"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." II Corinthians 12:9
In reflecting on the above Scripture this morning, I saw something in a way that I hadn't before. Isn't it interesting how you can read a Scripture over and over again and God can continually bring new revelations to you on its meaning? His word is clearly a living word.
There are times (more often than not) when I am crying out for the power of God to be manifest in my life. I don't want to just write on this blog, pray, talk to others, witness about Jesus, or do anything that is simply my words or man's wisdom. I want my life to be given over to be a manifestation of the power of God, so that people do not see me, but Jesus can be seen. Needless to say, that is not always a goal I achieve, yet and still I reach for it.
God says that the faith of man can only stand in the power of God.
"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." I Corinthians 2:4-5
If anyone is to come to true faith in Jesus Christ, it must come through a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I am not speaking just of opening blind eyes, although tangible miracles and signs are certainly demonstrations of His power. Yet even the softest word uttered can knock a person to their knees if coming from the heart of God. I am saying that in whatever we do, the power of God must be present if it is to have any value or impact in this life.
So as I meditated on II Corinthians 12:9 this morning, something clicked for me. For my strength is made perfect in weakness. The word for "strength" here is also translated as the word "power" in other places of the New Testament. In fact, it is the same word seen in I Corinthians 2:4-5 quoted above. "Dynamis"- the strength, power and ability of God. The "power" of God is perfected in weakness.
Then I began to think about everything I do to combat my own weakness. I personally do not like feeling weak. I don't want to feel as if I have no energy, as if the wind has been knocked out of me. After all, I have too much to do, right? When I start feeling this way, instead of finding my strength in the Lord, my first thoughts are to try to energize myself.
Please hear me. I am not saying we shouldn't take care of ourselves. Our bodies are the temple of the Lord and He has given us charge to keep them as best we can. What I am saying is that I recognize that there is something in me that instinctively fights against what I have been seeking from God.
If God's power is perfected in weakness, and I fight against feeling weak, then I am delaying the breakthrough I seek. The word for "weakness" in this text is astheneia which means: want of strength, weakness, infirmity; of the body as it relates to frailty; of the souls as pertaining to to bear trials and troubles.
The context of this Scripture is Paul seeking God for deliverance from some "thorn in the flesh" which was plaguing him. And that was God's answer to Him. As a result, Paul says:
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." II Corinthians 12:10
He takes pleasure in infirmities? In reproaches? In necessities? In persecutions? In distresses???
Sometimes, life can seem so overwhelming. I sometimes look at all that needs to be done and feel exhausted; the obligations of the job, the demands of family and children, the needs of the physical body, etc.
I have continued to question God, "How am I supposed to do all of these things you have placed before me? If you are telling me that these things need to be done, then you must make a way for me to do them. But how? Lord, I am tired...bone weary tired. I am weak. I have no energy. I am beat down. My mind cannot seem to focus on the areas I need to be thinking about. How do I get up in the morning to take care of my job's responsibilities? How do I find the mind to even focus on these things? Help me find the energy Lord, help me find the time. Please Jesus help me find a way."
So, I go about trying to "get more rest", "get something to eat", "take some vitamins," etc. Yet nothing works. I still remain tired. I haven't realized that I have been turning to the things of this life to strengthen me when the rest and refreshing I seek is in Him. His power is perfected in weakness.
Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. There is a fuel for the spirit that can only be met by feeding on the word of God. I need to build up my spirit regardless of how I feel physically. In fact, in doing so, my physical body will also be built up.
Fasting is a perfect example of this spiritual truth. This principle is depicted in Daniel Chapter 1 when King Nebuchadnezzar had gathered certain children of Israel.
"And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." Daniel 1:3-17
The children were to be nourished for three years on portions of the king's meat and wine. Yet Daniel and those with him determined that they would not defile themselves. Do meat and wine defile? No. For we know that nothing from outside of a man defiles him (Mark 7:15). It had to do with partaking of that which is pleasurable. Instead of seeking pleasure for the flesh, they placed their efforts on building up their spirits before the Lord. As a result, their bodies were healthier than even those who fed on meat & wine; and God gave them knowledge, skill, and learning.
Daniel took this same approach when seeking God in Daniel Chapter 10 when he received an end time vision "I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth..." (verse3).
His power is perfected in weakness.
There used to be a time in fasting where I would feel weak for about the first week, but after that there was an incredible surge of strength where I had more energy than ever before (even when not fasting). I did not feel weak at all and didn't even need as much rest as usual. My health would also blossom.
But lately, that plateau seems to elude me. No matter how long I fast, it feels like a sledgehammer is beating me down. I feel weaker than I ever felt before. It made me begin to think that something was wrong physically and I began to seek a physical answer. However, it is times such as these when I need to turn even more to seeking the things of God.
In man's mind, being weak is something detestable. It is seen as a short-coming. Yet, with God, His ways are higher than ours. It is only when our flesh is weak that our spirit can receive from God's Spirit. The desires of the flesh can drown out the voice of God because it is fed by our carnal senses: what we see, touch, hear, taste, and smell. The amount of input into the flesh can give the appearance of being strong because it is a sensory overload. However, our true strength is found in the quiet moments before the Lord.
It is not that I didn't recognize these principles, but I didn't realize how much I was fighting against my own progression, even in small ways. I am learning once more to rejoice in my infirmities, in the hopes that they will compel me more into His presence for refreshing.
The spiritual war we face is heating up as we approach coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, so we must find our strength in Him. Let's not despise our weakness, but understand that our weakness is the very reason we need Him. As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) There we will also find peace of mind, strength, and the power of God.
May His power be perfected in your weakness.