When I Am Weak, Then Am I Strong

by David Stewart

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

(2nd Corinthians 12:10)

       A man recently asked me what the Bible meant by the statement, “For when I am weak, then am I strong.” Interestingly, I had been thinking about the same exact Scripture myself the few days before. It's amazing how the Holy Spirit works. I would like to now share with you what I shared with this gentlemen. 

“Faith” cannot grow without trials. If our faith is to increase, then we must go through living H-E-double-toothpicks (HELL) to get there. One's faith CANNOT increase without problems, trials and hardships. When a person asks God for more faith, that person is asking for an increased burden. It is the increased burden that strengthens me to carry a heavier burden down the road. Unshakable faith comes from having your faith shaken. 

Read the following Scripture...

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh, given to him by God to keep him humble. Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn but God refused. We don't know what the thorn was except that it was a “messenger of Satan.” Some believe that Paul's “thorn in the flesh” was bad eye-site, since Paul used other men (such as Timothy) to write some of his books. Perhaps Paul had an enemy. The Bible does not specify.

A Thorn in the Flesh

I personally suffer from permanent spinal cord damage. My suffering began in March of 2004. I had 2 surgeries (2009 and 2010) which left me worse off than before. Under the circumstances I would get the surgeries again because of the intensity of my pain and misery. I have neuropathy (nerve damage), stenosis (narrowing of the spinal cord passage), and radiculopathy (burning, tingling, weakness, pain and a puffed-up feeling in both arms and legs). It is very much a thorn in my flesh. I am afflicted daily in my body. Albeit, God is using my affliction to humble me, compel me to pray, and cause me to focus on eternal things. My life ended in 2004 as I knew it, and I am now surviving, eagerly awaiting my resurrected body at the Rapture (1st Corinthians 15:51-54).

I don't enjoy life anymore because of my bodily afflictions. My arms feel twice their normal size and my fingers tingle all the time as if I just finished using a floor sander. My right leg and arm feel half asleep all the time. I have sharp pain radiating down my limbs, especially down my right arm into my right thumb. I have constant agonizingg neck pain and take 120 mg. of Oxycontin daily which just takes the edge off the pain. I also suffer from chronic neck stiffness, which feels like my neck is ready to explode all the time. It makes it very difficult to conversate with people. I am afflicted from head-to-toe, daily, every day. Yet, God uses my affliction to keep me humble and it compels me to set my affection on things above. Colossians 3:2, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Paul eventually figured out the reason for the thorn (weakness) in his life, because God wouldn't remove it. We don't know what Paul's thorn was, but Paul knew, and he realized that his “thorn” was being used by God to keep him humble. Notice that the Bible says Satan sent a messenger to buffet Paul. That is very interesting. God wanted to keep Paul humble. God was using the Apostle Paul immensely and the temptation existed for Paul to become proud. It would have been easy for Paul to become elevated in his own eyes. So God allowed Satan to afflict Paul, with what the Bible calls “a messenger of Satan.” 2nd Corinthians 12:7, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

The Greek word for “messenger” in 2nd Corinthians 12:7 is aggelos and means “to bring tidings; a messenger; especially an 'angel'; by implication a pastor.” The Bible teaches that God allowed Satan to afflict Job's health. Paul's thorn in the flesh could have been a bodily affliction. We do not know for certain. Albeit, we do know that God intended for the affliction to keep Paul humble. Paul had been used greatly by God and the temptation existed for self-glorification. Paul said that Satan sent a messenger, which God allowed to keep Paul humble, and it certainly did. I know that my own bodily afflictions keep me humble, very much so.

Blessings in Disguise

The problems in our life are often blessings in disguise. We must learn to view them from this spiritual point of view. The greater the burden placed upon us, the greater the faith required to “hang-in-there.” It takes faith to continue living for God when things turn for the worse in our life. As an example, new muscle in the human body is built (strengthened) by exercising the existing muscle to the point of exhaustion. 

