Sermon: Grace Greater Than My Weakness (2/12/23)
Series: Grace is Greater
Main Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 ESV I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Main Idea: Sometimes God changes “in spite of” to “in the midst of.”
Not by boasting of visions, revelations, and miracles
2 Corinthians 12:7-8 ESV So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
I had an encounter with God when I was in high school that I didn’t share with others for a long time. It was the year of my parent’s divorce and was my junior year. I was praying in my room by myself one night. My family was in a really difficult season of not knowing whether or not we would be able to stay in our home, whether or not I would be able to go to college, and even, at times, where our next meal would come from. I was so desperate for God to show up that I was more dialed in to looking for Him to do so.
The light…the understanding…the peace.
In 2 Corinthians 12:1 Paul talks about the futility of boasting about visions and revelations.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 Paul unpacks where, when, and how the visions and revelations happened.
In 2 Corinthians 12:5-6 Paul reveals that the man in the first four verses he was speaking about was himself. He was the one who had experienced the visions, revelations, and miracles described in the first four verses.
By the time Paul got to verse 7 he laid out how he was kept from boasting about all of his previous visions, revelations, and miracles. The thorn that was given him.
We are not told exactly what that thorn was.
Some theologians believed Paul’s thorn was a temptation, guilt, or psychological struggle (like depression), but most theologians believe that Paul’s thorn was a physical struggle like epilepsy, headaches, malaria, a speech impediment, blindness or a limp that occurred from his Damascus Road experience with the Lord.
So often we have to get to the end of ourselves before we can get to the best part of Christ.
The point is this. We are not to boast about the power of our revelations, visions, and miracles.
God gets more glory from our story…
By boasting in our weakness
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Have you ever noticed how few people care whether or not the flashlights have batteries or the candles have matches until the lights go out in a storm.
Crisis and struggle cause us to seek strength beyond our own.
This week the largest earthquake in the last 100 years in Turkey and Syria has brought the death toll to more than 28,000 people, with tens of thousands injured after the 7.8-magnitude quake hit this past Monday and then a powerful aftershock hit just hours later.
When crisis happens in our world, we tend to turn towards higher powers than our own.
I think back to the 1994 Rwandan genocide that caused 800K people to be killed. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 250K and left 1.7 million people homeless. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed 220K and left 1.5 million people homeless. Here in the states, I think about 2001 9/11 attack that killed 3000 Americans and made Americans feel vulnerable for the first time in a long time. The 2005 Hurricane Katrina that killed 1,833 people and left 400K homeless. The 2011 Tuscaloosa-Birmingham Tornadoes that killed 268 across the state, 1874 were left injured, and over 2000 people were left homeless.
Crisis causes us to look for something bigger than us and to the things that truly matter.
I remember wanting to talk to my wife, hold our daughter, talk to my mother, brother, sister, and dearest friends on 9/11.
It wasn’t until the disciples found themselves in a storm on the Sea of Galilea which revealed their complete inability to survive their own that they woke Jesus up and said, “don’t you care that we are perishing.”
Perhaps the whole point of our common weaknesses is to more clearly reveal God’s uncommon power.
Boasting in our weakness is humbling, life-altering, and Jesus-lifting, but we also grow…
By being content in our weakness
2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This week at Asbury University, Asbury Seminary, and numerous schools across the country revival has broken out. Some of our Clearbranch family gathered here last night at 6pm for worship and prayer.
What brings mighty revivals is not the profession of man’s strength and ability, but the confession of man’s sin, struggle, and need for God.
On our last night in Gatlinburg when people started getting real and it changed the temperature of the room.
If we overcome through our own strength, we are conquerors, but God wants us to overcome when there is no visible way for us to actually do so in our own strength. That makes us more than conquerors in His name.
I met with a dear friend this week and we were sharing what God had been teaching us in His word. Not what He was teaching us in sermon preparations, but in personal time with Him. Not knowing anything about the message I was planning to bring this Sunday he shared a way that God had been speaking to him. He shared about the story of the feeding of the 5000 and how Jesus had asked Philip what he had to help feed the 5000 men, plus women and children. Phillip’s answer was that there was no way he had anything to offer that could even touch the need. His answer was that there was nowhere to get the food and no money to purchase them. Phillip essentially said, “I am completely weak to cover a need this strong.”
Jesus transformed the disciples’ lack of ability to meet the overwhelming needs.
Jesus transformed their perspective from “in spite of our weakness” to “in the midst of our weakness” I am going to handle this miracle in a way that is undeniably me.
When we overcome through our own strength and ability it brings us a sense of accomplishment, but when God overcomes through our weakness and inability it brings a sense of astonishment. The world is far more desperate for astonishment than accomplishment.
How about you?
Let us pray…
Lord, we confess that we would rather talk about our strengths, gifts, and abilities more than our weaknesses, struggles, and short-comings.
We want You to get more glory from our story, but to do so we will have to let go of the desire for our own glory.
Give us the courage and conviction to be vulnerable.
You have told us what is necessary for healing of our land to happen, “We have to humble ourselves and confess our sins, struggles, and weaknesses.”
So often we have to get to the end of ourselves before we can get to the best part of You.
As scary as it is Lord, we pray for enough struggle to seek Your strength.
In our common weaknesses we ask to see Your uncommon power.
Help us to recognize that Your strength is most visible not in spite of our weaknesses, but in the midst of them.
May the consistent theme of our lives be to confess sin and profess Christ.
In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen!
What are your strengths which could make you boast?
How could God’s strength be revealed in your weaknesses?
How could your story bring God the most glory?