2 Corinthians 12:7b-10: Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. But he (Jesus) 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.
Paul was taken up to the third heaven, to the very presence of God and Christ, where he was given revelations that he could not even speak of. Now we don’t know if Paul was actually there in body or in spirit, and quite honestly it really doesn’t matter. It’s hard to deny that Paul saw and heard things that no one else had. Paul would have every reason to brag and become conceited about such a grand vision, but he instead talked about his weaknesses.
Paul had a “thorn in his flesh”, some type of unknown affliction that caused him great distress. So Paul asks the Lord to take away this infirmity but the Risen Christ tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Human weakness is where the divine power of Christ can be displayed in a powerful way.
We live in a world today where most people don’t like to admit their weaknesses. Most of us want to appear strong and in total control of every detail of our lives. We strive to maintain the appearance that everything is all-right and our lives are perfect. Most of us know that this is not reality. Even among our brothers and sisters in Christ, we would rather not dwell on our weakness as a human being; we want everyone to think that we have it all together. Paul encourages us to acknowledge our failures and limitations in order for the power of Christ to rest upon us and sustain us.
Paul is inspiring us to draw upon God’s “all-surpassing power” (2 Cor. 4:7) that can help us to persevere and endure all kinds of life’s difficulties. When we begin to realize our frailty as a human being, that’s when this “all-surpassing power” from God (and not from ourselves) can sustain and renew our lives. It is only then that we can begin to live a life that goes out into this fallen world and shines the light of Christ into a world that so desperately needs the light.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NIV): 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.