2 Corinthians 12:9-10. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Who doesn’t want to tap into the power of God? Isn’t this what we’re all looking for? We sing about it, and pray for it, and seek demonstrations of it. Paul says that he will boast in his weakness so that he can experience the power of Christ. From this we can assume that if Paul’s thorn in the flesh had been removed, he would have missed out on this power.
But what is the power of God?
First we must, like Paul, connect God’s power to weakness. There is a power in power, a power in strength. And I wonder how often are we asking God for this kind of natural power, rather than the spiritual power that comes by weakness? The power we often seek is the power of the flesh. It is not the power of the cross. It is human power, not God’s power. We desire the power of the exalted Christ, not the power of the crucified Christ. We falsely believe that the power of God comes in overcoming our difficulties, our trials, our sufferings, our thorns. Not in accepting the thorns and trusting God in a weakness that may never be overcome until the next life. We tend to be theologians of glory rather than theologians of the cross. We go looking for the power of the next life today. We want Heaven now. But what if God wants you, in this life, to be closer to weakness, and more aware of your own sin, so that you stay closer to his grace?
So we must also connect God’s power to grace. In the structure of verse 9, Paul places grace and power side by side as near synonyms. God’s power comes by his grace. There is no power without weakness because God’s power comes by his grace. Without weakness we will always resist the grace of God. But receiving grace allows God’s power to operate in our lives.
To answer the question of “what is God’s power” we must turn now to the most powerful force in the universe: God’s love. God’s power is his love.
Ephesians 3:14-19. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul’s prayer is for an infusion of power that comes from being rooted and grounded in love.
Immediately we might ask, “If love is power, then why didn’t God remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh? Wouldn’t that have been the loving thing to do?”
The answer is that yes, ultimately, removing all of our thorns, all of our curses, all of our sorrow will be the loving thing to do. And God’s power will do it. But for now, today, the permanence of the thorn is more loving. Why? Because it will make Paul more loving, for without it, he would be conceited. Uncaring. Self-serving. With it, however, he will continue to grow in love. Love embraces the weakness, and weakness purifies the love.
“To live is Christ” is the power of love. A true, pure, unconditional love that has been born within us. This love alone has the power to change the world. A love that gives and gives and forgives and forgives. A love that moves towards and never away. A love that seeks what is best for the other, even at one’s own expense, or one’s own weakness if you will. This is the love that powerfully defeated sin, death, and hell on a Sunday morning 2000 years ago. It is the love that will powerfully resurrect your heart every day that you allow your weakness to receive the grace of God, freeing you to move forward powerfully in love towards others.
How would you define God’s power? Is it connected to the weakness of the cross? How do weakness, grace, and love work together to bring God’s power of love into our lives? How does our union with Christ produce this powerful love in our lives?