Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
2 Corinthians 4: 7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
SUMMARY OF SUNDAY'S MESSAGE
A person of power is not a person without weakness. We see power as the elimination of weakness when actually God loves to pour His power into our weakness. By 'weakness' we are not talking about sin but rather our fragility, inadequacy, vulnerability and even physical illness. God always draws near to the broken, contrite and humble in heart.
1 Cor 1: 27 tells us:
"God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."
God's power often shows up looking like weakness. The Jews were expecting a military messiah who would overthrow the Romans, yet, when He came, He did so as a baby who grew up to serve, sacrifice and surrender His life. Yet, through His death, resurrection power was released.
1. Weakness is inevitable:
As much as we seek to display our strengths and demonstrate our power, the simple reality is that we are all weak, we all have places of brokenness, we all feel deficient in some areas, we all face circumstances which we find overwhelming. Weakness is simply part of life. We try to run from it, but we can't escape it, so there is no point in expending our energy in something which isn't going away.
2. Your weakness is not an embarrassment, it is an invitation:
"I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3: 10-11)
Power and suffering go together. You can't experience resurrection without death. It's at our weakest place that God wants to reveal Himself strong on our behalf.
"...we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Cor 4: 7)
The power is hidden inside a clay jar, it's contained within something which doesn't look impressive and is breakable. In fact, the only way to release the treasure is to break the jar. In the same way, God's power comes on us, He partners with us, not when we are at our best, but when we are weakest and most fragile.
The Greek word for "all-surpassing" is the same word Paul uses in Ephesians 3. The idea is of God's power 'going longer'. If you were to lay out all your weaknesses and brokenness, God's power would always extend further.
The thing we're trying to hide is the very thing God is wanting to use. Our struggle holds the secret of your strength. God is brilliant at recycling the pain in our lives. We think our gift to the world is our brilliance and ability, when actually it's our brokenness and weakness. People outside the church will always relate more to our weakness than our strength. The very area in which we have struggled most can become the greatest point of contact with others who are facing similar problems. Your shame becomes your story, your hurts hold the key to your harvest.
3. Your weakness is not an excuse:
Paul speaks of being "...hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor 4: 8-9)
This is hardly a compelling advertisement for the Christian faith! Yet, Paul faces up honestly to the constant pressures, pain and persecution he's facing. He admits his struggles and weakness because he knows that this is the secret of his strength and the pathway to power. Elsewhere he put it like this:
"I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. 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 Cor 12: 7-10)
The way to deal with weakness is not to pretend it isn't there, but it's to invite His power into your weakness. He won't remove your weakness but will release His power into it. That way it will be clear that the all surpassing power is from Him. It also keeps us conscious of our need of Him and fully dependent on His strength. That's why Paul was able to boast in his weakness - it was the secret to His power.
The podcast of this message is available to listen to here.