Likewise, the exercising of our faith (the trial of it) will make us more mature and stable in the Lord if we will be patient and not give up. Sometimes our faith falters for a while, but the righteous man who falleth seven times rises up again (Proverb 24:16). I don't know of one Christian who is invincible. The key is to always get back up off the ground, brush the dust off, and do what you can to get back on track for God. Pray and ask God to help you. Proverb 24:16, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

The Bible teaches that the trials and tribulations in our life are more valuable than gold. In fact, the Bible literally says MUCH MORE PRECIOUS THAN OF GOLD... “much more.” 1st Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” What an amazing truth. It's hard for me to view my bodily affliction as being much more precious than gold, but that's exactly what the Bible teaches. It is my hope of Heaven that compels me to redeem the time by serving Christ with my life. We all have 24 hours in a day. It is the decisions that we make on a daily basis that defines our life. A man is not defined by what he is, but by what he does.

Most people love money and it is how Satan recruits them to serve him (1st Timothy 6:10). The faithful Christian must decide that money will never be an issue. Psalm 15:5 teaches that those who lend out money at interest or accept money to take advantage of others are given to change. Psalm 15:5 says that if you want to never be moved (sinfully compromise), then don't let money be an issue. Jesus plainly taught that NO PERSON can serve God and mammon (wealth). It's one or the other. Everyone is controlled by wither faith in God or love for money. Most people, including religious people, love money and make most of their decisions accordingly. It is love for money that causes ministers to compromise their stand, trim their sermons, and sell out for Satan.

Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Too many believers are choked by the cares and riches of this world and give up; they never win anyone to Christ. We should all be soul-winning Christians (Proverb 11:30), holding forth the word of life (Philippians 2:16). The word of life is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Romans 10:15, God calls the feet of believers who preach the Gospel “beautiful.” Certainly God wants all believers to have beautiful feet. Every believer is capable of sharing the Gospel with the lost. There is no call to preach the Gospel, it is a command for all Christians.

In Matthew 28:19-20, we are all commanded to preach the Gospel and mentor others with the teachings of Christ (primarily, how to go win others to Christ). God intended for the Gospel to perpetuate itself. If I lead someone to the Lord with the Gospel, and then teach them how to go win souls, then I have perpetuated the Gospel. This is what the Bible means when it says to preach the Gospel to the whole world. Certainly it would be humanly possible for any one man, or even a group of people, to reach the world by themselves. However, if you teach others how to perpetuate the Gospel, then it can be done. This is why the Lord was able to choose 12 apostles, and yet 2,000 years later the entire world is hearing the Gospel.

Whatever the afflictions in your life, let it become a blessing by sharing the Gospel with others. Let your suffering count for the kingdom of Heaven. Make sure that you're saved, and then do what you can to live your life for God to lay up treasures in eternity (Matthew 6:20). I was sad when I watched Steven Hawkings (an atheist) talk about the universe and evolution from a wheelchair. Hawkings is a quadriplegic who denies the Creator, the Bible, and Christianity. It is sad to see a man suffer so much in this life, just to suffer in Hell when he dies. It doesn't have to be that way. This article is about finding strength from our weakness. That can only be truly done in Jesus Christ.

Without Christ there is no hope in the afterlife (Acts 4:10-12). I don't understand how anybody can sincerely read and study the Bible without being convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Who came into the world to save sinners (John 20:31). John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” I believe, why don't you join me if you haven't until now? Make Heaven your eternal destination, resting upon the promise of God for your salvation. Why trust the speculations of unsaved men, when you can claim the faithful PROMISE of God (Titus 1:2)?

John the Baptist became discouraged while in Herod's prison. He was eventually murdered by Herod. Surely, if John had lived, John would have gotten back on track for the Lord in a matter of time. Peter had quit the ministry and gone back to his old fishing job. In time, Peter got right with the Lord and began preaching the Gospel again. So be encouraged friend if you become discouraged, because a just man falleth seven times yet riseth up again (Proverbs 24:16). Get back up! Don't quit! 

Increased Faith Can Only Come from Increased Suffering and Tribulations

As believers, we must learn to recognize the burdens upon us in life as blessings from the Lord. Nothing can happen in my life without God's permission (God's permissive will). Knowing this fact, we should trust upon the Lord and rely upon His wisdom and guidance. If we are to please God, we must have "faith" as Hebrews 11:6 teaches. We cannot please God without faith. To have more faith, we must have our faith shaken because unshakable faith comes from having our faith shaken! Do you want more faith? Then God must cause you to suffer.

