“Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.” I remember learning these words to Jesus Loves Me as a child. (I can still remember the arm motions.) From an early age, I learned that even in my weakness, He is strong – a concept that I’m still working on putting into practice today.
But I have learned one crucial detail in my adult years that goes beyond what I learned as a child. I may be weak, but God doesn’t intend on me living my life as a weak person. I can’t keep walking around declaring how weak I am; rather, I need to learn to be strong in Him.
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God longs to take our weakness and exchange it for His strength.
…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, 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 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV, emphasis added)
This particular passage in 2 Corinthians has long been debated by scholars and Bible teachers. What exactly was Paul talking about when he mentions having a thorn in his flesh? Some say it was an illness, but I believe the verse says it all.
- Paul refers to the thorn as a “messenger of Satan.”
- In verse 10, he gives us a list of his weaknesses: insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.
So basically, his thorn could have been anything and everything he was encountering in his ministry. And two things are certain: the thorn was from the enemy and God chose to leave the thorn alone (for now) to keep Paul from becoming proud. But God didn’t leave Paul empty-handed. He reminded him of His perfect grace and that good things would come from his current circumstances.
God supplied grace and strength to Paul throughout his difficulties, but Paul grew in strength when he chose to “delight in weaknesses.” In other words, when he chose to rejoice in his sufferings rather than wallow in them, he grew stronger.
God does supply a measure of strength in our lives, but we have to learn to rely on His strength in order for it to grow.
Paul understood what it meant to rely on God’s strength:
We rely on His strength when we choose to see our trials through His eyes instead of our own.
We rely on His strength when we trust that His plans will exceed our expectations and that He will work everything together for our good.
And we rely on His strength when we choose joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:12-13
The secret to being content is to always rely on God’s strength – to make the daily choice to be strong in Him.
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*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.