Perspective Changes Everything (The Hidden Powers of Weakness)

Sermon Summary

This message looks at Paul's struggle with his "thorn in the flesh." While many have speculated on what that thorn was, we cannot know for sure what it was. The important thing, however, is not what it was but how he learned to live with the struggle. He lets us know that he sought the Lord three times to remove the thorn from his flesh, but God did not. What God did do was tell Paul this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We learn from this text that the hidden powers of our weaknesses emerge as God's power comes into play. The hidden powers of weakness emerge in humility, giving up the glory, in struggles and suffering, in insults, in hardships, persecution, and difficulties. These concepts are explored as they related to Paul and to our lives today.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever asked the Lord to deliver you from something and He chose not to deliver you, but to strengthen you so you could endure the difficulty, the sickness, the struggle, or whatever it was? Share how God got you through.

2. Humility can help us avoid becoming conceited. Humility also helps us to understand just how little we know and causes us to seek out God's wisdom! When we seek God's wisdom He promises to grant it. When He does, the hidden power of our weakness emerges. Explain why you think humility is so important for God's power to emerge in our lives.

Prov 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
James 1:5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

3. Why is it so hard for people give up the glory to God, and what do we gain when we give glory to God for the good things that happen in our life?

Gal 6:14  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
2 Cor 4:6  For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Cor 4:7  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
2 Cor 4:8  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
2 Cor 4:9  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

4. What are some of the ways the power of God emerges in our lives during times of struggles and suffering? Feel free to use personal examples, someone else may be going through the same difficulty you faced and could use the encouragement!

Rom 8:26  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Rom 8:27  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
Rom 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

5. Paul faced persecution and there are numerous brothers and sisters in Christ who face severe persecution in parts of the world today. However, God's power emerges in times of persecution if we allow Him to direct our words and actions. When a person realizes confession of Christ could cost them and they confess Him anyway, that person has found the true power of not being ashamed of their relationship with Jesus. Have you ever faced persecution for your faith, or have you ever wondered how you would face persecution if it were to come to your life?

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.



Full Sermon Notes

The Hidden Powers of Weakness

"Our Savior displayed on a criminal’s cross. Darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost, but then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand! That’s when death was arrested and my life began!!" 2015 (Music at North Point)

You know the powers that were thought Jesus was weak. They thought His unwillingness to lash out at them was a sign of weakness! They believed His death on the cross was proof of that weakness! Boy were they wrong!! Their perspective was totally flawed and on the third day Jesus showed worldly powers and spiritual powers alike that He had hidden powers they had overlooked, ignored or simply refused to see! Jesus was not weak. You and I, on the other hand, have many weaknesses, but here's some perspective for you: The same power behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ is behind all who have placed their faith in the work of Christ on the Cross! Today we'll end the perspective series with one of the most important perspectives for a follower of Christ to understand: there are hidden powers to be found in weakness.

Let's pray! Lord Jesus, thank you for going to the Cross and laying down Your life for me, for us! Thank You for conquering death and the grave for us! Thank You for not running away from Calvary, but for walking up Calvary with the cross in tow! What You did for us has become the power we rely upon to overcome our weaknesses, our insults, our hardships, our persecutions, and our difficulties! We ask You to give us a godly perspective which will empower us to overcome anything we face in this world and to live our lives in such a way that others will see You in us and desire to find the same amazing relationship with You that we've found! You know we need You, our world needs You, our families need You, our communities need You! We will find our power in You even in our weaknesses! Hide me behind the Cross and let us hear from You today!! In Jesus sweet and precious Name I pray! Amen.

(To see the video that played here, please watch the beginning of the Video Sermon Cast)

Paul knew a thing or two about pressure, and suffering, and weakness. We talked the last few weeks about the people who were not only against Paul, but were attacking his very character and qualifications to serve as a leader in the church. They considered themselves to be super-apostles. They bragged and flaunted their background, their connections, their wealth, and their perceived superior knowledge. Paul, reluctantly countered their claims with some claims of his own. The difference was he could back up his claims and qualifications! However, he wanted to make it clear that while he had greater qualifications, he did not depend on his qualifications for his life or ministry! He depended upon the grace and mercy of Jesus for everything. That grace, mercy and presence of God that had gotten him through multiple experiences because of his faith in Christ: floggings, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, imprisonment, hunger, and more.

We pick up Paul's story in 2 Corinthians 11:30...

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Now why would Paul boast of the things that highlighted his weakness? It just doesn't make sense, especially to the world. This would destroy your resume' in today's world. "Oh, by the way, let me give you a list of all the things I'm not good at!" That seems utterly crazy, but Paul had a new perspective on pride and humility!

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Humility!

In fact the next couple of verses Paul gives a great example of the kind of humility he was called to live by after he turned his life over to Jesus. It's a bit humorous…

2 Corinthians 11:31-33 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

There you go! Paul wasn't picked up by a limousine out front, he was lowered in a basket out the back window. How humiliating, and Paul tells everyone about it! Why? Because Paul wanted everyone to know it wasn't about him, it was about the one who had sacrificed His life on an old rugged cross! It didn't matter to Paul how he arrived or how he left as long as people found Jesus! There is power in humility, because you're acknowledging your dependance on The Lord! I'm sure Paul remembered these words written in Proverbs...

