Strength In Weakness
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
A. 1-6: “I know a man”
1. This takes away the self-boasting aspect of what Paul relates and emphasizes
that his human spirit was totally passive in what occurred.
1) This happened to him because of the Lord, and not because of who he was.
B. Paul refused to boast in behalf of the person who received the vision, but chose
to boast only in regard to his “weaknesses” (asthenes: “weak, infirm, feeble”).
1. If he desired to boast about his vision, he would not be a fool, like those false
apostles at Corinth.
1) However, he does not wish the Corinthians to think more of him than they
can see and hear for themselves.
I. WEAKNESS AND STRENGTH
A. 7: To keep Paul from “exalting myself” (huperairo: “to lift one’s self up, be
exalted, be haughty”) “because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations”
he had, Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh.”
1. Its purpose from God’s viewpoint was to keep Paul from arrogance and
1) The thorn was “a messenger of Satan” – suffering is connected.
2) But God meant it to “buffet” (kolaphizo: “to strike with the fist, to
mistreat, treat with violence and contempt.
2. Satan and suffering are under the control of God.
1) He can use them as His instruments for good.
2) To remove this would block the sanctifying process Paul needed.
3. This example gives us a glimpse at how divine providence works.
1) God’s purpose in the affliction was to keep Paul from pride.
2) Satan was the one who administered the thorn in the flesh (for he is the
source of all evil) and his sinister purpose was to destroy Paul’s soul, just
as he used physical sufferings to attack Job.
B. 8: The thorn is not identified – perhaps for a very good reason.
1. If it was and we had some other physical problem – we would think this
passage doesn’t apply to us.
1) Silence on this subject has made this applicable to every single person.
2) It enhances the message Paul conveyed, because each of us can apply the
principles to be learned to our own physical hindrances or weaknesses.
2. Gal 4:12-15: Whatever it was we can conclude that is was something which
might cause people to despise and reject him.
1) Paul was human and wanted to get rid of it.
2) He no doubt thought it was hindering the gospel message.
3) “If only I did not have this handicap, I could do more.”
4) The emphasis men place on strength may not be the same God places on
3. Paul’s prayer for relief was similar to Christ’s prayer (Luke 22:39-43).
1) Even Christ’s request was not granted – an angel came to minister to Him.
2) God knows what is good for us and answers prayer accordingly.
4. We are reminded of some lessons on praying.
1) We are to pray with persistence (Luke 18:1-8).
2) We are to pray earnestly (Matt 7:7).
3) We are to pray specifically.
4) God knows what is best for Paul (and us).
5) He let Paul know that He heard him but that he had to keep his thorn.
C. 9: Paul’s attitude on that occasion can help us to think right.
1. Natural shrinking from pain turns us to prayer.
1) 1 John 5:14: Prayer is a call of a trusting heart to our sympathizing Lord.
2) Major matters as well as in the small matters of daily life.
2. Paul saw the source of strength when his thorn was not removed.
1) His eyes were opened to see that he already had what he needed.
2) The Lord did not say “I WILL give,” but “grace IS sufficient.”
3) It is helpful to keep learning this principle – not carry burdens to grave.
4) Grace is sufficient enough to enable you to bear the evil and do my job.
3. “Power is perfected in weakness.”
1) Power is brought to its fullness or goal (telos) in weakness.
2) This is the summit of the epistle, the lofty peak from which the whole is
viewed in true proportion.
3) From this vantage point the entire range of Paul’s apostleship is seen in
4) The greater the servant’s weakness, the more conspicuous is the power of
his Master’s all-sufficient grace.
4. The best answer to a request to lift a burden is not removal of the pressure,
but the power to stand the pressure.
1) God isn’t telling Paul, not to worry if you sin or give up because of this
problem, I’ll forgive you anyway.
2) Nor is God promising some relief in the near future so that he can endure
3) Paul isn’t going to wake up one morning and find that God has given him
a new attitude or changed him in such a way that the thorn doesn’t bother
4) But God said he would do something better for Paul.
