I Don’t Feel Strong
This is not about a weakness that comes because of the fall or our own sin. That kind of weakness we deserve. Instead, we are looking at just the normal feelings that a Christian should have on an everyday basis, on an hourly basis. The problem we have today is that what is preached is not the power or the strength of God. We will see today that God’s power is only made perfect in weakness. Therefore, the more a Christian feels weak, the more he has the power of God with him. What is considered the strength of God today is really the hype, entertainment, or the spirit that comes from man. Everybody who doesn’t have a sense of being strong in the Lord or having a lot of faith immediately begins to think that something is wrong with him or her. In 2 Corinthians 11:29 Paul made a statement.
2 Corinthians 11:29-Who is weak, and I am not weak…
We will come back to this passage in a moment, but it is where we will focus today. We are talking about feeling weak in the Lord and somehow that produces strength and boldness that comes from God. Again, I have to repeat, we are not talking about a weakness that comes as a result of your sin or an act of folly. We are just talking about the kind of things you will feel and what kind of weakness you will have in your normal walk of following the Holy Spirit. Let’s go to Psalm 101:1, because this is really the Psalm that surrounds everything we will look at. We have to contrast this with the lies that are really being preached and lived out in most churches. You know, there are those Christians who are always put together. They always feel strong. They are always saying “Hallelujah.” They are always praising God. They are always keeping themselves psyched up, strong, powerful and bold. You really don’t hear them saying with Paul, “I came to you in weakness and fear and trembling as I preached the Gospel to you.” They wouldn’t know the power that comes from weakness.
Psalm 101:1- I will sing of your love and justice. To you, O Lord, I will sing praise.
This is about a man who lived a holy life, and his weakness was not a result of some simple folly that he was in.
Psalm 101:2- I will be careful to lead a blameless life.
So, he looked at his life and with resolve in his heart he said, “I will be careful to lead a blameless life.”
Now, listen to what he said in the middle of this whole Psalm: “When will you come to me?” We will read the whole Psalm in a moment so keep that phrase in mind “When will you come to me?” He felt weak. He felt like he didn’t have enough of the Lord. He felt despondent in a sense a little empty. He didn’t feel all put together. Let’s read the whole thing,
Psalm 101- I will be careful to lead a blameless life when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.
There was no confession of sin here, was there? If anything, he felt powerful. He felt strong enough to say, “I have resolved to live this way.” He took a vow before God, didn’t he? So, he was not in a position that we would normally call weakness. Yet, did he not feel weak? What did he say in verse 2, again? “When will you come to me?” He felt like there was a portion of the Lord that he didn’t have. There was something missing. He didn’t have all of the Lord that he wanted or desired. So, in the middle of our boldness and action, in the middle of living a righteous life, we also will say, “When will You come to me,” because weakness is the natural condition of anyone who follows Jesus Christ. The times we need to be very, very, careful are when we feel strong in the Lord. When we feel bold, we are open to all kinds of temptations and troubles. God has a lot of reasons why He leaves His people feeling a sense of weakness. “When will you come to me?” Yet, look at how He resolves, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing men of perverse heart shall be far from me. My eyes will be on the face of the Lamb. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house. Look at the purity with which I live.” This man was not in sin, and yet he felt like he was missing some aspect of the Lord.
What happens in the church today? First of all, you can’t get people to even try to live this, but let’s say they are moving in that direction. Inevitably they end up wanting some spiritual gift that comes from God. They want some entertainment from the church. They want someone who will make them feel strong. People do not like to feel weak. They do not like to feel dependent upon God. What happens especially with young Christians as God begins to work this in them is somebody comes along and says, “Well, you just need to have faith! You just need to ignore those weak feelings. They just come from the evil one. You just need to claim the power of God. You just need to walk in His boldness.” They put on a smile and they begin to entertain people to motivate them. They immediately get rid of the weakness, correct? Now, they are bold and powerful. Now, they feel strong. Yet they don’t have the Lord because God’s power is made perfect in weakness. The weaker that I feel, the stronger I will become. So, what is being removed from people is the power of God. We need to become indignant. “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house.” Take your rejoicing, your entertainment, all that kind of self-power and self-motivation, and get rid of it! “When will you come to me, O Lord?” Think about that. He walked about daily saying, “God, where are You? I can’t seem to get enough of You. I can’t seem to find You where I want You to be! I look for You in my heart. I look for You out in the world. I look for You everywhere, O Lord. When will You come to me so we can fellowship? When will we have time together? When will I have everything from You, O Lord, and when will You be mine?”
