• Stephen Percy

Don't mind the thorns

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. | 2 Corinthians 12:9


There are times as a parent when, despite your child’s umpteenth request, you stick with ‘no’ as your response. At an age-appropriate time, this is often about teaching them resilience or developing their skills in some way, by supporting them through something which may be challenging to them, rather than simply doing it for them. It would be easy to comfort ourselves with the notion that this is what God is doing when we face difficulties which he could end in a moment but chooses not to, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story.


If you’re anything like me, when you find yourself with a thorn in the flesh, just like the Apostle Paul, you pray for its removal, as if the removal of the thorn (whatever it may be) is the means by which God’s power is shown. But that wasn’t Paul’s reflection.


Paul’s considered thoughts on this matter were that Christ’s power worked through him despite the non-removal of the thorn. In other words, even though things were not as Paul desired, Christ was working powerfully in him and through him.


What’s going on there? Well, we can’t say for sure (God’s ways being beyond our fathoming, and all that), but maybe God knew that the ‘thorn’ kept Paul mindful of his own limitations and finitude. Maybe it served as a means of keeping Paul humble and preventing him from boasting in what he had done, rather than what God had done through him. We don’t know for sure. But we do know that in the incomplete and imperfect, in the unresolved and the uncertain, Christ’s power was at work.


Christ’s power was at work to hold on to Paul where human logic may lead to the conclusion that quitting was the easy option.


Christ’s power was at work to sustain and preserve Paul through all of the trials and assaults which accompany following Jesus.


Christ’s power – in the Gospel – was at work to continue to reach out, to ransom and to redeem those who were being saved despite Paul’s limitations.


And so it is today.


Paul knew limitations – whether health issues (Galatians 4:13) or failing eyesight (Galatians 6:11), the feelings of abandonment that followed others leaving and opposing him in his latter days (2 Timothy 4:9-16) or his familiarity with the frustration of doing what he didn’t want to do, and not doing what he desired (Romans 7:21-25). This esteemed Apostle was not superman. Neither are you. (Nor superwoman!) Yet you and I, like Paul, can know the working of Christ’s power even in our weakness. Christ’s power holding on and leading on.


Why?


So that through his ministry to us and through us, despite ourselves, Christ may be seen to be both powerful and gracious.


So be encouraged; your own limitations and shortcomings are no barrier to Christ’s mighty working. In fact quite astoundingly, it’s in our weakness that his power is seen most clearly.

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