Proverbs 11:2-3 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Proverbs 18:12 Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

And I'm sure Paul knew the words Jesus had spoken to His disciples...

John 15:4-5 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus wasn't saying we can do nothing at all apart from Him, but if you want to bear fruit that will have an eternal impact you simply cannot do that apart from Him. And if you want to know the greatest fulfillment and purpose for this life, well that just won't happen apart from Him! It takes humility to accept that fact. This naturally leads into another hidden power in weakness...

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Giving Up the Glory!

2 Corinthians 12:1-2a I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.

(Most scholars think the man was actually Paul, but Paul was having such a hard time with the bragging thing, even though his motive was to counter the false apostles, so he just talks as if it was someone else.)

2 Corinthians 12:2b-6 Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

Paul wanted desperately for people to see Jesus, not Paul! Paul didn't so what he did or preach what he preached or write what he wrote to bring attention to himself, but to the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. Remember, his passion, his core value, his calling from God was to exalt Jesus and to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

I love the way Paul put it in his letter to the Galatian church…Galatians 6:14

Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This giving glory to God thing is truly foreign to the world. They really don't get it. They love to brag on themselves. Anybody been watching the political conventions? They love taking all the credit for anything good and none of the blame for anything bad! And that's on both sides of the isle! See, we like praise when it's about us! We like getting the glory, the at-a-boys, the trophies, the awards. In fact, every wonder how many award shows are out there? Enough to have one a week for   about 40 weeks of the year. Oh my! What will we do the other 12 weeks? There's the Emmys, Daytime Emmys, Creative Arts Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, Tonys, BET Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards, CMT Awards, CMA Awards, ESPYs, Billboard Music Awards, and we Christians didn't want' to be left out so there's the Dove Awards! And that's just 14 of the 40 or so.

Now, I'm not against recognizing people for a job well done. Our Softball team won first place for the second year in a row and there's a great big old trophy with our church name on it. Congratulations to you guys. But let me say this, the best trophy any church softball team could ever get is for the other teams to say, "wow, that team sure exhibits good sportsmanship and a Christ-like attitude in the way they play the game!!" Amen.

Paul said this in chapter 10:17-18, we read it two weeks ago...

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

And then Peter had this to say in 1 Peter 5:5-6

1 Peter 5:5-6 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

So give the glory to God and if He decides you need some recognition for something, let Him decide when and how you receive that recognition. Amen! A person who is not always chasing recognition, glory, fame and fortune has the power to live life for what really matters and that's the kind of life God can bless! It's also a life that you can feel good about because it's truly fulfilling! Now, please don't think I'm saying this means you will have no more problems, struggles, or suffering. You will, but there is such a big difference between those who face the harsh realities of this life with God and without God! In fact...

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Struggles & Suffering!

Last week we said that how you handle suffering matters. Paul is now going to explain how suffering and struggles actually allow the hidden powers of weakness to emerge! 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

We don't know what Paul's thorn in the flesh was. Some say it was a spiritual issue, some say it was physical issue. Because Paul sometimes alludes to a problem with his eyesight, some believe that to be his thorn. Others believe it might have been a temptation to despair, or maybe troubling thoughts. We don't know, but what we do know is this: God chose not to take it away. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ”

When it comes to a health issue, sometimes God gives a miraculous healing, sometimes he works a miracle through Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and modern medicines. Other times He chooses to give a miraculous grace and power to endure! There have been people come to faith in Christ after watching the way a believer faced and walked through the valley of the shadow of death! When we face the worst imaginable circumstances in this life God's grace is sufficient to get us through and His power is made perfect in our weakness. You see, the power of admitting that we don't personally have the power to get through or overcome causes us to look to God and when we do His grace and power emerge! In fact Paul goes on to say this in the last part of verse 10...

2 Corinthians 12:10b ..."For when I am weak, then I am strong."

There is great power in admitting that you don't have the power! When you admit that you need God's help or the help of a brother or sister in Christ, you open up resources you simply don't have on your own! But foolish pride has caused many a man or woman to refuse the help of God and the help of God's family! God will not force His assistance or His power upon you. When you refuse to allow God to assist you, then you are on your own and no power will emerge from your weakness. Let me reiterate, God does not always answer our prayers as we would like, and He does not always heal. Paul was not healed, but God gave Him divine strength to endure.

Did you know that there are over twelve hundred studies linking intentional parer and overall health an longevity? Why? Because God's power is made perfect in our weakness! When we can't God can! I read this the other day in a book titled: "How to Switch on Your Brain." The book was written by Dr. Caroline Leaf. She quotes Dr. David Levy, a neurosurgeon in California...

"I have been in this profession for a good number of years and am intimately familiar with most of the new therapies, medical devices, and drugs hitting the market. Many of them are ingenious, and I use them regularly in my practice. I have consulted for several companies to develop better devices and have traveled the world teaching others to use them. I admire and am grateful for modern medical technology. But though technology can prolong a life or reduce pain, it cannot always make life better. My experiences have convinced me that spirituality is a crucial element to the wellbeing of a person as a whole; moreover if we let Him, God can do powerful, supernatural things in our everyday lives. That's why I began inviting God into my consultations, exams and surgeries. Many would be surprised that a neurosurgeon--a man of science, logic and human progress--would be such a strong believer in God and divine intervention. Yet the experience has been nothing short of phenomenal."

