2 Corinthians 13:1-10: emp. verse 3 “since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me….”
When reading chapter 13 in isolation, I thought Paul was talking about the church of Corinth’s sin. I thought he was calling them out for not doing as they had been instructed. I thought he was upset because of what he referred to in chapter 12 as their impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness. But when I went back further to the beginning of the chapter, I realized that those things were not the sins he was referring to, and he was not even referring to faith in God. Paul was referring to faith in him.
Paul was worried that in his excitement to talk about his encounter and conversion that he would be placed on a pedestal, and he did not want that. He did not want to be seen greater than he was. And, he didn’t want to be seen as arrogant. But, God had a contingency plan to make sure he did not get bigheaded. He was given a thorn in his flesh, a visible sign of weakness that he begged God constantly to take away.
The thing about this thorn is it was necessary to keep Paul humble and keep him from thinking he was greater than he was. This thorn would stop Paul from relying on his own strength, his own gifts, and his own power and keep his eyes forever turned to God, the only source of his true power. Because Paul had this debilitating problem, this nuisance that was obviously not going anywhere, was the very thing that would show everyone the true power of God. That is why God told him that “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” It was in spite of, despite, and through Paul’s weakness that God’s power would shine through.
But, there was a problem. His weakness was visible for all to see. People knew he had this thorn, and they doubted his ability to minister on God’s behalf. They knew of his weakness, and they struggled to believe what he was saying to and doing for them. They questioned his motives and if he was who he proclaimed to be. The very nature and his ability to minister was called into question, all because of his weakness.
How can this man with this problem be sent by God? How can this man with that thing, that problem, that disability be used by God? How can this man who was tortured by Satan be fit to give us a message? They needed proof that he was the apostle, the messenger, the minister that he claimed to be. For some reason, they seemed to have thought that this thorn made him weak, less than, not enough, and they struggled to accept his flawed self.
But, Paul admonishes them to examine themselves and ask if they are truly living by faith. Not just faith in God, but faith in God’s messenger. Faith that God can work in those who are deemed weak. Faith that what you see is not the whole picture. Faith that there is something on the inside that supersedes what is seen on the outside. Faith that no matter the dealings with our flesh, we have a God who specializes in great works when we are at our weakest.
Paul wanted them to really sit down and ask if they had true faith to look beyond what they see and reimagine what was possible. Look beyond the faults, look beyond the thorns, look beyond the torment and see God at work. To stop wasting time questioning, probing, and prodding – trying decide who is called and who isn’t, who’s anointed and who’s not – and have faith that when a “weak” person is speaking, God is working. When s(he) is preaching, God is moving. When s(he) is serving, God is providing. When this s(he) is ministering, God is healing. When s(he) is hurting, God is comforting.
Paul’s weakness may be on display for ALL to see. But, that just gives a greater platform for God to do only what God can do.
The greater my weakness.
The stronger my God.
The greater my shortcomings,
The more God gets to show off.
I AM MADE PERFECT IN MY WEAKNESS!
That let’s you know that when I’m doing my thing, there is more of God and less of me!