Learn to embrace weakness as your friend. Learn to find it to be the treasure that is hidden in Jesus Christ. Then, you will be strong in Him.
2 Corinthians 13:2-I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others.
This sounds like Psalm 101 to me, when he said, “I will not spare you… No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house.”
2 Corinthians 13:3-4-since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power.
Now listen to this!
2 Corinthians 13:4-Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.
Look at the boldness with which he spoke! “I will not spare anybody. Since you are demanding proof that God is speaking through me, I’ll come powerfully among you. I will be there powerfully, to deal with the sin in the body.” Paul said, “Jesus Christ was crucified in weakness. All that weakness is real, and, we are weak in Him. We don’t feel powerful in Him. We don’t feel all put together in Him, but when I’m among you God’s power will work in me.” He just learned that weakness is where God’s power dwells. When he didn’t have all the words; when he knew that his words didn’t mean anything; when he didn’t understand the proper course; when he was perplexed and confused; when didn’t know what God’s will was; when he doesn’t have enough of the Lord, that is when he is powerful! What kind of condition does he feel like he is in? He feels like he is weak! So, when a Christian says, “I feel weak in the Lord,” GREAT!!! FANTASTIC!!! That is where you need to stay. That is what you need to learn to embrace and love. Look at this again:
2 Corinthians 13:4-For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power.
Jesus Christ lived feeling weak and dependent, and in this world we, too, will feel weak and dependent. It is a lie for someone to believe they will always feel strong. It is us being tired of our flesh being weak and being dependent, not knowing the proper course, not understanding exactly what we should do, that causes people to leave Jesus Christ. To embrace Jesus Christ, to see Him crucified, to love him, means you will become weaker and weaker and weaker. There are many times I will just lay in bed and say, “Lord, I have no clue. I cannot hold this together. I cannot do it.” It is a miserable place to be, but it is a grand place to be. We have to learn to have both sides in our hearts. But no, we want to feel put together. We want to lay there in peace knowing God is with us. We want to have enough of the Lord that we can sleep in peace. We don’t like the sense of feeling weak and dependent. Yet, that is precisely where the power rests. This is where the true power comes from, as Paul is saying, “We are weak in him, but by God’s power, we will live to serve you.”
By “serving you” we will come in among you and will not spare anybody who sinned earlier. So much of what is called boldness is not boldness, because it does not spring from weakness. Again, I want to say, you have to get used to feeling weak. You should be growing in understanding the wisdom, the power, and the glory of it. You should know it well and be familiar with it. You should be able to tell other people about it. I can’t tell you the number of people who come to the Lord and say, “I feel so weak. I feel like I can’t do anything right. I feel like I can’t put it all together.” And, we will say, “Great, that is exactly where you need to be and to grow in it.”
Most people get tired of it and leave the Lord. 2 Corinthians, 4:10 says “We always…” You had better get used to it. How often is “always”? Every minute of every hour of every single day. We always carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus! We feel the death of Jesus Christ in our lives! Jesus Christ was crucified in weakness, wasn’t He? He felt weaker and weaker as He hung up there on the cross and was crucified. It was beyond His ability to endure. In the same way, he said we always carry his death around. There are very, very few times that I just feel bold and courageous and have it all put together. If I do, if God has seen fit to give me that kind of boldness and courage, guess what’s down the road the following week? A little more weakness, and a little more humility. We always carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies. You can’t have one without the other! Everybody wants the life of Jesus Christ, but not the death of Jesus Christ. Of course everybody wants the boldness. Everybody wants some victory. They want to say that everything is fine, and they have fellowship with God. They don’t want to say what is in Psalm 101: “When will you come to me? Where are you? How come I feel weak?”
