“Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” (2 Co 12:8–9).
This is a follow up on my last two posts. I still have a few thoughts rattling around in my head about who and what we are in Christ, because there seem to be so many ideas among believers about that. I’m writing this in order to sort through some of those and express my own thoughts on the matter.
We all hate to make mistakes, especially the same ones repeatedly. It reveals we’re not perfect. The world tells us it shows weakness, and then tends to consume anyone who shows weakness. Even as Christians we hate weakness. But I need to be reminded imperfection and weakness are okay. I don’t always have to be “strong enough”. I like my portrait of a Roman soldier, fully dressed for battle, kneeling in the rain praying. It represents how I understand the daily struggle for followers of Christ, and it’s what I want my life to be.
I’ve had other pictures sent to me under the guise of being the same message, but I don’t see them that way. The message that comes with the picture speaks of the devil taunting us by whispering in our ear we can’t withstand the storm. The response is a whisper in the devil’s ear, “I am a child of God, a man (or woman) of faith, A WARRIOR OF GOD. I am the storm.” We like that. It makes us feel heroic. We want to think of ourselves as powerful, standing up to the devil and going toe to toe, sort of like Charlie Daniels’ fiddle player when the devil went down to Georgia. The problem is, it doesn’t work that way.
When we start trusting in our own strength, like a warrior does, the devil has already won. If he can get us to take our eyes off of Christ and focus on ourselves he’s accomplished his objective. And we’ve lost. Because we’re not strong enough to claim warrior status or be the storm, and we are prone to make mistakes because we’re imperfect.
If ever there was anyone who had the right to consider themselves some sort of super Christian, it would have to be the apostle Paul. He had it all: the right pedigree, the right education, the right beliefs and zeal. He “boasts” about all of this in response to his critics, but then follows up with this: “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.” (Philippians 3:7–9). After his conversion he was given an amazing vision of heaven. He then talks about a ‘thorn in the flesh’ given to him by God after his heavenly vision for the purpose of keeping him humble and reminding him who provides the real power. Paul asked God to take it away three times, but God had his reasons for leaving it in place.
Every one of us has something about ourselves that we despise. In my case, it’s a cancer that shows no sign of ever going away completely. It can be beaten back for a time but eventually it will flare up again, despite all of the medical advice and treatments to the contrary. I can sit here and feel sorry for myself and think I’ll never be enough to be of any use for God. Or like Paul, I can be thankful it’s there in order to remind me that God’s the one doing the incredible things in my life, not me. I can be thankful for when it does go into remission because it gives me more time for God to work in me to bless others and accomplish His purposes.
So don’t be anxious or mourn over your imperfection. It’s there for a reason. Don’t confuse it with deliberate, willful rebellion against God; that’s known as sin, and you need to repent and ask forgiveness so God can help you remove it from your life. Imperfections are things in your life which you think somehow keep you from serving God the way you desire. Paul understood the secret: those are the places where God’s grace does its greatest work. Because when He shines through you, those imperfections testify loudly where the real strength originates. Don’t be ashamed of your weakness; God can do great things with it.