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God’s Power Gets Us Through

Categories:

II Corinthians 12:7-10

6th Sunday after Epiphany

2/10/22; 2/11/22; 2/13/22

St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church—Beaver Dam, WI

 

The eyes of many in the world right now are glued on the Olympics. World class athletes gather to compete in various events. Everyone has their favorite: speed skating, downhill skiing, figure skating, curling, bobsled just to name a few events. These athletes train for years to become the best in their sport. They want to achieve the ultimate goal of standing atop the medal podium with the gold medal around their neck listening to their country’s national anthem. When they win the gold medal, what do many of those athletes say? They go through the usual words of thanks. They will also toot their own horn. All the time and effort spent in practices. All the prior events built up to this one moment. They boast in themselves.

 

Personal power, personal sacrifice, personal boasting is a dangerous game to play. What happens when the athlete fails to reach their goal? What happens when an injury occurs making them take two steps backwards? Their power might not be enough to get them through. They need to depend on someone else. A doctor, trainer, or coach will help them get through those low times. They cannot always depend on their own power or might, but they need the help of someone else to get them through. Their boasting then changes from self-gratification to singing the praises of others.

 

Could Paul boast? Should he even boast about his accomplishments? In the previous chapter Paul boasted, although done tongue in cheek. His detractors tried to criticize Paul by saying he was only a wannabe. He held no credibility. Paul listed his credentials. He spoke fluently with wise and persuasive words. Paul was a Hebrew. He was a Pharisee, quickly climbing the ranks of the religious leaders. He trained under high profile rabbis to learn the ins and outs of the Old Testament. If his enemies wanted to play the boasting game, Paul would play right along.

 

Paul could easily go on. God called him directly by appearing him on the road to Damascus. He served as an Apostle, a great Apostle travelling the world starting churches in many different areas. God gave Paul a special revelation of heaven and spoke words of truth to him. If anyone should boast, Paul should be the one.

 

However, Paul would only boast in his weaknesses. “Therefore, to keep me from becoming arrogant due to the extraordinary nature of these revelations, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, so that I would not become arrogant” (II Corinthians 12:7). Paul had some kind of ailment. He never elaborated on it what it was. It could have been malaria. His eyesight could have been poor. His body suffered lingering effects from all the beatings he took. Whatever it was, we do not know. God gave it to Paul in order to keep him from becoming conceited.

 

Paul tried to pray for relief from this messenger of Satan. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that he would take it away from me” (II Corinthians 12:8). Paul thought he could do more work, be a better Apostle, if his thorn in the flesh was taken away. He could work more efficiently. His pain would not be as much. Each time the answer remained the same, “No.” God would not remove this thorn in the flesh from Paul.

 

God did not want Paul to suffer. God did not wish for Paul to go through pain. Yet, God had a plan in all of this. “And he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness’’ (II Corinthians 12:9a). God’s grace and power would uphold him through all the difficult times. It reminded Paul in whom to trust. Paul could never rely on his own power. God’s power would get him through.

 

Paul could rest comfortably knowing this one fact. God’s power would be enough. God’s power would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness. This thorn in the flesh would not hold Paul back in doing his ministry. God’s power would make Paul strong enough to accomplish his ministry. God’s power would be enough to carry Paul in his weaknesses.

 

Are we feeling weak today? We might not want to answer that question. We do not want to focus on our weaknesses. We much rather desire to focus on our strengths. Our weaknesses leave us feeling vulnerable and out of control. We want to try and control all situations in our life to fit what we desire. However, we all have our weaknesses.

 

Like Paul, we deal with our own thorns in the flesh. They can be wide and varied. It can be a student that just doesn’t fit in with others. They have trouble making friends. They feel socially awkward. Maybe they moved around often, so they never feel a connection to one place. The married couple who feels the stress of finances weigh heavily upon them. No matter how much they budget, the rising prices leave their budget a mess in the end. They worry about money all the time. They fight. A health problem comes out of the blue. It will be a long battle with many possible side effects. There is no guarantee of what the outcome will be.

 

At any of this news, or any other moments of weakness we face, our entire strength melts. We make all the best laid out plans, but they accomplish nothing. At those times God tells us to rely on his power. In our weakness God’s power will be made perfect. God’s power will get us through it. Does this mean all our problems will be erased? Will they simply go up in a cloud of smoke dissipating in the air? God’s answer might be no. We will need to struggle, but we know our struggle will never be alone.

 

God’s power will get us through. In our weaknesses we rely not on ourselves but on the one that will lift us up. He reaches down with his mighty arm to take us close to himself. Christ assures us that he has it all under control. His power will get us through even in our weakest moments.

 

For those struggling with loneliness God assures them they are not alone. He walks by their side all the time. For the financially struggling God tells them not to worry. He will provide for them. For the one going through medical or emotional uncertainty God teaches reliance on him.

 

We can go on with our life. God has it all under control. We are weak, but he is strong. We might not know where to turn, but God’s power will get us through. For all of this we can boast in our Lord and Savior always.

 

Paul’s boasting would only be in one place, Christ. Not in his accomplishments. Not in his own power. Only in Christ. “Therefore I will be glad to boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may shelter me” (II Corinthians 12:9b). Paul knew that God would shelter him. Paul’s thorn in the flesh would not make him weak, but it would allow him to boast in the confidence that God would shelter him.

 

In all his weaknesses Paul would never back down from boasting. “That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For whenever I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10). Paul would not boast in the normal things of life. He boasted in all his troubles, because he knew Christ would be exalted. Christ would give him strength to get through all those things. God’s power would be the only thing he boasted in.

 

The world tells us not to let others see our weaknesses. People will take advantage of us. They will exploit those weaknesses. They will look down upon us because of those weaknesses. We should boast in our strengths. We want others to perceive us as strong individuals so that we might survive in this world.

 

God’s Word tells us blessed are the poor, the humble, the hurting. Those do not sound like situations to find blessings. Those are positions of weakness and humility. In all of that we find our true strength. We need to boast only in one place, our Lord.

 

Our boasting in Christ comes from everything we know about him. He saved us from sin, death, and the devil. He rescued us even though we deserved none of it. We will boast in Christ and his power. The world can try to put us down, but we find our strength in Christ alone.

 

God’s power will get us through, so we boast in it all our days. In all our weaknesses we find strength. The world does not have the final say on what we will do or face. Christ has the final say. He shows us his strength and power. We boast only in him.

 

Everyone needs some extra help at certain times. There is no shame in admitting that. We need help from our Lord every moment of every day. In all our weaknesses Christ will lift us up. We will boast in that power giving him praise for all he has done. Christ makes us strong! God’s Power Gets Us Through. Amen.

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