2 Cor. 12:9 (ESV) 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.So, how often do you go around proudly telling everyone about your weaknesses?
What, not that often? Never, you say?
Well, you’re not alone.
That type of thing just doesn’t make much sense to us, does it? I mean, we have this whole pride thing going on and, in point of fact, it usually tends to lead us into doing just the opposite. We like to talk (loudly at times) about the great things we have done. It feels only natural to tell others about making the football team, getting the promotion at work, acing the chemistry exam, passing the bar, etc. These accentuate our strengths and that makes us feel good, right?
Have you ever noticed, though, that the Bible tends to disagree with how we think things ought to be? It’s almost as though it’s trying to ruin our good time? I mean, case in point here, Paul says that he boasts about his weaknesses. In fact, he calls on us to imitate him (i.e., watch what I do and do that). As if it’s not enough that this crazy Paul is going around flaunting his weaknesses. Now, he expects us to as well?
But why, Paul? Why would we want to do such a thing? We spend all this time and effort in constructing the various masks that we wear around others, perfecting the image of just who we want people to think we are. Why would we want to remove the masks and let our true selves show? Wouldn’t it be better to just hide our weaknesses and leave the masks on so that people will think we have it all together, all the time?
That’s not how it works after all. When we start looking at Scripture, we quickly find that, when Jesus came to earth, He turned the world system upside down. We see a great example of this in the account of the Sermon on the Mount. Among other things, Jesus exalts the meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the poor, the persecuted… it’s like He is purposely selecting those who are held in the least regard by a world that exalts power, wealth, ambition, and conquest, regardless of the cost.
Yet, this is a little snapshot of some of the “Kingdom math” ushered in by the Gospel. The least of you shall be the greatest, etc.
Those who follow Jesus have died to the system of which they once belonged and now walk in newness of life in Christ. Kingdom math, therefore, is on their homework list. Disciples of Jesus seek to follow Jesus and his teaching; to become more like him; to allow him to live through them. So we need to pay very close attention to what that means.
Paul was a genuine disciple of Jesus. He truly sought to follow Jesus’ teachings. And his letters are in the Bible, the inspired Word of God… So, we should probably pay close attention to what he says. He called others to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Part of that process is learning to boast, like Paul, in our weaknesses. Believe it or not, there are a number of good reasons to do this, but I’d like to just focus on one in this post; a very important one:
1) God uses our recovery stories to reach others.
Christians, have you ever gone through a really difficult struggle with something and seen the power of God first hand when He pulled you through on his strength, not yours? Maybe it was an addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, pornography. Maybe it was anger or violence. Maybe it was depression or greed. Maybe it was whatever. The point is that you recognized your weakness and your inability to do anything about it absent God’s help and you gave it over to him. Then you saw him miraculously bring you a strength that could be mistaken for nothing but his loving, healing hand upon you.
This is your recovery story and let me tell you, it is compelling. It is compelling to someone who just might be going through the same thing right now, who doesn’t know God but wishes that something or someone could take away the hurt, the loneliness, the desperation; maybe that same type of pain that you once felt. It could mean the world to that person. But you have to be willing to tell it.
God has a plan. You are part of it. When you turn something over to him in faith, He not only heals you, He then uses that story as a means to extend the same offer of healing to others, through your faithful sharing of his remarkable power and love.
God doesn’t have to work through us but He chooses to. This breaks down, however, if we are unwilling to share our “embarrassing” stories; if we instead want to keep up some self-made image that attempts to exude strength and confidence, but masks who we really are and limits how God can use us.
That’s why it’s so important to reach out to others, take off the masks, develop relationships based upon love and trust, and show them that you have weaknesses, too, just like them, but you have found the One who brings strength to the weak.
In building these relationships with others and sharing your recovery story, you are, not unlike Paul, demonstrating that the power of Christ rests upon you.
Believers, let’s all seek to remove the masks and let God work with who we really are; imperfect human beings who have found the One who created us and are slowly, sometimes painfully, but always joyously, being conformed into the image of Christ.