21st July 2016
Over many years, I've drawn encouragement from the words spoken by God to the apostle Paul as recorded in 2 Cor 12:9: "My Grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness".
Paul is making reference to an intense struggle he faces in the context of his apostolic calling. Although he has cried out to God for his affliction to be removed, it is still an issue. We don't have enough evidence to know what the problem was. Paul describes it as a 'thorn in the flesh' and a 'messenger of Satan' which torments him. These are strong words - he's clearly not talking about a cold he can't shake off. The words carry the implication of both physical pain and mental struggle.
Since God has not relieved him of his difficulty, he has lived with it long enough to draw a stunning conclusion. He has observed that whatever hardships he faces for the sake of Christ, whether insults, physical difficulties, even torture and outright persecution, it has all led to Christ's power being demonstrated more greatly in his life.
This is a radical discovery. I have lost count of the number of times I have disqualified myself as 'not up to' the work of God on the basis of my weaknesses. I've been distracted - does that disqualify me? I've been repeatedly ill - does that count me out? I've been tempted - what does that say about me? I've worried and sometimes stayed awake at night - how does that reflect on my trust in God?
What Paul gives us here is an insight into how the power of God works. It is all Grace, all His gift flowing freely from the sacrifice of His own precious Son on our behalf. The more we lean fully on God, the more His power is released in us and through us.
Dependence on God is by no means a natural instinct - unless you happen to have just slipped and fallen over the edge of a cliff, or caught flu' the day before an important exam, or had a call from the police to say someone you love has been in an accident. In extreme difficulty when we feel anxious and powerless, we lean fully on God. God's power is 'made perfect' and becomes fully operational when we depend totally on him in this way.
The challenge then is to take on board this wonderful lesson in the good times as well as the times of pressure, whether we feel strong or weak. Jesus has called each one of us to follow him. He has 'appointed' us to produce fruit that will last. The lasting fruit of our lives and service to him will reflect the degree to which we have learned to depend fully on God rather than ourselves. We need to learn how to 'lean', so that greater Glory might go to Him.
Annie Twort leads Alpha at King's and oversees New Life, a group for new Christians. She is married to Dickie and they have three grown-up children.
Steve Tibbert will be back in September.
Posted by Annie Twort
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.