Paul’s Source of Strength
In his hour of pain and weakness, the apostle Paul cried out to God. He wished his “thorn in the flesh” would leave him. Then the risen Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9, KJV) Paul was Christ’s star witness, His spokesman for His Gospel, His keyman. To our human wisdom, our Lord Jesus should have healed Paul’s ailment. But paraphrasing Christ, He said to him: “I allowed your struggles and pains since I cannot work with a strong and self-confident disciple.” Our Lord’s “come-to-Me” teaching got its full exposition here. (cf. Matt. 11:28) We must have a complete dependence on Christ’s lordship since His “grace is sufficient for thee.”
What great truth is it that God cannot work with a man who doesn’t have a weakness, a thorn in the flesh? When He appointed Moses as leader of the Israelites, “Moses pleaded with the LORD, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.’” (Ex. 4:10, NLT) The New Testament also recorded Christ’s core group in His earthly ministry comprising fishermen and the ignorant Galileans or the “uneducated and untrained men,” as noted in Acts 4:13. God just used the dust of the ground in forming Adam’s lifeless body that has multiplied into the 7.7 billion inhabiting earth today. God has no problems with the weak man to serve Him but with the strong one who’s confident and more arrogant.
The arrogance of Herod Agrippa, for example, led his sudden death. He brutalized the early Church and sent Peter to prison to please the Jews. “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23)
What about the airs of the antediluvian people during the time of Noah or the sodomized aplomb of the neighbors of Lot before God hammered them all with fire from heaven?
I knew of someone whose arrogance seemed to exceed the parameters of the familiar braggadocio. Later in life he died like a chicken by committing suicide. We may insist we don’t have the haughtiness of our friends. But our words betray us if we don’t have the imprint of Christ’s Spirit on our soul. For “They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.”(Ps.94:4)
Christ is our only Source of strength. He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
How Can We be Weak Before God?
If we want to know and serve God, we need to experience a sense of brokenness first. To understand better this feel of nothingness, read these words from Mr. Chee Tat Ng, Singapore’s richest man who turned to Jesus Christ for a sense of joy, hope, and completeness:
“Well, what I have discovered is that all of us are broken. We all have a missing piece. And for me I discovered that that missing piece is God through Jesus Christ. I was always in search of a better life, a better purpose, a better me, a better everything. But I was just looking at the wrong things. But when I realized that there is no better me or better things without Jesus, then it all snapped in place. Maybe we have to look deeper. I treasure that (my faith) more than anything. I just wish for everyone to have that PEACE and JOY. It sure beats a lot of money and material things that you may have. It starts with accepting that you are broken and that there is a missing piece. And, for me, personally, that missing piece is our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1
The psalmist has a divine viewpoint of this missing link to life’s meaning. “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:16-17) It means God does not need your success stories or your capabilities to buy Bibles and build churches. He does not need your sacrifices either; He is not “pleased with burnt offering,” your cash for the church and other good works. He needs one who has a broken heart to know and serve Him; one who cries unto God day and night because he thought of God as his everything—his life!
Once we realize we are weak because of sin—because we don’t have the power to block the inroads of sin into our unholy heart—we would then comprehend our unworthiness to come before God. The diseases that come along with aging continue to warn our souls of the impending death lurking around the corner. This realization gets our souls shaking in fear spiritually. Our coming death sums up our weak bottom before God. Thus, we need a real source of strength that is not from this world and that source is Jesus Christ, for He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
The Experience of Christ’s Strength
I had an office near the mall for over a decade and noticed the self-confidence of the shoppers inside. I can see their assertiveness and owner-like attitude inside the superstore. Most of the shoppers don’t know the God of the Holy Bible. To these people, the apostle Paul wrote:
“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-31)
Our thoughts and hearts are filled with all the infections of sin. Jesus came, died, and rose again to give us salvation from the slavery of sin. But Jesus wants as first to repent or acknowledge that we have a “missing piece,” a disease called sin that needs Christ’s cleansing blood for cure. That is salvation 101. We need a “broken and contrite” heart. From there, we come to Christ by faith, experience the second birth or His Spirit’s indwelling, then off you go through life a child of God and filled with the strength of Jesus.