. As a result of the fall, man came to fall short of God’s glory. Here God’s glory refers to the original condition man was in as he was first created by God. In an unfallen state, man (the first man Adam) reflected the full glory of God. But upon falling, man came to fall short of the glory of God. Here the phrase “short of” is the same as “incomplete” or “imperfect” in all aspects of his existence (like his intelligence, will power, emotional soundness, etc.) especially his character. God is perfect and God has made man to be perfect—as perfect as He is—but as a result of man falling, man came to be imperfect morally, spiritually, and physically.  

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” In the Greco-Roman world, people praised people; they remained blind to their fallen state. Due to their ignorance they did the opposite of what Paul did: they bragged about human greatness. One Jewish saying expresses this phenomenon this way: “Hellenism praises the holiness of beauty; Hebraism exalts the beauty of holiness.” People in the church of Corinth were no exception. Mostly they put the created things above God. In fact most of them put what was created in God’s position. Thus idol worship was prevalent. The temple of Aphrodite is but one example; it represented just the tip of the iceberg. 

The practical message for us here is the need to admit our weaknesses. When we say, we must admit our weaknesses, we do so not superficially but based on reality, that is, upon falling man has been rendered so corrupt that on his own, no matter how much he strives, it is impossible for him to get himself saved.  No matter what or how much he does or does not, it is impossible for him to restore himself back to the unfallen state. The Bible makes this point clear in many different ways. Job 14:4 says for example, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one.” Similarly, Jeremiah asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” Jeremiah 13:23 More directly Jesus says, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25 

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (11:30) “I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.” (12:5b) Notice the word “boast”. This word makes us wonder, “Why does Paul want to “boast” about his weaknesses?” Wouldn’t it be enough to admit that we are all weak? Why does he even brag about them? 

We can easily understand why Paul even advertises his own weaknesses when we think about the story of his life. In the past while he refused to admit his own weaknesses, or at least while he believed that through his own human efforts he could save himself, he made all kinds of human efforts to not sin and thereby attain to God’s righteousness. But the harder he tried the more he failed. For example through his will power Paul tried to keep Moses’ Ten Commandments. But he could not keep the commandments 100% all the time. It was particularly true with the last Commandment, for Exodus 20:17 reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” But the harder he tried, the more covetous desires arose in him. But in Jesus, he found the way of perfect obedience, that is, by faith in the Lord. When he admitted his own weaknesses and humbly asked Jesus for help, he experienced a complete release from the power of evil. There was no more evil urge bothering him. So, he started bragging about his own weaknesses, to let the whole world know what works and what does not. Figuratively speaking Paul bragging about his own weaknesses is like Mr. Joe the floor manager at the LA Fitness in Downey. When I first walked into the LA Fitness, Mr. Joe came out. I asked him about a man who can explain the program to me. He said, “I am the man,” and he asked me to sit down in front of his desk. There, the first thing he showed me was a lump of plastic, which was yellow. He picked it up, and waved it in the air, saying, “This is the fat in your body; it weighs five pounds; if you carry five extra pounds of fat, you are carrying exactly this much in your body”. Then he explained how extra fat in your body can cause all kinds of health problems. Then he stressed the need to build muscles in my body, so that the fat may burn to support muscles even while I am asleep. Just as Joe held up the lump of fat and waved it in the air to motivate me to turn it into muscles, so also Paul boasts about his weaknesses, so that people would no longer hide their weaknesses but rather expose them, and go by what the Lord has to say. 

Part II. I delight in my weaknesses (2:10)  

Next, in order to lead the flock to green pastures, the Lord uses not only good things but also bad things in life, so that by sending seemingly bad things to our lives, the Lord keeps us humble, and continually to relying on him. In this way the Lord can continue to have a grip on us and thereby effectively lead us to the place where he wants us to be.  

