Daily Devotional November 23rd
“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Paul had a ‘thorn’ or ‘weakness’ in his life that he wanted God to remove; in fact, he prayed three times that God would intervene and miraculously remove the thing that was slowing him down. We don’t know what the ‘thorn’ in Paul’s life was; some guess he might have had failing eyesight as he often used a scribe to write his letters for him, but we don’t really know for sure. What we do know with certainty, however, is God’s response, “No.” What Paul initially saw as an impediment to his work of ministering for Jesus, God saw as necessary.
In today’s culture of pain avoidance, pursuit of optimum health and self-sufficiency, many of us resonate with Paul’s initial request. We don’t like suffering of any kind and avoid it at all costs. But as in Paul’s situation, pain has a purpose. Without pain, suffering or even life’s little inconveniences, how can we grow in patience, perseverance or even contentment? Paul makes it clear, that after hearing his request clearly rejected by God, he was satisfied to ‘suffer’–in fact he boasted about his weakness! I don’t doubt that Paul would have welcomed a change of heart on God’s part, but he was content with God’s answer. What was God’s reasoning for the answer He gave Paul? “When you are weak, then I can demonstrate My glory through your life; when you recognize your own inability, then you will rely on Me to do more than you can do on your own!”
As long as we can rely on our own strength in life, we may be able to take credit for our ‘independence’ but we will never know the real power that is available to those who have learned to trust God fully and on a daily basis. Sure, Paul was a great missionary, fearless in his spread of the gospel, but what produced the amazing results–hearts softened, individuals and communities converted, churches planted? Not Paul, but rather God’s Holy Spirit working through His humbled servant. I have no doubt in mind, that if Paul had begun to take credit or if others had assigned him credit, his work for God would have become hobbled. As strange as it sounds, Paul’s ‘weakness’ freed him to work unrestrained by his own pride and the applause of others. His effectiveness was credited to God’s working through him...because no one in his condition could hope to do what he did without God!
We love the mountaintops of life, times when we can stand in confidence basking in the warmth of the Son and the applause of others; but those are not the times of spiritual growth. They may actually be the times when we are at greatest risk of forgetting whom it is we are to be relying on. In the difficult valleys, we are forced to grow towards the Son, much like the trees in the rainforest must reach ever upward for the sunlight that rarely reaches the forest floor. It is in the valleys, where the struggle is real, that we are most able to recognize our own insufficiency and turn to God for His strength. Times of peace and comfort are enjoyable and provide necessary reprieves from the struggles of life, but our goal should never be to take up residence on the mountaintop. By all means, pray for release from your ‘struggle,’ but also be quick to recognize its benefits to you when and if God tells you, “No.” It may actually be the thing that causes you to tower in your faith as you rely on Him. So, be like Paul; rather than bemoaning your ‘weakness,’ boast in it and watch expectantly to see what God will do in and through you because of it!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!