So, let us become comfortable with the fact that we will always carry around the death of Jesus Christ in our lives. You will always feel weak. You will always feel incomplete. You will never ever have enough of God. You will never have all the answers. You will never have all of the feelings you want to feel. You will never have all of the joy that you want to have in Jesus Christ! Now, there is a joy, and a life. He went on to say, “…so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our bodies also.” It’s only in Jesus that you can have this total contradiction that exists and yet still be alive. How can a man feel totally weak and inept, perplexed, confused, and yet speak with boldness? How can somebody have joy that comes from heaven and at the same time have the pain that comes from being crucified with Jesus Christ? I won’t be able to explain to you how it works, but I will tell you it is true. How can I not be anxious about anything, and yet work out my salvation with fear and trembling? The minute you begin to move with this kind of weakness, then you have the strength. In a real basic sense, I constantly feeling weak and therefore I constantly say, “Give me You. Give me Your power and Your strength. I’m dependent on You.” It’s really pretty simple and basic.
When a flower is planted it is always dependent upon the sun and the soil, isn’t it? There isn’t any time the flower can say, “Well, I’m tired of the pot and I’m tired of this situation. I’m moving over here to produce flowers.” It never does that! The more the flower is dependent upon the sun, the soil and the rain, the more flowers it produces. In some ways, it is really very basic. Yet, we don’t want that. We want a sense of being complete in Jesus Christ and having it all put together. The minute you have that, what are you doing? Cutting yourself off from the source of life. Do you want joy? Then, become weak. Do you want boldness? Then, become fearful.
2 Corinthians 4:7-But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
What a radical verse in this whole scheme of things. After attending most churches and most prayer meetings, where do you sense that they are getting their power and joy from? When people walk out, after listening to a sermon, where do you sense they really get their power and boldness from? The same way you get pumped up at a football game. The same spirit that moves through a stadium moves through the congregation. When you look at Paul’s life, he said we are like jars of clay that can be shattered in an instant. This kind of life that we live is so fragile that we would fall apart in a very quick instant if God would just remove His hand and look the other way, if He would just wink, we’d be gone. What we have is a treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. So, everything about Paul’s Christian life demonstrated that he was nothing, he felt weak, and he acknowledged that he was just a jar of clay. All of that demonstrated that his ability to carry on, to be pure, to be holy, and to be bold came not from some motivational seminar or preaching, but from God’s power resting on him.
2 Corinthians 4:8-We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
What did Paul talk about here? He went on to say, “I’m a jar of clay, and look at all of the pressure that is on this clay jar! Look at the demands of Christianity and look at how we hold together! We are hard-pressed on every side.” There was not one side of his life that he could say, “Well, I’ve got peace and I can rest in this area. I can hold it together. I can make it through this.” Next he said, “Perplexed, but not in despair.” He didn’t have all of the wisdom he needed. He didn’t seem to understand exactly what God’s course was. He had trouble discerning God’s voice. “What direction should I take here, God? What way should we go?” He was perplexed. He was in such a state that normally, under any other circumstance, any other human being would be in despair. They would just give up. “I’m sick and tired of trying to discern God’s will and what He wants me to do. I quit!” If you put most normal human beings under this kind of perplexity, they will quit. If you give a child a task and he is perplexed about how to complete that task, he will quit! He will just literally give up. God gives us things and puts things in our lives and we try to figure out what His will is. We are totally perplexed about what He wants us to do. Remember, all of this pressure is on Paul to the point that he was perplexed, but somehow God gave him peace in the midst of all that weakness.
2 Corinthians 4:9-Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Does this sound like a guy that has all of the joys like the Christians that walk with a smile through everything? Struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:10-11-We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
So, guess what! Not only should you get used to this, but God seeks to always put you in that situation. The only way you will have the life of Jesus Christ in you is to feel this weakness in all of its various forms, however God puts you through it.
2 Corinthian 4:11- For we who are alive are always being given over to death…
ALWAYS! Always dying to self… Always becoming weaker… Always learning to go lower… Always being a little more perplexed… But somehow God’s will is being done.
