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3. The Witness of Weakness: 2 Corinthians

Our unrealized dreams; our struggle with mental health; our persistent battle with temptation; our lack of resources or influence: in Christ, our lack is gain.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

-2 Corinthians 4:7

What credentials do you use to assess someone’s authority? Strength? Influence? Success? The credentials of the Apostle Paul apparently fell short within the value system of the church of Corinth. In his first letter, Paul had confronted and counseled the Corinthian church in several problem areas. The Corinthians, however, responded with skepticism.

Paul is poor, unimpressive, and seems to be the victim of much suffering and persecution. Why should they trust his teaching and authority when his life seems to exude weakness? The Corinthians begin to shift their loyalty to several other wealthy, showy, and talented speakers that have infiltrated their church community.

With his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul confronts the church’s distorted value system. The Corinthians value status, power and prosperity as markers of sufficiency. But according to Paul, Christ has turned the world’s values upside-down! It was through lowering himself in humility that Jesus was exalted as king of the world. When the Corinthians disapprove of Paul’s suffering, they are disapproving of Jesus’ life!

Jesus voluntarily gave up his power and status and sacrificed himself to die a humiliating death he didn’t deserve. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “Though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” God’s love and power were made known through the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, and Christians are called to follow in Christ’s footsteps.

Paul calls out the Corinthians’ new leaders for neglecting to follow in the path of Christ by drawing attention to their competency rather than to God. Christians don’t need to act or look impressive. In fact, Paul says, displaying one’s insufficiency and weakness actually puts more of God’s strength on display! “But we have this treasure in jars of clay,” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

God’s power is magnified in our weakness. Therefore, Paul can say in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

The message of 2 Corinthians changes the way we view our deficiencies:

Our unrealized dreams;

Our struggle with mental health;

Our persistent battle with temptation;

Our lack of resources or influence;

In Christ, our lack is gain.

Our suffering becomes an opportunity to draw nearer to Christ and deepen our connection with him. Our weakness becomes an avenue to depend on God and find ourselves equipped with supernatural power. Our time in the trenches becomes the very experience that prepares us to comfort and encourage others. And our emptiness becomes the vessel that is now enlarged to receive more of God and his joy.

The Corinthians mistakenly believed strength qualified one to be a good Christian leader. But the Gospel declares that weakness is the best witness. When others see our joy and peace in the midst of our ordeals, they will be pointed to Christ and his strength!

RESPOND: Take a moment to ask God for his strength to shine out in your weakness today.

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