Continuing from last time, Paul was shipwrecked, he was imprisoned, he was beaten, but nothing seemed to faze him. How does Paul do it? I can’t do this. Even if I muster all my human willpower, I can’t come close to living like he did.
Paul seems almost super human in the book of Acts, but if you read his other epistles, they reveal a more vulnerable side. He is trying his best to live for God and he experienced setback after setback, people trying to beat him and kill him, he’s shipwrecked, he’s in chains. And I’m sure he wondered at times, why are all these things happening to me?
Paul did have some moments of weakness. One such time of weakness was recorded in Scripture where Paul is anguishing in prayer and asking God to remove a thorn in his flesh, something that made him feel weak. And born out of that struggle was God’s answer —
2 Cor 12:9-10 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul knew a secret about how to run this race of God that I don’t think many people get. He said, in my weakness, God’s grace comes to fill my lack. Therefore, he can boast in anything that makes him feel weak — insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties — because it is these very difficulties which force him to rely on God to get him through. And God does. An extra measure of grace is given. Are there things in life which you find difficult? It is God’s invitation to rely on His grace to get you through the next trial, the next difficulty, the next person who needs to be cared for.
How could Paul keep giving and giving and giving even while suffering as much as he did? It was his determination that no matter what happens, I am resolved to obey and live for Christ and for the sake of others. This was Paul’s worldview. Because he knew that when he was running on fumes and he had nothing more to give through human effort, God’s grace would sustain him just enough to get him through.
That is why Paul was able to faithfully obey and complete the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace because grace was not a one-time experience referring back to his salvation. Instead, Paul had a dynamic, ongoing experience of God lifting him up in his present weakness as he obeyed God.
Let us not run from things that are difficult or that result in physical suffering or make us feel weak or underappreciated or underutilized. Why? Because it is these very things that will cause us to rely on the sufficiency of God’s grace. We need God’s empowerment so that we can continue to obey and find the strength to be faithful when the chips are stacked against us.