In every church I should be able to just ask a one sentence question; “Write down for me this whole business of feeling weak, and yet being powerful,” and people should be able to write volumes about it because this is something they have experienced. This is something you grow in everybody should be able to tell everybody else about it. Why doesn’t that happen? “For all who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work also.” Do you see what he is saying? Only as you die and only as you have this weakness will you gain life. If people will see the life of Jesus Christ, if they will see that we are jars of clay, that we can’t live this kind of life we’re talking about unless God gives us power, then they must see something different in us. Otherwise, they will think that something else holds you together. They will have to see something that is so far surpassing the world that they have to acknowledge the only way a person can live this life is because of Jesus Christ. It will have to get way past what everybody else experiences in their psychology classes and their group therapy classes that helps put their lives together.
2 Corinthians 4:12-13-So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
Do you understand this is true faith? This is what it means to be a Christian. This is what it means to say, “I have faith in Jesus Christ, I believe therefore, I have spoken. These things are true. It is real. It is alive and I tell you the truth.”
2 Corinthians 4:14-Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
Just a little side note: No more of this personal “Just me and Jesus,” is it? I’m put together without you. Notice again the contrast? He said, “raise us with Jesus and present us with You in His presence,” all together in fellowship.
2 Corinthians 4:15-16-All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
We are not talking about a nice little comfortable kind of weakness. We are not talking about, “Okay, fine. I’ll say that I’m dependent upon God.” Everybody says, “I know that I need God.” We are talking about a weakness that is so severe in its nature, that you are tempted to lose heart, quit and give up, and most people do. We are talking about God putting things in your life, and showing that you are a jar of clay. He is trying to crucify you. He always gives you over to death, and our temptation is to lose heart. “This is it! I’ve had it! I cannot take any more of this weakness. That’s all I feel constantly, 24 hours a day.” Now, this is normal. Again, I am not talking about when you commit sin. That is a whole different kind of weakness and a whole different kind of problem. He boldly goes in and does what He needs to do. This is just how God interacts with you on a normal day-to-day basis. So, what is a normal day-to-day basis feeling with Jesus Christ? Normal is hard. You want to lose heart! You want to give up! That is how He normally deals with us. A Christian will walk around with his head down saying, “I’m tired of this,” until he learns that if he boasts in his weakness, then he gets the life of Jesus Christ. If he embraces his weakness, and says, “I am a jar of clay. I am perplexed and hard-pressed!” and looks to Jesus Christ, he will gain the life of Jesus Christ. This will demonstrate that the way he lives his life is far beyond his power to endure. He cannot hold things together, but that weakness demonstrates and shows forth God’s power. Look at what he said: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…” Outwardly we are wasting away, getting weaker and older, showing more and more that not only are we jars of clay, but the clay is beginning to dry out and to break apart. What does this demonstrate to the whole world? That what we really have is more powerful than what they have. Yet why doesn’t the world leave church thinking, “They’ve got something so much different”?
2 Corinthians 4:16-Though, outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
This is true faith. This is true belief. This is faith that is realized, that is tasted, that is powerful.
2 Corinthians 4:16-Therefore, we do not lose heart.
Think about that for a moment. What does the heart do but sustain and give you life? If you lost your heart right this minute you would be dead. We are talking about a pressure, about living the Christian life so fully that you are tempted to quit. You are tempted to lose the heart that gives you life, and the faith that sustains you. “I’m tired of losing my life. I’m tired of not doing what I want to do. Everything about my flesh constantly screams. I need grace. I don’t feel the strength. I don’t feel the power that I need, and yet God demands that I reach out to other people. I lay down my life, and I can’t even do that right! I cannot even find the right words for that! I cannot even love them like I need to. I need to pray, and I can’t even pray right! I can’t even find the right words to pray, and I don’t even know how to walk. When I try this over here, it doesn’t work, and I don’t even know what His course is! I get rebuked every time I try to do something!” You want to lose heart. And, that is the normal Christian walk.
Now, if that is all you examine, you will die. It is through your weakness that you gain power. You have to rise up out of yourself and the self-pity that lingers. You honestly have to have faith and begin to let Him work. You have to die.
