5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 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. 2 Corinthians 12: 5 -10 (NIV)
In this except of scripture, as well as the previous declaration in 2 Corinthians 11:30, the apostle Paul, writing to believers in Corinth, is declaring the lesson he has learned about complete reliance on Christ. For a learned Jewish man, raised a Pharisee, he had read the Books of the Law and the Prophets, the Christian Old Testament, numerous times. Paul, whose zealous persecution including imprisonment and death for the disciples of Christ, was completely changed by the power of Christ in his life from that moment he was blinded on the road to Damascus. For the remainder of his life, he had “a thorn” to remind him to rely on the Spirit and not his own effort. From the example of Paul, we must strive to be empty of our own narrow views, prejudices, and pride, so that the Spirit can empower us for God’s purposes.
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
In the last year of my Fifties, I decided that my declining health was not due to something out of my control, but could be halted and possibly improved by dedicated effort. I began by eating natural foods, healthy portions and avoiding all “junk”. And I started to exercise in a disciplined manner. But the focus on health was not to preen myself in front of my peers or co-workers, but because the body IS the temple of God according to my faith. At baptism, I received the in-dwelling of the holy Spirit.
Twenty years ago, at a point when I had exhausted all efforts to rationalize my existence, to find deep relationships, lasting meaning, or to finally satisfy that longing (emptiness) that was formerly filled by distractions – work, money, power, recognition, drugs, alcohol, sports, entertainment, food, sex and so on – I was open to, searching for and was found, by God. I had been raised to believe in a Creator of the Universe, Father, Son and Spirit – but had assumed it was some long-distance, aloof thing and not really relevant to me. How the last twenty years have made my first forty seem dull and colorless!
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 13 (NIV)
For those who believe in Christ, are active in daily relationship with the Spirit and other believers, we strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ, we are empowered by the Spirit with strength. But strength that comes only by continuing in the things that show our reliance on God. We read his Word. In prayer, we praise God for our lives health, and families, and present our petitions to Him. Through the fellowship with other believers, and in church we worship God together, help and support one another. We set the example that Jesus taught us – so others, even the non-believers – will praise our God. And whether wealthy or less so, we see money and possessions as tools to further the work of sharing the Gospels, teaching others and aiding the poor.
10 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. 2 Corinthians 10 (NIV)
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint Isaiah 40 : 29 – 31
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12: 30