5) “I will give you PERFECT STRENGTH to do what I want you to do.”
5. Sometimes continued sorrow is needed.
1) Paul saw that affliction can be a gift (7: “was given me”).
2) Paul had to harmonize his will with the will of Christ (Eph 3:16-17).
6. “Most gladly” – instead of praying for their removal.
1) This is much more than simple resignation.
2) He didn’t quietly and sadly accept “the inevitable.”
7. Gladness so “that the power of Christ may dwell in me (rest upon me).”
1) (Episkenoo) – More literally: “Cover me like a tent, or pitch its tent over
2) Paul became a human tabernacle for God’s glory (2 Cor 5:1-10).
8. Paul prayed against his own interest.
1) He would have lost a great blessing if the thorn had been removed.
2) Be careful that we do not pray against ourselves.
D. 10: The weaknesses under consideration were not self-induced.
1. They are those things which the Christian isn’t perfected in spiritual
weakness or unfaithfulness.
1) The weaknesses referred to here are those things which the Christian
ISN’T GIVING IN TO.
2. The man who if forced to submit to weaknesses, insults (mistreatment),
distresses, persecutions, difficulties, etc. is certainly a weak man –
1) Not at all like the powerful man of the world.
3. He rejoices when suffering because he knows that “when I am weak, then I
1) Anyone can look good during the good times.
2) The real test of faith is how does it sustain you during the tough times?
3) Thorns help us to get in touch with our own mortality.
4) The product of suffering “for Christ’s sake” was the product of MORE
5) If God’s power, if the validity of God’s truth, is even more brought out
into the open by trials, then I will rejoice in such things –
LET THE THORN STAY!
4. “I will rather boast: (9): Paul is looking back realizing what he was like
before this happened to him and what he is like after this happened and
1) If he had the choice to go back to the way it was before and not have to
walk through these thorns – I wouldn’t do it for anything in the world.
2) For what God has made out of me is so incredible that I glory in it, boast
in it, and thank God for it.
3) Strength and endurance come only at the price of some pain – ask any
E. We feel weakness in our efforts to serve.
1. Be impressed with the fact that we are unable to do what we ought.
1) Devote all to God – He has undivided claim.
2) Matt 26:40b-41: “So, you could not keep watch with Me for one hour?
Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the
spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
2. Our best efforts are marked with frailty and imperfections.
1) Acts 2:42: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the
apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to
2) Our joy is restrained; Hope gets cloudy; Get discouraged (Phil 4:4).
3) Let our weakness turn into dependence upon God Phil 4:6-7).
4) There are not many times when everything feels just right.
5) If so – we are content in our comfort zone and not reaching forward.
3. Let us be aware that everyone has ups and downs.
1) Jeremiah wept
2) Elijah despaired
3) Consider the case of Joseph (Gen 39:20-21).
* Sold into slavery – falsely accused – forgotten in prison.
* Gen 50:20: “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant
it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many
* Remained faithful – God elevated him.
F. Then the weakness can bring strength.
1. Weakness can cause us to be watchful.
1) Not think of yourself as strong or rely upon your own strength.
2) And then fall like Samson, David, Peter.
3) Ps 128:1: “How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in
2. Weakness can lead us to seek help from God and be strong.
1) Making a lot of progress without pain is not possible.
2) They can make us interested in promises to those who trust Him who is
3) Paul’s awareness of his weakness provided security and strength for him.
4) That same perception can be strength for us.
5) Let us be aware of OUR weaknesses – then seek strength.
1. Lesson for the saved: Our basic need is not to get rid of stress and burdens,
but to submit to God and receive strength to bear them.
1. Human weakness provides the opportunity for divine power, influence and
1) Face our troubles in faith and overcome (Rev 3:21).
2. Lesson for the lost: Turn to the Savior for help and salvation.
1. No one will ever make it without Jesus Christ – H/B/R/C/B/F.