STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
Lord, my trust is in You and Your infinite wisdom.
Read 2 CORINTHIANS 12
12 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 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. 10 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’s Concern for the Corinthians
11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,”[a] even though I am nothing. 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?
19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
a 2 Corinthians 12:11 Or the most eminent apostles
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
“…his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:19). Spend some time praising God for his mighty power.
Scholars have long sought to understand what is meant by the “thorn in my flesh” (7). Some have speculated that Paul lived with a painful eye condition (he reminds the Galatians of a physical illness he experienced and suggestively declares that they would have been willing to tear out their eyes to give to him; Gal. 4:13–15). However, it is difficult to say for sure what verse 7 refers to, not in the least because the meaning of the Greek word skolops, rendered “thorn” in English translations, is uncertain. Ultimately, we are left to wonder.
What is clear is that the situation is serious. We can imagine the urgency with which Paul prays for his “thorn” to be removed and his disappointment when the longed-for solution fails to arrive, but the skolops is important—first as a safeguard against pride. Paul has been granted quite extraordinary visions and revelations (1–4), so this unknown thorn keeps him humble, if nothing else. Second, the thorn ensures that the principle so central to 2 Corinthians remains consistently apparent in the apostle’s ministry: God’s strength is and remains at work through Paul’s weakness (9).
The difficulty in identifying the thorn helps us to apply these verses to our own situations. We may face any manner of difficulties. They could be physical, mental or relational. Paul prays for his skolops to be taken away, and we can pray this for our own particular thorn. However, we may well receive the same answer he did (8,9). God sometimes gives us grace to cope with a pressing problem, rather than removing it. If this is your experience, depend on our gracious God who will give you all you need to get through it all. As you lean on him, be confident that, when you are at your weakest, God is working in you, through you and on your behalf.
Do you have a “thorn”? Spend time in prayer today asking God for grace, whatever form that grace might take.
Lord, my one prominent problem is not so large that You can’t guide me through it with a view to making me stronger on the back end.
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