Strength In Weakness

21To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about.

22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I.

23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,

26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.

27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

2 Corinthians 11:21-29 (NIV)

I have taken up the challenge to write about the above passage. It seems that religious people love negative words. Each time they see any positive words in the Bible, they will remind themselves of the negative words they picked from the Bible to neutralize the positive effects from the Bible. They know they cannot deny that financial prosperity is one of God’s blessings in the Bible. So, they tried to neutralize it by insisting that the Apostles were poor. Somehow they are hoping that the idea poor Apostles can help them to avoid the responsibility of becoming rich.

So one visitor put up the above verses to support his idea of poor Apostles and challenged me to explain them. I am going to it now.

Let us begin with the background story. In Chapter 11, Paul was addressing the invasion of false Apostles in the church. Who were they? They were the ancestors of the religious preachers we see today and we can read more about them in the book of Acts. The motive of these religious preachers was to pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a religion of rules and regulations. They tried to bring back the Law back to the church. In short, they wanted to present a God who is more interested in keeping the Sabbath than to heal the sick.

Not only that, they asked money from the church. This reminds me of the pastors in my first church. Religious preachers at all times are not ashamed to threaten or blackmail for money. They also did not hesitate to slander those who oppose them, including Paul. In today’s term they would have called Paul names like “Prosperity Preacher”.

In 2 Corinthians 11:21-29, Paul launched an offensive on these religious preachers. In Verse 21, he admitted being too “weak” to oppress his church like his attackers. He went on to show that he was in no way inferior to those religious preachers. He was born as a natural descendent of Abraham. During his ministry, he went through tough challenges. He was imprisoned, flogged, constantly on the run, worked hard without sufficient rest and suffered extreme poverty. He had faced extreme pressure. Yet he did not give up. He even boasted about them.

30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
2 Corinthians 11:30 (NIV)

Why?

9But 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.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

I like the NLT version better.

9 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.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

I have written on the above verse and you may refer to it at https://cheee.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/thorn-in-the-flesh/.

Paul could boast in his weaknesses because he believed his God can work in his weakness. He believed the grace of God was sufficient for him to overcome every challenge in his life, even if the challenges were as extreme as recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:21-29.

The lesson for us here is as long as we continue to believe that our God is with us, we can overcome any trials in life. No matter how weak you think you are right now, God can work through you and bring success into your life. God can turn your sickness into health, your poverty into prosperity and all your failures into successes if you keep believing and don’t give up your faith. His grace is all we need. His power works best in weakness.

“How about the poor Apostles part?“

The closest thing to the poor Apostles must be this verse:

27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
2 Corinthians 11:27 (NIV)

In the above verse, Paul was only stating some facts of what he went through. It was not meant to be an example for Christians. Paul did not make the Vow of Poverty. All the Apostles went through various challenges in their lives like sickness and poverty but that does not mean they must be committed to be sick and poor for the rest of their lives. So, having lived through poverty does not mean one must be committed to be poor for life.

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