2 Corinthians 4:17- For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
He said we want to lose heart, but these are light and momentary troubles. This guy had the right perspective on what it meant to be weak, didn’t he? He had finally learned to say, “Oh, I want to lose heart. My heart says to me ‘This is enough.’ But, these are light and momentary troubles.”
2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:1- So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
He had faith, correct? He knew that if his body was destroyed he would be with Jesus Christ. He had rich, true faith. The hype we see out there is a lie. Now, he had all of this faith. He felt all of this in the Lord. He had balance, didn’t he?
2 Corinthians 5:2-Meanwhile we groan…
It makes me think of Psalm 101 again: O Lord, when will you come to me? When will I be complete in you? When will I have you? When will I be able to love you with the perfect heart that I strive for? Meanwhile, we groan. He felt weak and incomplete. He felt dependent, didn’t he? This is the normal walk, and it is o much so that you groan. Words cannot express it. It is just a groan, just a gut and heart-felt reaction.
2 Corinthians 5:2-Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed we will not be found naked.
He referred to the Garden of Eden. When we first sinned in the garden, what happened? They discovered they were naked, incomplete, needing something, needing God. Of course, they tried their own scheme of things by making themselves clothes out of fig leaves but it didn’t work. In the same way, He knows that we live in this body and in this tent, and we long for it be destroyed. In the meantime, while we walk on this earth right now, life is not all the hype and the hallelujahs that so many churches portray. We groan. We hurt. You won’t escape it or find a way out unless you believe a lie!
2 Corinthians 5:4- For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
The very nature of a Christian who thinks he doesn’t have it all put together produces in him a desire to cry out for God, “When will you come to me? When will we fellowship?” This is one reason, and one of a multitude of reasons, why God leaves us in this position of weakness. We wouldn’t cry out. Look at all the people that live a lie. They do not cry out. They do not hunger for righteousness. They do not resolve to live the kind of life they need to live. They don’t strive to live as Jesus Christ, do they? Because they don’t thirst. They don’t hurt. They have it all put together. But we who are in this body, who strive to live as Jesus Christ, who are burdened, want to overcome this body and be victorious for Him. We want Him! That fans into flame our love for Him and our dependence upon Him. Not only that, we gain life in Him and we get a little taste of it, and then we want more. We cannot ever get enough of it. And so, we resolve to do more and more. Therefore, we say, “I will live a blameless life. I will get rid of everybody who practices deceit. I groan and I cry for You, and it doesn’t stop. I don’t lose heart because what motivates me goes far beyond that temporal kind of peace that I get from the world.” You won’t escape the burden. You won’t get out of it. If you want out of that, then go somewhere else and enjoy life for a short time. We have groaned and are burdened. People will ask, “Why do you live the way you do? How do you find any joy in that? How do you carry the burden you carry?” I say, “I don’t want any other kind of burden. It is a burden, but it is a light burden. You have the heavy one.”
Again, we are looking at the life of Paul. We have looked at a lot of things he carried and how it produced weakness. How much of those do you taste? We won’t even be able to come up to the same table where Paul sits.
2 Corinthians 11:23-29-Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
And you talk about your burdens in reaching out to so-and-so, or delivering a prayer. You whine, “I’m perplexed, I don’t know what God really wants. Should I give this? Should I do that?” You talk about your confusion? That’s right. It really is a joke. We just don’t like to feel weak. We don’t like to feel dependent, and we miss the joy that we say that we want in Jesus Christ. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? Not only does he live all these things and has concern for the churches, he is also a normal man. Inwardly he wants to sin. He has all the same battles. “Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” I mean, most of us just live that and we think it is the heaviest burden we can carry in Jesus Christ. How did he handle all that? Did he just claim the victory in Jesus Christ, or sing a few more hallelujahs?
