Continuing God’s upside down theme, Paul offers a word from the Lord. In my Bible, which lists Jesus’ Words in red print, the words that caught my attention are red. These are one of the few Jesus words found outside the Gospels.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (9a).
Paul was struggling with a ‘thorn in the flesh’, which apparently is some physical ailment. He prayed three times for God’s healing and three times God said “No. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”
Talk about an upside down answer! God’s words run counter to the way of our human world. In our world the person with the power wins. Biggest army… wins. Biggest bank account …wins. Biggest wins and this is certainly how the game is played in most human societies.
But the Lord says to Paul, I have a different way. And by extension what God said to Paul He says to us.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”
I let that rattle around in my thoughts for a bit. It is revolutionary and it is scary because it is so not how my world lives. As fast as this sentence tumbles around, equally fast concerns with it surface within me. I immediately wonder…
Will I get taken advantage of?
Will I have to forsake my comfortable life?
Will my peers, inside and outside of the church, ever take me seriously?
Will I live or will this cost me my life?
Variations on these themes continued to tumble. In essence I am saying to God, “Really?!?”
Admittedly when I feel weak these words bring comfort. After all God will provide His power to my weakness and “I win.” But when I think about the many ways I sit in the seat of comfort and power –I am white, highly educated, male, and financially comfortable –these words are a bit frightening, because the way to God’s power is through weakness. And I really don’t like weakness.
The Lord’s words and the promptings of the Spirit probe some of the deepest recesses of my life. And my best response today seems to be to allow them to probe deeper and deeper.
An illustration from my shop just hit me. I have been learning a new skill, hot pipe wood bending. Hot pipe wood bending has 3 major steps:
1) Soak wood for 3+ hours.
2) Press the wood, slowly at first, against a scalding pipe. As the wood heats, the fibers relax and can be bent into a shape you desire.
3) Clamp wood in the desired shape until it cools and dries out.
Soaking loosens and relaxes the fibers. The heat causes lignin bond around the wood fibers to loosen. The bending repositions the fibers and clamping holds them in the new position while the new bonds cool, dry and re-set.
God is taking me through a similar process…
He has been soaking me... time in His Word
Then He applies pressure... a new opportunity for service or some ‘trial’ testing my faith metal.
Finally, He generally leaves me in a situation for a while as new godly attitudes and character traits form and become part of me...
God, I pray that I will learn the lesson that Your grace truly is sufficient for me... Amen.