How do you view your weaknesses? Do you boast in them? Weaknesses and hardships are not typically something people boast about, but they can be. You wouldn’t naturally think that your weakness is an asset, that your trial is a gift or that your problem can actually make you more effective in life, but it’s true. The Apostle Paul once had a “thorn in the flesh,” some weakness that was harassing him, but he learned how to boast in it and be content with it, and you can too.
The problem of weakness
One of the problems of weakness is that it often challenges your perspective on life. For example, here’s a Christian Olympic runner who fractures his ankle days before the big race. This weakness is going to keep him from winning the race, but it doesn’t have to keep him from ministering to others who’ve had similar experiences. It doesn’t have to keep him from telling people how a relationship with God is better than winning the gold. Once you recognize that life is ultimately about helping others to the glory of God then you can say, “Alright, this may keep me from meeting my immediate goals, but it doesn’t have to keep me from meeting my ultimate goals.” Paul says that God “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT). In other words, the only way to view your weakness as an asset is to recognize that God wants to use it to more effectively help others in life. Only a right perspective on your life will enable you to have a right perspective on your weakness.
Now of course it’s not wrong to pursue excellence in life and capitalize on your God-given strengths. The question is how do you view the low times and unexpected hardships? Are they just distractions to you personally getting ahead? Or can they be used by God to serve others? Paul prayed for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed, but it wasn’t because he recognized that God was using it to humble him. He understood that is was pride not the particular problem that would ultimately hinder his ministry to others. The thorn of pride was worse than the “thorn in the flesh.” Satan sent the thorn to abuse Paul, but God designed the thorn to use Paul. God used it to humble him because it’s the humble and dependent person to whom God gives the promise of his strength.
The promise of strength
Often God helps people in a way they wouldn’t expect. God didn’t help Paul by subtracting the problem; he helped Paul by adding his grace. He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT). Christianity offers something far better than looking to yourself for strength; it offers you to look to Christ and receive his strength. But how exactly does his strength and power work in your weakness?
David wrote, “As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.” (Psalm 138:3 NLT). Again, God didn’t remove the problem; he added his enduring power. You see the same thing in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed for the cup to be removed, but it wasn’t removed. Instead you read, “Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43 NLT). The grace that was given was sustaining grace, enduring power to make it through. And notice this grace is a present grace; Jesus didn’t say, “My grace was all you need, or will be all you need.” Jesus promises that it is sufficient. God is a present help in time of need. It’s also very personal. He says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God knows who you are, where you are, what you’re going through and what you particularly need. Finally, it’s perfect grace. “My power works best in weakness.” This is ministry power to effectively help others.
Take Chuck Colson and his Prison Fellowship Ministry for an example. God turned Colson’s greatest defeat and weakest moment in being sent to prison for his part in the Watergate scandal into a ministry opportunity that has reached thousands of inmates for Jesus. Or what about Nick Vujicic, the Australian evangelist and author, who was born without any arms and legs? God’s power has worked through his weakness to save and motivate people all throughout the world. Think about the cross. Christ accomplished his most powerful work when he was at his weakest. Through the weakness of the cross, God powerfully blessed the world and wants to bless others through your weakness as well. Your greatest weakness is God’s greatest weapon for ministry to others. You may want to hide it, but God wants to use it. This is why you can boast in your weaknesses because God perfectly displays his power on the backdrop of human weakness. Whatever that may be, bring it to Jesus and receive his all-sufficient grace, for his power is made perfect in weakness.
Jeremy McKeen is the lead pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in communications and philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.