Paul prayed and asked for the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Three times he prayed, and three times the Lord said no (2 Cor. 12:7-8). Paul’s ministry had grown. He had seen much fruit from his journeys, and the Lord had given him visions and revelations. There are many things that Paul could have boasted in, but it was his affliction he embraced. He knew it was the secret to true reliance upon God.
We can learn from Paul how to fully rely on the Lord during times of affliction and trial. Paul kept an eternal perspective. He said, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul knew that in Christ, we have access to a constant impartation of His life and power. His influence enables our minds, emotions, and wills to be conformed to His likeness. This is why He was able to look beyond suffering to a greater work that was being formed in him, day by day.
Paul also learned to boast in his weaknesses. To acknowledge weakness is to acknowledge we need help. Only when we look to the Lord and seek His help will His power be revealed in us. It’s hard to admit our need for God in a culture that despises weakness and glorifies independence. Yet Paul would say true strength comes from acknowledging our weakness and admitting our need.
In fact, Paul takes it even farther by saying we should delight in our weakness. Why should I delight in the affliction that reveals my weaknesses? Because it brings me to my knees. It keeps me on my knees. It reminds me I can do nothing without Christ. When I remember that I am weak, I look to the One who is strong. Paul knew that to rely on his own strength, he could not expect to be filled with power from on high, but if he gave God the glory by admitting his need, he would find Christ’s all sufficient grace and in-dwelling presence at work in him.
What are some things that keep you from fully relying on God?