And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. — 2 Corinthians 12:9
In a split second on a hot July afternoon in 1967, a diving accident transformed the life of seventeen-year-old Joni forever. When she dove into shallow water, her head hit the bottom and snapped her neck. In an instant of time she went from being an active young woman to a quadriplegic.
In the months that followed, Joni struggled to accept her disability. In an interview given in 20051 she said, “I could not imagine living life in a wheelchair, having other people do my toileting routines, bathe me, dress me, sit me up in a wheelchair, push me out the front door. It was overwhelming!” As the reality of her condition sank in, depression settled over her. Thankfully, in the midst of despair she reached out to God, telling Him, “God, if I can’t die, then please show me how to live. I can’t do this thing called ‘paralysis.’ I can’t, I can’t do this. I have no strength for this. But You do and I need You big time.”
God heard that prayer, and Joni learned that God’s grace is, indeed, sufficient. No, she was not miraculously healed, though God certainly could have done that. But she found that strength is given when we need to endure and there is no “happy ending.” In countless ways, God proved to Joni that He was on the scene and that He cared about her. The hard-earned truths she discovered and the special ways God revealed His love to her are testimonies to faith’s triumph over hardship and suffering.
It’s still an ongoing process. “Don’t be thinking I’m a veteran at this,” Joni says. “I haven’t got this quadriplegic thing figured out even after thirty-eight years. I still wake up in the morning needing God desperately.” Today, Joni Eareckson Tada is a well-known author, artist, and founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization promoting Christian ministry in the disabled community. But she would be the first to say that these accomplishments have been done through God’s strength, not her own. She has proven that His strength is made perfect in weakness!
Joni’s life, and the lives of countless others who have triumphed spiritually in the midst of tremendous adversity, teach a powerful lesson. When we feel that we are facing the hardest times of our lives, God has a plan to carry us through. When we know our spiritual strength or physical “muscles” are not enough, we can trust in God and find His help. Our very weakness makes His help so much more remarkable! Even when there are no evident options, God is there, waiting for us to ask Him for help. And take note: when God steps in, usually His answer is not the one we would have planned. His resources are endless, and His wisdom infinitely exceeds ours!
Although mountains and valleys will always be a part of life, we can navigate them with God’s help. In those times, admitting our weakness is a benefit because when we have no strength, we rely fully on the strength of the Almighty!
In this chapter, Paul was addressing a church where his ministry had been questioned and his integrity challenged.
Paul was reluctant to share the visions and revelations that God had given him, so he referred to himself as “a man in Christ” as a way of minimizing attention to himself. The incident which occurred “fourteen years ago” cannot be definitely ascribed to any event in Paul’s life as recorded in Scripture, although some commentators feel it may have been when the Jews stoned Paul at Lystra. Paul seemed unsure if he had been bodily caught up to Heaven, or if his spirit was caught up out of the body, but he told about the incident to show that he had been uniquely blessed by God.
In the “third heaven,” Paul was allowed the rare privilege of an audience with the Lord. The unspeakable words were understood by Paul, but apparently not intended for others — they were sacred and meant for him alone.
Paul was left with a “thorn in the flesh” (verse 7), which kept him humble and reminded him of his need for a continual connection with God, even though he had been given the wonderful vision. While Bible scholars have varied theories of what his thorn might have been, the most common thought is that he had problems with his eyes. Whatever the affliction, it was apparently both visible and uncomfortable. It seemingly caused acute pain (as the word thorn implies) and shame (the word buffet means “to be hit with the fist,” treatment that a slave might endure).
Paul asked the Lord three times to remove this thorn, and the Lord’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” So Paul endured the affliction with the assurance that the Lord was always with him: the painful circumstance became a continual reminder of God’s presence. The English translation, “take pleasure in” could be translated, “I am well contented in” my infirmities.
Though Paul was the spiritual father of the Corinthians, he asked nothing from them, purposing not to be “burdensome” — he did not even ask the believers to provide food and lodging for him. Rather, he desired to lay up spiritual treasure “for their souls.” With that goal in mind, Paul spent not only his treasures, but also himself for their sakes. Neither Paul nor his assistants received payment of any kind from the Corinthians, so the believers there would have no cause to accuse them of making gain at the expense of the Corinthians.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The authority of the Apostle
B. The boast of the Apostle
3. The boast of his revelations (12:1-10)
a. The revelations (12:1-6)
b. The thorn (12:7-10)
C. The credentials of the Apostle (12:11-18)
1. The signs (12:11-13)
2. The love (12:14-18)
D. The challenge of the Apostle
1. To repentance
a. The fact of sin (12:19-21)
If in our weakness, we depend more fully on God, His strength will be made perfect in us.