2 Corinthians 12:9 - My Power Is Made Perfect in Weakness

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The kingdom of God is full of great paradoxical truths. One of those truths, the Bible tells us, is that the power of Jesus Christ is perfected in our weakness. As a follower of Jesus, the apostle Paul learned that God’s strength was more easily seen in his moments of weakness.

Key Bible Verse: 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)

A Thorn in the Flesh

Most Bible scholars believe the "weakness" Paul spoke of here was a physical affliction of some kind—"a thorn in the flesh." The text conveys the idea that this ailment was clinging to Paul. We all have these thorns, these weaknesses we cannot escape.

In addition to physical ailments, we share a major spiritual dilemma. We are human, and living the Christian life takes more than human strength. It takes the power of God.

Perhaps the greatest struggle we face is admitting just how weak we are. For some of us, even a lifetime of defeats is not enough to convince us. We keep trying and failing, stubbornly refusing to give up our independence.

Even a spiritual giant like Paul had a tough time admitting he could not do it on his own. He trusted Jesus Christ completely for his salvation, but it took Paul, a former Pharisee, longer to understand that his weakness was a good thing. It forced him—as it forces us—to depend totally on God.

We hate being dependent on anyone or anything. In our culture, weakness is seen as a defect and dependence is for children.

Ironically, that is exactly what we are—children of God, our heavenly Father. God wants us to come to him when we have a need, and as our Father, he fulfills it for us. That is the meaning of love.

Weakness Forces Us to Depend on God

What most people never get is that nothing can meet their deep-down needs except God. Nothing on earth. They chase after money and fame, power and possessions, only to come up empty-handed. Just when they think they "have it all," they realize that in fact, they have nothing. Then they turn to drugs or alcohol, still not seeing they were made for God and that only he can satisfy the longing he created in them.

But it does not have to be that way. Everyone can avoid a life of misguided purpose. Everyone can find meaning by looking to its source: God.

Our weakness is the very thing that leads us to God in the first place. When we deny our shortcomings, we drift off in the opposite direction. We are like the small child who insists on doing it herself, when the task at hand is far, far beyond her abilities.

Paul boasted of his weakness because it brought God into his life with stunning power. Paul became an empty vessel and Christ lived through him, accomplishing amazing things. This great privilege is open to all of us. Only when we empty ourselves of our own ego can we be filled with something better. When we are weak, then we can become strong. 

So often we pray for strength, when in actuality what the Lord wants is for us to remain in our weakness, utterly dependent upon him. Paul went on to say, "That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10, NLT)

Our human weaknesses continually open the way for more of the Lord's power and grace to shine through us.

Paul learned to delight in his troubles and weaknesses because they brought the blessings of God to rest upon his life. This word rest in verse 9 conveys the image of Christ's power spreading over Paul like a tent. We think our physical thorns will hinder us from serving the Lord when in reality, the very opposite is true. They are perfecting us so that Christ's divine power can be revealed through the window of our human weakness.