"And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith." (Luke 17:5)

The disciples had no idea what they were asking for. Faith can only be increased through hardships and trials. The disciples had many obstacles coming their way, eventually they would all be martyred for Christ. Peter could not have preached the sermon on Pentecost as he did, if it were not for the times when his faith with tested. Peter at one time denied even knowing Christ; but Peter didn't stay down, he got up. God is pleased when we get back up after a fall, but He is even more pleased when we "hang-in-there," serving the Lord while the burdens become increasingly heavy in our life. It takes a greater faith to keep going when the going gets tough. Our weakness is actually our strength...

 "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2nd Corinthians 12:9-10)

It is during the troublesome times of our life that we will be forced to place a greater faith in God if we are to continue serving Him. Many believers quit and give up on the Christian life. They never do anything for God. They stop telling others about their wonderful Savior. They are NOT "soul-conscious." As I mentioned earlier, I find no teaching about "degrees" of faith in the Bible, you either have faith or you don't. God does not require any certain amount of faith, just faith! Some people may have a stronger faith than others, but it is faith—not a higher degree of faith—just good old faith. A believer with greater burdens will have to have a greater faith to make it through, but it is not a "degree" or "level" of faith, it is simply faith. What I am trying to say is that God does NOT require a certain level of faith to save us nor to answer our prayers, He only requires child-like faith. 

There will be times in our life where we will have to pray for a long time to get certain prayers answered. The Bible calls these type of ongoing prayers, "supplications." The Greek word for "supplication" as in Philippians 4:6 means "petition." I have many "petition" with God. These are certain things that I keep praying and asked God to take care of. God may never fulfill these prayers, but I have done what I am required by God by casting my cares upon the Lord (1st Peter 5:7). Paul cautions us in Philippians 4:6 NOT to fret and worry about our problems. Rather, we are to take EVERYTHING to the Lord in prayers and supplications with thanksgiving, relying upon God to take care of the things beyond our control. 

So keep in mind from now on that the problems in your life are the biggest blessings to your faith (and faith pleases God). 

 "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4)

What an amazing Scripture passage! God wants us to consider it a joy when the problems of life overwhelm us. Notice that the word “patience” is mentioned twice. It takes patience more than anything to live for God. We are living in a heathen world under a heathen government. Yes, it is difficult to hang in there sometimes, but God will see us through. God says to be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” Count it all “joy.” We ought to count the hardships and temptations in our life a joy because God uses them to build us up in the Lord. A faith must be tested. Anyone can have faith in God during good health, prosperity and good times; but we find out who's who when their is tragedy, heartache and suffering. We must be patient. In time, if we don't throw in the towel and quit, then we WILL reap if we faint not in the Lord. The Bible says that joy cometh in the morning. You cannot have true joy without first experiencing true sorrow.

Our capacity for suffering enlarges our capacity for joy, but joy only comes in the morning, after enduring sorrow for the night. A life of sorrow will be followed by the joy of Heaven for each believer. Those who never truly suffer cannot appreciate and enjoy the blessings of God's goodness as much as those who suffer. The farther a pendulum swings one way, the farther it also swings the other.

True suffering and sorrow can only lead to joy and peace if a person is a Christians. The Bible says blessed are they who DIE IN THE LORD (Revelation 14:13). There is NO peace to the wicked (Isaiah 57:21).

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

It's more than just mere coincidence that God mentions wisdom along with the trials of our faith. Perhaps the greatest wisdom a Christian can obtain is the wisdom that his or her problems are actually tools used by God to strengthen and mature us. Remember, unshakable faith comes from having your faith shaken. So rejoice in your problems, they are your strengths which make God strong in your life. The first step to wisdom is to fear the Lord, trusting upon His guidance and wisdom in the trials He allows in our life. Most believers get upset and discouraged because of their problems (I'm preaching to myself here as well). 

Thankfully, I have learned that my problems are really rainbows in disguise. No, I don't want the problems. However, I cannot always make them go away as soon as I wish I could. Some problems never go away (such as Paul's thorn). Problems are a part of life. Life is what happens to you while you're making big plans. The world hates God and curses His holy name because of their problems, but the believer must learn to do the opposite. We must praise the Lord at all times, not being ignorant of the workings of God. Our weaknesses are really our strengths and our strengths weaknesses.  Thank the Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Savior.