In 12:1-6, the Apostle Paul talks about the visions and revelations. He also talks about his acquaintance with a man who once visited the third heaven namely “paradise”. These visions revelations represent the good things the Lord blesses his children with as they put trust in the Lord. So let us stop and think about them for a while: visions and revelations are different. Visions are what you see as a result of the Lord revealing revelations. Revelations are revealing what is closed to normal minds. To regular people they are not known (or seen), for the Lord concealed them, so that average people would not have access to them. But to those who are devoted to him and his purposes, depending on their level of devotion and commitment to the causes the Lord has in mind, the Lord reveals what is otherwise concealed, all in proportion to and in step with the level of their commitment. When the Lord reveals what needs to be revealed, the revelation becomes visible to his servants, so you as his servant come to have a vision or visions. 

These visions are various in contents. Sometimes they concern the future of an individual, a nation, or a civilization. In the case of the man who visited the third heaven, the vision concerned the kingdom of God which is the place where all who are saved go. 

Visions that come through revelations however have purposes. God never gives you visions and revelations without a purpose or purposes. In Paul’s case, the Lord gave him visions and revelations to help him to fulfill the purpose the Lord had in mind, that is, to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. We can verify this truth from what happened to Paul when he was on his way to Damascus; the Lord showed Paul the vision of the Risen Jesus. In so doing the Lord revealed the Lord’s purpose in calling Paul, “‘I am Jesus... I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’“ (Acts 26:15-18) Since that time as the Lord promised, the Lord kept giving him visions and revelations, such as the vision of the Macedonian Call, or the vision to visit Rome and preach the gospel there. 

BUT, here is the problem: these visions and revelations can so easily make you “conceited”; he can make you puffed up, like popcorn. Conceit means excessive appreciation of one’s worth or virtue. When these visions and revelations hit you suddenly you come to think you are more than you really are. For example some people get so puffed up that they even say to themselves, “I am God” or “I am the Messiah” or “I am a super-apostle.” Then they look down on others. Some of them even start their own religions. In this way they fall victim to the devil’s temptation, for the devil temps people to not rely on the Lord but on someone or something else. 

The Lord knows the tendency of his flock – the tendency to go astray. So what does the Lord do for them? Look at verses 7-9a. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  This passage indicates that the Lord allowed a thorn to be lodged in Paul’s body, so that the Apostle Paul would not become conceited but rather remember his limitations, and thereby continue to live by faith in the Lord. As Paul relies on the Lord the Lord remains in the position to release His power to Paul, fully, as fully as Paul relies on the Lord. Then the Apostle Paul can remain sufficient. He is no longer “deficient”; he is “sufficient” in the Lord.  

Look at verses 9b-10. “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.” Paul chooses to delight in five items: “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.” Let us think about each of them. As we already talked about, weaknesses refer to the condition(s) which cause us to fail in meeting the challenges and difficulties, particularly Satan’s temptations, just as Eve at the cunning deception of the devil had lost temptation (11:1-4) or many who in their sinful pride were led to sin (11:29). Unlike weaknesses, however, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, exist outside of our bodies, whereas weaknesses exist inside. Thus weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties refer to all conditions (conditions inside and conditions outside) that are in our way to salvation. 

The question then becomes, “Why does God allow these conditions to come our way?” Is it because he does not want us to be saved? Is it because he wants to give us just hard times? For example why did God create Satan in the first place? Is it because he wants to destroy us for good?

The answers to these questions are all a resounding “No.” Why? The Lord already answered the question. “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weaknesses.” In other words these conditions work as means (or opportunities) for God’s power to become perfectly manifest in our lives. In fact God created these conditions to create the possibility for God to work fully in the lives of his children, so that despite these seemingly adverse (or bad) conditions, they would rest assured that as long as they put trust in the Lord the Lord should always be able to lead them to green pastures where they can have all of their needs fully met. Put another way, these conditions provide the rich soil in which faith can develop its root deep down so that the tree of faith would grow tall and strong, bearing beautiful fruit of salvation on all of its branches. For this reason, the Apostle Paul even “delights” in these conditions. 