2 Corinthians 11:30-If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
He felt weak and that is the thing that he boasted of! And, he considered this to be light? When most of us feel weak, what do we want to do? We want to forget about it. We turn on the TV or go for a walk. Each of us has our own escape. But, we don’t feel that completeness in Jesus Christ. We don’t feel all happy. We go somewhere to get filled up. What did Paul do? He sat down squarely in front of it and said, “This is my weakness. I will boast about it. I will meditate on it. I will concentrate on it. I will talk about it and tell other people about it. I will write boastful letters so that all of heaven and earth can see it.” And, he called this life! “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” And, that is exactly what he proceeded to do.
2 Corinthians 11:31-32- The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
He boasted of his weakness. Normally when guys come into churches with their stories, they are pretty dramatic. I heard one guy tell about the time when he was somewhere up in Alaska and took a boat across the lake. He was persecuted and driven out. As he went across the lake, there was a big storm that came up. But a light came down and divided the fog so he could go through. The water was calm where he was. He went on and on. Everybody said, “Hallelujah, praise God.” Then, if Paul came in and said, “Well, you know, I was in this town and it was being guarded. I couldn’t get out, but God gave me deliverance.” And, they said, “Oh, how did he do that?” “I got in a basket and was lowered out a window.” Next person. Nobody is interested in that kind of story. What he boasted about was not overly miraculous. “Oh, I felt God’s presence, and I had a tongue. Oh, Praise God. It was such a deliverance!” He said, “If I will boast, I will talk about anything in Jesus Christ that shows my weaknesses. And guess what? I was in danger. I was being persecuted. The whole town was against me. I escaped by God’s powerful hand.” He went on, “How did I do that? I got in a basket, and they lowered me out a window, and I ran on. I didn’t slay the whole town in the Spirit. I didn’t take them captive. I didn’t heal everybody. I slipped out. I got away. I got to run!” That is what he boasted about.
2 Corinthians 12:1-2-I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained. I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know
Back to the weakness again. He still slips it in.
2 Corinthians 12:4-5- God knows. And I know that this man whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.
He could have come in with the story of being called up to the third heaven, couldn’t he? Instead he said, “I will not boast about it. If you want to talk about something, I’ll talk about my weaknesses because that shows God’s power.” The people who talk about being put together with all of the joy that they have, are really talking about themselves. It is not Jesus Christ that they love. It is themselves that they love. He went on to say:
2 Corinthians 12:6- But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
“I don’t even talk about those things.” Yet what do we find in a church today among Christians a contest to see who can tell the most spiritual stories! One guy tells his story, “Oh, I heard God in this, He spoke and delivered me, and see what was waiting at my doorstep. God did this over here.” And then the next person tells her story. It just escalates. The stories just keep getting bigger and bigger to the point that nobody knows the truth anymore.
2 Corinthians 12:6- I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
When was the last time you saw a church boast about the fact that they don’t have enough people to fill classrooms?
2 Corinthians 12:7- To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
When you consider all of the concerns and the burdens that Paul has that we have looked at so far, most of us would think that that’s enough. I mean, if I had all of those things happening in my life, I would really say, “Okay, God, I’m willing to learn a lesson from this. This is really complete.” But, no, God decided in all of His wisdom to say to Paul, “Guess what! I will send you a demon in your life.” A demon! What kind of ultimate rebuke can you send a Christian but a demon? I cannot think of anything more terrifying! I don’t know of anything to make me more dependent upon God, than to know a demon torments me! Now, if there is a demon that I know is tormenting me, what logically will I do but constantly keep my face toward God? Isn’t that what He sends forth? So what did Paul boast about but the things that God sent in his life that made him weaker and weaker? Paul would be rebuked today. Indeed, he is rebuked all the time because everybody wants to deny that this is even a reality or that it could even happen. “Oh Paul! Don’t you have anything else to say? Where is your joy? Where is your happiness? Where is your power? You’re just turning people away from God by telling other people that God sent a demon into your life. You won’t win people to Jesus Christ doing that kind of thing.”
2 Corinthians 12:8 -Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
“I claimed it. I insisted on it. It’s mine! I claimed the blood three times! I told the Lord, ‘take it from me.’”
