God is Glorified in Weakness

by Jul 5, 2014

Earlier, I posted a list of things that the church could be praying for as we went on our mission trip.  One thing we prayed for was that God would use the mission trip to shape and transform us, and to prepare us for future ministry.  Another was that we would be zealous for the glory of God and have a genuine love for others.

Here’s how God answered that prayer in my own life.

While Justin and I sat in the airport, waiting for the plane to fly us away to Southeast Asia, I made a remark about what I was reading in the Bible.

“Dude, I wish I had some context behind 2 Corinthians.  Real, historical, rock-solid context.  I feel like I don’t understand half of the letter, because I have no idea what Paul’s referring to half the time.”

Justin, with his charming sense of humor, just quipped, “Me too. And every scholar from the last 1500 years.”

Little did I know that for the next 10 days, God was going to help me understand 2 Corinthians better than I ever have before.

2 Corinthians is all about Paul’s ministry, his struggles, and God’s grace in it all.  On this trip, I saw struggles in my own heart and in the pastors who were ministering there as well.  I also saw God’s sufficient grace in such a new and fresh way.

The most famous passage in the book is 2 Cor. 12:7-9. Paul is given a “thorn” in his flesh, and he pleads for God to remove it.  But God simply responds with this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul’s outlook is suddenly changed:  he goes from despair to boasting in his weakness.  He goes from trusting in his own strength to trusting in Christ’s strength.  I’ve read this verse thousands of times.  But it finally clicked.

For most of the trip, I felt very despairing.  I struggled in prayer, asking God to overwhelm me with happiness, because God is glorified only in happiness, right?

Wrong. He didn’t overwhelm me with the warm fuzzies like I asked… and I’m glad that he didn’t.

I got sick twice.  I asked God to heal me so that I could serve more effectively, because God is glorified only in strong servants, right?

Wrong. He didn’t heal me instantly… and I’m glad that he didn’t.

I’m beginning to see that God is glorified through our weakness even more than in our strength. As I looked at the pastors in that country, and how much they endure, I could only praise God for the strength that he’s given them.  It didn’t come from them– they’re not necessarily strong people, and they get discouraged like everyone else… but Christ’s grace is enough in their weakness and need.  I hope that when people see me, they don’t see a strong believer.  I hope they see a very weak believer who trusts in a very powerful God.  A friend in my community group always says that sometimes grace is poured out, but sometimes it’s sprinkled.  I felt, before every day, that it would take a miracle to get me to the next day.  But he gave me just what I needed.

In 2 Cor. 1:5, Paul says that as we all share in Christ’s suffering, we also share in his comfort.  When one pastor spoke of his discouraging troubles with people leaving the church, I resonated with what he was saying.  In my sorrow, I shared in his sorrows.  But it did not stop there.  He told me that everything on earth is so small compared to heaven.  Whether it’s loss, loneliness, sickness, disappointment, or persecution, he said that all of it combined is nothing compared to the weight of eternal glory.  That’s 2 Cor. 4:17 for you.  As he reminded me of this, I shared in his comfort and hope, just as he also shared in mine.  What an amazing experience!

Justin gave me the privilege of praying for the team and the pastors to close the trip.  I closed by praising God for this verse:

But we have this treasure [the knowledge of Christ] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Praise God for our weakness that shows who the power is truly from.  I’ve experienced weakness like never before on this trip, but I have experienced his sufficiency more than ever as a result.  I’ve seen it in my own life, but more so in the lives of the pastors and their families.  Let’s all be praying for them.  They bear a great burden, and they’re just normal people like you and me.  The Bible speaks of another man of sorrows, burdened by grief, who was like us in every way– Christ himself.  May we bear his reproach alongside our brothers and sisters across the world.  As Tim Keller says, “Christ did not suffer so that we would never have to suffer. He suffered so that in our suffering, we would be made like him.”