The quote above is by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, which reminded me WHY Jesus was resurrected from the dead: it’s so that we can experience his power resting on us. And why do we need such help and protection? The context tells us.
In verse 7 Paul explains. He needed Christ’s power to “keep me from becoming conceited,” or to protect him from becoming proud and getting big ideas about himself (verse 6). And why is that important? Because, verse 9, God told Paul “my power is made perfect in weakness.” And because God knows that to be true, Paul “was given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet him,” verse 7. In other words, God purposely allowed Satan to weaken Paul, just like he allowed Satan to weaken Job.
And he’s given us a world that weakens us too, right? We face endless uncertainty and powerlessness on so many fronts, caused by power and money hungry corporations, media propaganda and lies, and dithering politicians mandating policies that damage our youngsters and pit us against each other. We are puppets exploited by the rich, creating mass hypnosis, neurotic fears, and serious mental problems, all of which we have little to no control over, that leave us feeling weak, helpless and scared.
And God allows this to happen, and even deliberately causes it? Well, yes, according to Scripture, but at least he tells us why. It’s because he’s motivated by grace (verse 9), that in allowing us to be weakened by a satanically driven world, this is the most effective way we experience God perfecting his strength and power in us. And as Paul explains in verse 10, it is also “for Christ’s sake,” because this is what Jesus in his death and resurrection made possible for us. He opened up a completely new world for us to experience, that operates in radically opposite ways to this world, so that instead of us feeling weak, helpless and scared, we “delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties,” verse 10.
This was Jesus’ experience too. By emptying himself to be battered by Satan and his world, he too got to experience his Father perfecting his strength and power in him, so that “for the joy set before him” he “endured the cross and scorned its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). And now Jesus has flung the doors open to that kind of joy and power being available to us too.
But lurking in the shadows is the one devilish enemy that can destroy that. It’s conceit and pride in our own strength, and directing our energies to making us think and feel we’re strong too, to give us reason to boast, brag and even believe we are the infallible elite. It’s the kind of conceit that scoffs at other people’s weaknesses, loves judging others as inferior and stupid, looks down on others as merely populist rabble, delights in others’ failures, and complains at every set back to its ambitions and self-image.
And Paul could have been a conceited boaster like that too. He had tons of reasons for bragging about what he’d accomplished – and what he’d survived (2 Corinthians 11:21-28). “But,” 2 Corinthians 12:6, “I refrain (from doing that), so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.” He much preferred boasting about the “things that show my weaknesses,” 2 Corinthians 11:30 – like readily admitting he was driven way beyond his strength and ability to cope (2 Corinthians 1:8).
So why was Paul like that? Because he looked to Jesus as his example, who was “humble and obedient to death,” Philippians 2:8, and “God exalted him to the highest place,” verse 9. So this is how human’s deadliest and most devilish enemy is beaten. It isn’t by strength it’s by weakness and humility, because when Jesus was at his lowest ebb and he couldn’t cope either, that’s when he called upon his Father’s strength – and got it (Hebrews 5:7).
And now we’re up against “the dark powers of this world” too, that are far more powerful than we are, but call on God and his grace for the strength just to survive another day, and he answers. That was Jesus’ experience and Paul’s experience, and now our chance to prove it true as well. And what a punch in the devil’s face that is. So he hits back, like he did with Paul. But all that did was get Paul to call out for more of “Christ’s power to rest on him,” and again God answered. He learnt, therefore – just like we do, and so did Jesus – that “when we are weak, that’s when we are strong.”