2 Corinthians 12:9-But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
All of you will reach this kind of battle with the Lord. You will plead for him to remove things in your life, even just this whole issue of being weak. You will wrestle with it because it just does not come naturally to the flesh. If you go back this weekend and have it conquered, something is wrong, because there is a battle that will take place. We do not like this feeling. He went on to say:
2 Corinthians 12:9- Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
I will boast to you that I am perplexed. I don’t have a clue! I don’t have the answer. I will boast to you that I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know how to speak all the right words. I can’t seem to get it accomplished so that He might act and work. That is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weaknesses! Paul delights in them! This is what makes him happy. Do you want some joy in Jesus Christ, then get happy, get delighted about being weak. When was the last time you heard people rejoicing in THAT in the church? How many false guilt-trips people are being put on! “Oh, you just need to have some joy. You just need to be happy. We’ve got a revival going on in our church, and everyone has everything all put together. They’re all happy. They’re all excited!” Right? When was the last time you saw other Christians walking in with their heads down, “I can’t do anything right. Nothing is complete. I’m perplexed and confused. I don’t know what to do.” They whine and cry about it! When was the last time? Listen to Paul! “I’ve got a demon in my life. He won’t leave me alone!” The pastor stands up and says, “Great! You are exactly where you need to be. Now, rejoice in this and boast about it.” It is so foreign so foreign!
2 Corinthians 12:10-That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
He delighted in difficulties. “I want to do this in the Lord, but I can’t do it. I want to pray, but I can’t seem to find the words and I can’t get it out.” That was what he delighted in. He was a jar of clay. He couldn’t live this life. He couldn’t even begin to contemplate it or understand God’s way. He was perplexed and wanted to lose heart. He boasted of those things, he didn’t deny them, or say they didn’t exist. He didn’t call them sin or give some type of excuse for them. He didn’t go on to something else that would fill him up and make him feel good. He embraced them, looked at Jesus Christ, and then gained power and joy. But he always had the death so that he might always have the life.
Do you want the life of Jesus Christ? Then, always carry the death. There is no other way. The problem is, people just reject the cross. What we are really talking about here is a daily, hourly, desire to die to one’s self.
John 12:20- Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Now, what did Jesus say? “Bring them on in! Sure! Where do you want to meet?” You just have to admire Jesus’ response. He didn’t respond to their questions, ever! He had one thing in mind, and He went in that direction. The disciples came to Jesus Christ asking, “Hey, will you come talk to these guys who want to meet with you?” And, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What does that have to do with anything? Just look at this guy! He’s a loony! He can’t even follow a conversation. So, you go into the prayer closet and you ask God things and He gives you this response? You will probably think, “What are you talking about!? I’m perplexed. Who is this guy and what is he doing?” We see our human weakness in this story. He answered their question. They wanted to see Jesus, didn’t they? So, He told them, “Okay, if you really want to see me, this is how you do it. You don’t see me by walking into a room and sitting down.” He really did answer their question, though it had to throw everybody for a loop. The hour has come for Son of Man to be glorified. You will see Him, all right!
John 12:24- I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.
Do you want to see Jesus Christ? Do you want the joy and the power? I know a lot of you just keep following, some of your own accord, some of the Lord’s, some because we put you down a little bit. You will fall to the ground, but you won’t die. So you will never taste this joy, you will only hear about it in sermons. It is not yours. You have to get it through Jesus Christ. You have to want it. You have to die. You have to just fall to the ground. It remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds. Again, think about how perplexed they must have been. They didn’t ask Jesus about a gardening experience. They want to talk to him. They want to see him. So, when people come to us and ask, “I want to see God. I want to understand God,” how do you respond to them? I know you laid it out for them completely so they could understand it. When was the last time you were bizarre? “Well, you know, I had this garden once. You plant a seed and it had to die before it produced other things,” and they look at you like, “What are you talking about?”
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” We are back again to hating our own lives, aren’t we? A man has to hate his own life, go through all of the pain and weakness of the crucifixion, in order to fall in love with Jesus Christ. You have to hate it! You have to hate when you sleep, when you eat, and when you go places. You have to hate your peace and your comfort. You have to hate everything about your life to go through all of this and find Jesus Christ.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.