In conclusion, the Apostle Paul says that he boasts about his weaknesses. This is to say that on his own, he cannot save himself. It is only by faith in the Lord that he can be saved. Paul also says that he delights in his weaknesses. By this, Paul testifies that despite his weaknesses and all other conditions that come in the way of his journey, as he believes in the Lord, he would remain as a more than conqueror. Praise the Lord. 

One word: When I am weak I am strong





When I am Weak, I am Strong

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Key Verse 12:6

In this passage the Apostle Paul works on the good old truth that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, so that it is only by “relying on” the Lord that one can be saved from the power of sin and Satan, and the glory of God be restored to him.  

Read verses 1-6. What does Paul mean by my “weaknesses”? Why is it important: 1) for you to know your own weaknesses; 2) for you to let others know about your weaknesses; and 3) for you to know others’ weaknesses? 

** The word “weaknesses” is the same as “imperfection”.  God is in the business of perfection.  Salvation comes with the perfected state of a man who is made perfect in every way conceivable, both in his body and spirit, in the way a man’s person exists and functions. Another way to describe man’s weaknesses is to say that man falls short of the glory of God. 

** It is necessary because otherwise you do not seek the Lord, the Savior. This is like a man having cancer needing to know of the cancerous condition, so that he would wake up about his bodily condition, and thereby seek a remedy such as medial assistance. 

** Others must know that you are also a sinner, so that you would not “mislead” them, like causing them to rely on you, rather than on the Lord.

** You also need to know their weaknesses, so that instead of relying on the unreliable, you would rely on the reliable, that is, the Lord. 

Read verse 7. What does it mean to be (or become) “conceited”? What risk/dangers are involved in being (or becoming) conceited? 

** Conceited = ingeniously contrived; having or showing excessively high opinion of oneself. [Or simply it means for one to think more highly than one really is]

** You rely on yourself when in fact you are not reliable, so that as you rely on what is not reliable, you end up not being able to reach the perfection which God has in mind. 

Verse 7 indicates that revelations (or visions) can cause a man to be conceited. What else can cause a person to be conceited?

** One of the common causes is one feeling superior to others by comparing oneself with those who are inferior to him. So based on what he has (such as physical appearance or money) or can do or on what he or she has already accomplished, one can so easily think more highly than he really is. In fact some people get so puffed up that they say, “I am god”. 

Read verses 8-9a. What did Paul do with his bodily discomfort? What does ‘my “grace” is sufficient for you’ mean? What does “my power is made perfect in weakness” mean? 

** He prayed to the Lord three times.

** Arguably it refers to the (sickly) state of his physical body. 

** Most likely Jesus refers to the room that needs to be created on our part, that is, the room for him to hold a grip on us, so that he would start working on us as much as we ask him to come in and help. 

The truth is that God gave us the free will, so that unless we ask him (meaning business) he is categorically unable to help. 

This statement does not mean that Jesus’ power is sometimes imperfect or limited in any other ways; his power is always perfect; but his perfected power cannot become fully manifest in our lives, when we restrict him from working within us, or even prevent him from working by us becoming proud, rejecting him. 

Read verses 9b-10. What does it mean to “delight” in something? How do people normally respond to the “weaknesses”, “insults”, “hardships”, “persecutions”, and “difficulties” ? For whom does Paul delight in them? 

** A high degree of gratification; something that gives great pleasure; the power of affording pleasure

** They feel afraid of them, and even feel horrible or paranoid for them, so they want to avoid them as much as possible. They also feel bad about them and about God saying, “Why this or why that, or how come?” 

** For Christ’s sake

Read verse 10 again. What does “weak” or “strong” mean? 

** By weak or strong, Paul means one being either weak or strong in regard to one’s capabilities to deal with the challenges that are involved in waging war against the devil, and attain to the perfected state of one’s being in the Lord. 

The end