FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN AM I STRONG
By John C. Carpenter
The apostle Paul wrote believers in Corinth, It is not expedient
for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether
in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And
I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise,
and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory,
but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest
any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure
through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I
should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My
grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions,
in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor 12:1-10).
In verse 1, Paul addresses two concepts:
expedience and glory. The word “expedient” is translated from the Greek word “sumphero,” which means “to be better for, be good for,
or profitable.” The word “glory” is derived from the Greek word “kauchaomai,” which can mean “to boast or rejoice.” Paul explained
that, despite the fact that he had previously experienced visions and revelations from the Lord, and expected that he would continue
to do so, he knew that he should not boast or rejoice in such experiences. Paul knew that glorying in such experiences would not be
good, or profitable.
In verses 2-4, Paul, in order to complete the point he will make later, goes on to tell a story. Paul said
that he once knew “a man in Christ,” in other words a believer, who more than 14 years ago experienced an event in which the man was
“caught up,” or taken up to the third heaven, and that the believer, during his visit to heaven, had heard words so magnificent and
full of glory that they were impossible to fully understand and express in human terms. Paul added that he did not know whether the
believer was caught up “in the body,” meaning both his body and spirit went to the third heaven, or “out of the body,” meaning just
his spirit was taken to heaven. Even though Paul was not sure exactly how this event had taken place, Paul knew that God the Father
understood exactly what had happened.
In verses 5-6, Paul makes his point: he explained that he would glory in the experiences
of this man, and the experiences of other men, but not in his own experiences. Paul added that the only personal things he would glory
in were his own infirmities [feebleness of body or mind, frailty, disease, sickness, or weakness]. Paul further explained that, despite
the fact that he would like to glory in himself and his own experiences, he would not do so because such glorying would make him,
in essence, a fool [mindless, stupid, ignorant, egotistical, and unwise]. Paul went on to explain why he would not glory in himself:
he did not want other men to think of him more highly than they should, based on what men saw or heard regarding Paul. Paul concluded
that the wise thing for him to do was to forbear, or abstain, from glorying about himself and his own spiritual experiences. Paul
was determined to remain humble before the Lord, in spite of the experiences or revelations given to him.
In verses 7-9, Paul
went on to explain that, because of the abundance of revelations given to him by his heavenly Father, God had allowed satan to buffet
[to curtail, chastise, inflict, and therefore humble] Paul so that he would not exalt himself with arrogance and haughtiness. The
thorn [bodily annoyance, disability] was so severe that Paul asked God the Father three times to take it away. The Father refused,
saying His grace [benefit, favor, liberality, power, and strength] was sufficient [enough, bringing contentment] for Paul, and that
God's strength [miraculous power and ability] was made perfect [complete, fulfilled, visible] in weakness [feebleness of body or mind,
disease, infirmity, sickness]. Paul understood and believed that it would be wiser for him to glory in his own infirmities, so that
the explosive, powerful, and miraculous power and ability of Christ could rest upon him, or be present in his life and ministry.
verse 10, Paul concluded “Therefore [because Christ's strength is made perfect in weakness] I take pleasure [approve, think good,
be pleased, willing] in infirmities [feebleness of body or mind, frailty, disease, infirmity, sickness, weakness], in reproaches [insult,
injury, harm, hurt], in necessities [calamity, anguish, distress], in persecutions [pursued, persecuted], in distresses [calamity,
anguish, distress] for Christ's sake: for when I am weak [feeble in any sense, diseased, impotent, sick, or weak], then am I strong [mighty,
possible, powerful, strong]”.
Arrogance is possibly the largest problem in the contemporary Christian church. Because Christ's
strength is made complete and visible in man's weakness, the false and puffed-up arrogance, pride, and ego of some contemporary believers
in Christ have hindered, if not prevented, Christ from manifesting His full and complete presence and power in the church. In order
to promote itself, the church is often boasting of healings and miracles where none, or few, occur and exist.
There are some
in the modern church today that are attempting, through various methods, to deliver themselves from diseases and sufferings, and there
is certainly nothing wrong in praying about such matters. Because of this scriptural example with the apostle Paul, though, we must
always keep in mind two potential dangers in praying for and seeking healing: first, healing may not be God's will for us at this
point in time [or ever in this life, as with Paul], and secondly, healing may result in our missing God's supernatural presence, power,
and working in our lives. We should always, as Paul did, ask God for healing, but if God refuses to anwer our prayers, we should be
content with His answer, knowing that God has a reason for denying us our desires or needs. Although difficult to do, we should always
desire God, His presence, His power, and His movement in our lives more than we desire health, wealth, or prosperity. If God the Father
chooses, in His wisdom and working, to provide us with health, wealth, or prosperity when we ask, then God must have a reason for
providing us with this additional grace, and we should be thankful. However, if God refuses healing of our infirmities, reproaches,
necessities, persecutions, or distresses, and tells us that His grace is sufficient for us, we must take Paul's example, and say,Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure
in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2
Cor 12:1-10). AMEN.