“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10
Can you say that?
Have you ever said that?
Choosing the weak
One of the most startling things about 2 Corinthians 12 is that this is not an exception to how God works; it is the rule. The pattern in God’s work on earth is to channel his power through human weakness. God does not skim off the top ten percent—the most gifted, the most articulate, the smartest, the best educated—for significance in the kingdom.
He picks the screw-ups. The nobodies. He picks people like you and me.
Weakness in the Old Testament.
We see it time and again in the great story.
Abraham, not man enough to put his own wife before himself, is the father of God’s special people. The younger son—Abel rather than Cain, Isaac rather than Ishmael, Jacob rather than Esau, David rather than his more impressive brothers—are the ones through whom God’s promises travel. Gideon, cowering in the winepress, the least of his family, is chosen to lead 300 to defeat a horde of Midianites. Jeremiah, young and timid, is chosen as God’s mouthpiece (Jeremiah 1:1–10; see also 9:23–24). It is the lowly to whom God looks (Isaiah 57:15; 66:1–2).
The theme of strength through weakness is not only individual but corporate. The more the Hebrews were afflicted in Egypt, the more they multiplied (Exodus 1:12). Israel was loved and used by God despite being the runt of the ancient world (Deuteronomy 7:6–7).
The New Testament is full of weakness too
In the New Testament the theme of strength through weakness is ratcheted up even further.
Jesus repeatedly upends our intuitive assumptions about significance and strength. It is in losing our lives that we find them (Matthew 10:39). The last will be first (Matthew 19:30–20:16). Those who serve others are the greatest (Matthew 20:26–28). The kingdom is like a tiny seed that nevertheless provides the largest, most shady branches (Mark 4:30–32). It is the grain that falls into the ground and dies that bears much fruit (John 12:24–25).
Paul drives home the theme of strength through weakness more decisively than anyone. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Weakness isn’t “good,” but God uses it
Human weakness is not inherently good. There is no weakness in the first two chapters of the Bible or the last two. But in between Eden and the New Eden, human weakness is not a problem for God. It is the great prerequisite. It is where God locates his power.
Jesus experienced the worst weakness
Let us follow our Master, who “was crucified in weakness, yet lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). The pattern of his life is ours—life out of death, power out of weakness.
Even more fundamentally, though, Jesus experienced in our place the worst weakness of all. On the cross the one person who ever lived in perfect strength his whole life long, who never knew any moral weakness in himself, bore the wrath deserved by moral weaklings.
Feeling inadequate? Perfect.
Do you know yourself to be weak? Inadequate? Not up to snuff in intellect, family background, educational opportunities, financial resources?
You are just the kind of person God loves to use. The power of God—power to kill sin, power to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, power to speak courageously on the job, power to love the unlovely, power to lead many to Christ, power to make your life count—such power is for inadequate people.
Acknowledge your frailty to God. Look to the Savior. He embraced the weakness of the cross so that you and I, weak sinners, can experience the blood-bought power of God—now.