What Paul did while weak

When you’re weak, then are you strong like Paul was?

To authenticate his ministry, Paul laid out his credentials in a letter to the Corinthians. In doing so, he reported an event that had happened 14 years earlier, when he was being harassed by a messenger (angel) of Satan. He had asked the Lord three times to get rid of it for him.

In II Cor. 12 (Kenneth S. Wuest Expanded New Testament) Paul writes:

“He said, My grace is enough for you, for power is moment by moment coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness. Therefore, most gladly will I the rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of the Christ [like the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies of the Tent of Meeting] may take up its residence in me [working within me and giving me help].

“Wherefore I am well content in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, and in circumstances under which I am subject to extreme pressure on behalf of Christ, for when I am weak, than I am filled with ability and power.”

He had been asking God to do something God had enabled him to do for himself.

Was Paul weak? He said that he was, in his own strength. Yet in this weak condition, he was able to do “miracles of a startling, imposing, amazement-wakening character, and miracles that demonstrate God’s power.” (II Cor. 12:12, Wuest)

Phil. 4:13 (Amplified): “I (Paul) have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].”

Rom. 15:19: “… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (NIV)

Paul said he had preached the word fully, and the Lord confirmed the word preached by miracles, just as He had done for the disciples.

Mark 16:20: “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (NIV)

Here is some of what Paul and Christ’s sufficient grace accomplished, in his weak condition:

Acts 13:11 – caused the sorcerer to go blind
Acts 14:3 – miraculous signs and wonders – the Lord confirmed message by miracles
Acts 14:9-10 – healed the man lame from birth
Acts 14:19-20 – he himself was raised from the dead (presumably) after being stoned
Acts 15:12 – miracles, signs and wonders
Acts 16:19 – cast demon out of slave girl
Acts 19:11-12 – extraordinary miracles, healing by handkerchiefs and aprons, evil spirits cast out
Acts 20:9-12 – raised young man from the dead
Acts 28:8-9 – on Malta, father of Publius healed, then all the rest of the sick on the island healed
Romans 15:19 – signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit
Saw many, many people come to faith in Christ.

All this, while being opposed by many kinds of trouble:

II Cor. 11:23-29:
Worked much harder than anyone else
In prison more frequently
Flogged more severely
40 lashes minus 1, five times received from the Jews
Beaten with rods three times
Stoned once
Shipwrecked three times, a night and a day in the open sea
Danger from rivers
Danger from bandits
Danger from his own countrymen
Danger from Gentiles
Danger in the city, country and sea
Danger from false brethren
Labored and toiled without sleep
Hungry and thirsty, often without food
Cold and naked
Concern for the churches daily
Temptation to sin

Paul believed – and obeyed – what Jesus had said:

John 14:11-12: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Remember Mark 16:20? “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (NIV)

The Lord can’t confirm what isn’t being preached.

Thorns, grace, power tools

In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul asked God to remove a “thorn in the flesh” three times. He called it a “messenger of Satan,” given to him because of the revelations he’d received. Given to him by whom? For what?

Messenger = angelos, translated angel in all but three places in the New Testament, and those are all in the gospels quoting an Old Testament verse that applied to John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus.

Every other place angelos refers to an angel. Like Gabriel. Like the angel that delivered Peter from prison. Like the angels in the book of Revelation.

In the Old Testament thorns in the flesh were always pagan people that vexed God’s people. See Numbers 33:55 and Judges 2:3. Never does that word describe anything other than a person or personality. Angel of Satan. Demon-possessed person or demon itself.

Why does an evil personality harass a believer? In John 10:10 Jesus tells us. To steal, kill and destroy. This satanic angel came to steal Paul’s attention, sidetrack his ministry or undermine his influence with the community. Preventing his ego from being inflated, yes, but interfering with his confidence in Christ too.

Read Acts 16:16-19 about the woman at Philippi who had a spirit of divination. Following Paul around, she said the right things but she had a wrong spirit. Paul tolerated it for some days, then finally cast it out.

So, did the “thorn,” the evil personality succeed? No, he didn’t. Paul performed many signs, wonders and miracles – KJV says mighty deeds (dunamis). (See verse 12.)

Notice God’s response to Paul, a simple statement: My grace is sufficient for you. He didn’t say no, he said you already have the tools you need to get rid of that thing.

Grace = charis, gift, favor, gratuity; something Paul already had. Spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit’s tool kit. God’s power tools. Were they enough for the job? Certainly. More than sufficient for Paul to complete his mission.

Jesus had told him, My strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul said he would rather glory in his own weakness, then, so the power (dunamis) of Christ could rest on him. And it did indeed. His testimony in Chapter 11 is proof of that, all by itself.

Here’s the point: If a man could perform signs, wonders and miracles in his own strength, then he could get the glory for them.

But if he could perform signs, wonders and miracles despite his weakness, then God would get the glory for them. It’s not complicated.

Warn: Urge: Encourage:

Last night as I was thinking and praying about the condition of our country, I wondered how long the Lord would be patient with the United States. I didn’t really ask it in the form of a question, but the Lord answered it anyway.

“I warn, but I don’t force. I urge, but I don’t force. I encourage, but I don’t force.” Then he left it to me to contemplate those few words.

At first I thought he meant his dealings with one person, in one situation. Maybe at first he warned, later he urged, still later he encouraged. In that order — or perhaps reverse order?

Or did he mean any believer, any situation? For example, when there was danger, he warned, like a mother warning a toddler not to touch a hot stove. When a believer needed to perform some task in a timely fashion, he urged — “Don’t hesitate, go now, do it now.”

Or when a believer needed decisiveness, boldness or strength to do something, he encouraged. “Yes, you can. You are able. I enable you.”

How does that relate to the state of our nation?

I think he means that we must recognize and respond to God’s warnings, urgings, and encouragements.

I believe we are being warned. He is saying, “If you don’t perform your assignment, your nation won’t survive.” Not as a Republic, certainly. So, continue to pray and ask him to do what only he can do.

But then, listen for instructions. Do what he tells us to do, what he says we can do, and do it now. Quit making excuses. Stop saying we’re too few, too inexperienced to make a difference. Stand up. Speak out.

He said he doesn’t force, but he does let seeds of sin and disobedience produce their inevitable harvest, unless there is timely intervention.

God in Psalm 91

Psalm 91:1-2 (KJV) “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High elyown (el-yone’) – an elevation, lofty, the Supreme; from alah (aw-law’), to be high, ascend

shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty shadday (shad-dah’-ee) – from shadad, to be powerful, destroy, oppress, lay waste.

I will say of the Lord, yehovah (yeh-ho-vaw’) – self-existent, eternal

He is my refuge and my fortress: my God elohiym (el-o-heem’) – (plural) gods; supreme gods; from eloahh (singular), a diety; from el, strength, might; almighty;

in him will I trust.”

Imagine a majestic bird of prey, a raptor such as an eagle or hawk high among the mountain crags, powerful ruler of all it surveys. Destroyer of anything unwelcome that enters his domain, yet carefully sheltering and protecting its young — you!

Read this Psalm with that image in mind…

(1) Most High = elyown (el-yone’) – an elevation, lofty, the Supreme; from alah (aw-law’), to be high, ascend.

(2) Almighty = shadday (shad-dah’-ee) – from shadad, to be powerful, destroy, oppress, lay waste.

(3) Lord = yehovah (yeh-ho-vaw’) – self-existent, eternal; Hebrew national name for God, not pronounced; elohiym used instead.

(4) God = elohiym (el-o-heem’) – (plural) gods; supreme gods; from eloahh (singular), a diety; from el, strength, might; almighty.