I’ve often said that we are all “mistake making beings”. There is that saying, “I’m not the person I want to be but thank God I’m not the person I used to be.” Hopefully we are all striving to be someone better than we are. But it’s a struggle.
Paul the Apostle was a giant in the early church. His missionary journeys and his letters to the early church are really inspirational. From those who have studied the life of Paul we know that he was a holy man, a dedicated apostle. He was also a difficult person to work with. He fought with Peter because of the way he treated non-Jews, he had his troubles with his co-workers, Titus and Timothy. He sent scathing letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians and Galatians. Paul was impatient with the squabbles in these communities. If Paul was a pastor I wouldn’t want to be his assistant. He’d probably fire me after the first month.
Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians because he was battling some members of the community who were questioning his authority and his holiness, so Paul writes of his personal religious experiences. He tells of how he was caught up to the third heaven and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. Paul claimed he would not boast of these spiritual wonders. He would boast of his weaknesses. Paul tells of the thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan sent to torment him, sent to keep in grounded in his humanity. Three times he begged this thorn be taken away; three times his prayer went unanswered. He was told the grace of God would see him through his struggles. Then we have these words of Paul that should encourage us all as we face our own faults and failings: “so I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in me, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul knew that his weakness was like a magnet that attracted the strength and power of Christ.
Enduring his own struggles Paul was able to sympathize and support others in their struggles. Being the mistake making beings we all are, we all have our own thorn in the flesh, something in our personality, something in our life style, something in our relationship with others that we would well do without. Conscious of our weakness we tend to get depressed. We wonder if we will ever be free of our inadequacy, ever be the person we want to be. Like Paul we beg to be thorn-free.
Following the example of Paul, a mistake making being like ourselves, maybe we can learn to be content with our weaknesses for the sake of Christ, trusting that when we are weak it is then we attract, like a magnet, the strength of Christ.
God’s grace is sufficient for each one of us, not just where insults and hardships are concerned, but even when it comes to our sins. If only we do not let go of our waiting for him, asking his help, trusting he will rid us of our sins in his own time for Christ is our strength and Christ is our salvation.