20 n January / February 2014 n www.faith Today.ca
will replace gloom and apathy in your heart.
Lean on Christ and rely on him to supply through
the Holy Spirit all the strength you need for his service, no matter how weak unhappy circumstances and
unfriendly people may be making you feel at present.
As part of his response to being berated as “weak” by
the Corinthians and their “superapostles,” Paul reveals
that Christ has set him to live with an unhealed “thorn”
(pain, disability) in his body and has told him, “My
grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
in weakness” ( 2 Cor. 12: 7–9).
We need thus to take to heart his triumphant concluding comment on this aspect of his life situation:
“Therefore I will boast all
the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of
Christ may rest upon me. 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” (vv. 9–10).
So lean on Christ, the lover of your soul, as Paul did,
and in all your ongoing weakness, real as it is, you too
will be empowered to cope and will be established in
comfort and joy.
We should recognize that the fierce and somewhat
disabling pain with which Christ in due course required
Paul to live, and which Paul clearly accepted as a weakness that would be with him to his dying day, had in
view less the enriching of his ministry than the furthering of his sanctification.
The clues are there: Paul refers to increase of humility in face of privileged revelations (12: 7), deepened
dependence on Christ in face of Satanic discouragements and distractions (vv. 7–9), and a robust readiness
to welcome whatever other forms of suffering might
come his way in the future (v. 10). He demonstrates
a sustained recognition that feeling weak in oneself is
par for the course in the Christian life and therefore
something one may properly boast about and be content with (vv. 6, 9–10).
In this, Paul models the discipleship, spiritual maturity, and growth in grace that all believers are called to
pursue. When the world tells us, as it does, that everyone has a right to a life that is easy, comfortable, and
relatively pain-free, a life that enables us to discover, display, and deploy all the strengths that are latent within
us, the world twists the truth right out of shape.
That was not the quality of life to which Christ’s
calling led him, nor was it Paul’s calling, nor is it what
we are called to in the twenty-first century. For all Chris-
tians, the likelihood is rather that as our discipleship
continues, God will make us increasingly weakness-
conscious and pain-aware, so that we may learn with
Paul that when we are conscious of being weak, then
– and only then – may we become truly strong in the
Lord. And should we want it any other way? What do
Christ and the Christian’s Hoping
The Bible speaks directly to our weakness, setting
before those who are Christ’s a destiny that reaches
beyond this world to a kaleidoscope of wonders, enrichments, and delights to which it gives the generic name
“glory.” This destiny is big and exciting, and the New
Testament writers show that they felt it to be so.
As having something big and exciting to look forward
to – a major family holiday,
say – will keep children alert
and on tiptoe for quite some
time before it happens, so
the big and exciting future
for Christ’s faithful disciples
that Paul looked forward to
undoubtedly kept him at full
apostolic stretch through all
the adverse experiences to
which he alludes in 2 Corinthians.
Indeed the New Testament writers as a body, with
the Lord Jesus himself, clearly expect this promised destiny to bring excitement and awe and amazement and
joy into the hearts of all Christian people.
2 Corinthians is a good example. For all that Paul
is writing out of a situation of weakness and, without
doubt, a sense of weakness more intense than we meet
in any other of his letters, he is not lapsing into self-pity
or voicing gloom and doom, but he is expressing his
sense of ongoing triumph in Christ in face of all obstacles. And he is declaring his sure and certain hope
of glory when his course through this world reaches
It is this hope for his personal future – a hope which,
to echo Bunyan’s Mr. Stand-fast, lies as a glowing coal
at his heart – that determines his attitude toward all the
pressures of the present.
We are on our way home, and home will be glorious.
And contemplating that glory, however inadequately
we do it, will brace minds and hearts to resist the weak-
ening effect, the down-drag into apathy and despair,
that pain, hostility, discouragement, isolation, con-
tempt, and being misunderstood – and all the rest of
the suffering – might naturally have on us otherwise.
Ministers of Christ will keep on keeping on, no mat-
ter what. The watching world may well wonder where
they find the energy to do so, but the puzzlement of
outsiders is no concern of theirs. What animates and
propels them is the power of their hope as they “look
not to the things that are seen but to the things that are
We shall be given
a new dwelling
place, new clothes,
and a new home
life in the company
of our lord.