“In Our Weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
I feel I’ve got to warn you I will be sharing something that may shock you. It’s not something I like to confess on a regular basis, but it’s something I struggle with each and every day. It’s not an easy thing to just spit out either, it’s something I like to keep hidden as much as possible. But… it’s something I have to accept, and I hope you will too.
So, here it comes.
I’m not perfect.
There I said it and now we all know. Some of you are probably not even hearing what I’m saying right now due to the shock, but I’m sorry, it had to be said. You have to know. I just hope you’re able to live with this knowledge.
All kidding aside, none of us are perfect. We all have flaws, we make mistakes, we have problems… the list goes on and on.
But, we don’t like to admit our flaws. We like to keep things hidden as much as possible. It’s as if allowing these imperfections to come to the surface will change the way people think of us.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
Sometimes these flaws are things we might like to change. They could be habits, like smoking, our they could be something we can have no control over like how we were raised.
Maybe we can change, maybe we can’t.
What matters is how we deal with the hand we are dealt in life. In our reading from 2 Corinthians this morning Paul reveals he too has personal issues which impact his life.
He talks about a “thorn in the flesh” which is tormenting him as he travels, preaches and writes to the churches. We don’t know for certain what this thorn might be, and many people have speculated on the source of the thorn. I’ve heard everything from gall stones to Paul being gay. People will grab onto whatever they feel helps them try to understand Paul and his weaknesses.
Whatever it is, Paul puts it out there so people will know he is not letting his imperfections get in the way of what God is calling him to do. Paul has even prayed to God repeatedly to take this away from him, but God has told him “No.”
God has told Paul He is using his weakness to show His power. Paul’s weaknesses are how God is spreading His message to the nations. With this knowledge, Paul is well prepared to continue to be used as God will use him.
This is the message we want to hear. It’s the message we need to hear. How often do we sit around saying, “I’d do more, but I can’t because…” and then throw some excuse out there. I’m too tired; I’m too old; I’m too young; I’m too shy; I’m too poor; I’m too…
What if Paul said, “This thorn is too sharp, I can’t take it anymore. I’m done.” If Paul had done this, the church would have looked pretty different.
What if the first church leaders who settled into this end of Cape Breton decided that it was too much work to paddle across the harbour to start churches on what we now call the Northside?
Paul shows us God can use us however we are. Our flaws, our scars, our ugly, hidden secrets… they can all be used to show how great God is.
Paul says God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Are there things we can change? Sure they probably are. We all have sins in our lives that we would love to get rid of, and should.
But there are also things which we cannot change. Our past. How we look. How we talk. Medical ailments. Our age. These things cannot hold us back in the way sin holds us back.
But God’s grace surpasses all these things and can even be used to share God’s love with our neighbours. This is what we need to realize.
When we submit ourselves to God, these so-called flaws don’t matter. God’s grace is what matters. God’s abundant love which surpasses our weakness. And the knowledge that God loves us, and God uses us despite our failings gives us strength and hope.
This is who we are to be as followers of Jesus Christ. It is our faith which should be first in our lives, our reliance on the grace of God to lead us each and every day, picking us up when we fall down.
When we focus on our own weaknesses, when we let our faults keep us from showing the grace and love of God to others, then we are beaten. Then we are not allowing God’s grace to wash over us giving us hope, giving us passion and strength to carry on in the name of Jesus Christ. But most importantly, when we focus on our faults, when we let them beat us, then we miss out on God’s love in our lives.
I just finished reading a book called I Am Second. The book is a collection of stories of people who hit rock bottom in their lives. In this book there are stories of drug abuse, marriages breaking down, lives of abuse to name a few topics. Some of the people are very famous, others are just regular folks like you and me. There are athletes, musicians, pastors, business people, mothers, fathers, they cover a wide spectrum of society.
All the stories are memorable and will touch your heart with their descriptions of how these people were so broken. How they all fell victim to the weaknesses in their lives.
But when they turn to God, He lifts them up out of their pits and heals their broken lives and uses their weaknesses to show His grace.
Many of them still struggle with their past, some even on a daily basis. Yet, they have experienced God’s grace and mercy which opens their hearts to receiving God’s love.
The book opens with a very well known heavy metal guitarist who played for one of the most successful heavy metal bands out there. He’s known simply as “Head”.
The story recalls his spiral into drugs and alcohol which destroyed his family relationships and was impacting the lives of his children in a very negative way.
Yet, in the end, God lifts him up and heals his life and he uses his experiences, his ongoing weakness, to share with others about God’s grace.
What is God doing in your life? What is your excuse for pushing God out at times when you should be letting Him in?
God can offer us so much in our lives, our families and our communities when we let Him be our focus.
Paul overcame a lot of pain and weakness in his life. Whatever the “thorn” is, he overcame it. Jail, Paul overcame it. Punishment, shipwrecks, persecution, Paul overcame them. He not only overcame them, but God used them to show His love.
God is showing you His love today.
God is willing to use your weakness, your flaws to do great and wonderful things.
Are you willing?
Are you willing to let God shower you with grace and mercy by using your weaknesses to show strength?
Let’s not be afraid, God’s love will sustain us.
Let us be like Paul, who said, “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.”
Let us be strong in the Lord, the giver of life through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Picture from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/733092