God will not always take you out of the storm, but His power will get you through the storm! Once again the Apostle Peter, one of Paul's dear friends gives us valuable insight on this topic in 1 Peter 1:3-7...

1 Peter 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I don't know about you, but the truth that the same power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead has given me new birth into a living hope and an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade is pretty exciting to me. On top of that, because of my faith in what Jesus did for me on the Cross, I'm shielded by God's power even though I still live in a fallen world and sometimes suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These fiery trials only serve to refine and purify me and results in praise, glory and honor to Jesus! That my friends is what Paul and Peter lived for, and that's what I want to live for! Sometimes when the world sees us suffering they ask all kinds of questions. They might ask "if your God is real then why doesn't He just fix all of your problems? Why does He even allow His children to go through hard times, trials, struggles, and suffering?" What they can't see is that our relationship with Christ is more important to us than our circumstances in this life! What they don't understand is that God is more concerned with our character than He is with our comfort! And what they can't get their minds wrapped around is the fact that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness! And the reason is when we realize we are weak we depend on His strength and He comes through for us by exerting His power into our situation!

Pastor Larry can you give us some examples of Christ's power being made perfect in our weakness? Yes I can. Let's read verse 9 again and add verse 10 and will find Paul's list of examples...

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That 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.

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Insults!

Have you ever been insulted? Paul sure had and the insults cut deep and hurt really bad. "You're weak, unimpressive, not a good preacher, and we don't even think you know God!" Boy that had to hurt. Jesus was insulted and told by His own family that He had lost His mind! He was mocked by religious leaders and ridiculed by the soldiers who had nailed Him to the Cross. But here's what we need to remember: Jesus followed His own teaching when it comes to insults.

Luke 6:27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Jesus did that! As I said earlier, they all thought He was weak when He was on the Cross. They hurled insults at Him, but He prayed for them. Did anything powerful emerge from Jesus' apparent weakness? Yes it did! Let's go back to the Cross for just a moment...

Luke 23:44-47 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

The Roman Soldier in charge of the crucifixion comes to faith in Jesus Christ! That's finding power in weakness my friend! Jesus knew by yielding to the will of The Father and going to the cross He would not only have the power over death and the grave, but the power to change the coldest, hardest, heart! When people insult you, instead of insulting back, pray for them! Not everyone will have a change of heart like the centurion soldier, but some will! And those who see the way you handle insults may actually come to Christ. Paul not only mentioned suffering and insults, but everyday hardships. Have you felt like you faced an unfair amount of hardships?  

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Hardships!

Here's the definition of hardship...

Hardship: Privation, Suffering

I know we've already talked about suffering, but what about privation? What is privation?

Privation: a lack or loss of the basic things that people need to live properly

Paul had sure faced that in his life and ministry and he had mentioned the lack of sleep, food, water, and clothing! Have you ever faced a time when things were such financially that you weren't sure how you were going to avoid bankruptcy or maybe you've actually been through bankruptcy and wondered how you would ever rebuild your life financially. You might even be wondering what this has to do with the hidden powers of weakness. Well it's simple really! When we find ourselves unable to provide for ourselves, we have to trust God's promises to provide for His children and make a way for us. It has been my experience that He actually does this. So when I can't find a way, I trust Him to show me a way!

Matthew 6:31-34 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Now He's not saying don't work, or plan, or budget, or plant gardens, or prepare meals or buy back to school clothes! He's saying don't worry about things! When you can't see a way, He knows a way! When you can't figure out the solution and things seem out of control, remember, He is the way, the truth and the life! I love the way Paul put in his letter to the Philippians in Phill 4:19-20...

Philippians 4:19-20 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Just got to point out one little, but very important detail. Paul said, God will meet all your needs, not all your wants! There is a difference. It's a very powerful thing when I realize that and adopt Paul's philosophy...

Philippians 4:11b-13 ...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Persecutions!

Aren't you glad we don't have to face persecution like Paul or like brothers and sisters in some parts of our world? I'm grateful, but I will say this, the time may not be far away that to name the name of Christ even in this country could cause you to face persecution. I'm not looking forward to that day, but I will say this: The church seems to thrive when there's persecution. Why? Persecution, or the possibility of persecution causes a person to evaluate whether or not they really believe what they say they believe and whether or not they are going to live their confession or change their confession. Here's where the power comes in: When a person realizes confession of Christ could cost them and they confess Him anyway, that person has found the true power of not being ashamed of their relationship with Jesus. Paul put it this way in
Romans 1:16...

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

And I love what Paul said a little earlier in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10...

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

What is he saying about us carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed simply means that because of Jesus' death we have been given the power to die to what once motivated us and to now be be so motivated by our relationship and love for Jesus that we would never disown Him regardless of the persecution.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ok, one last example of Christ power being made perfect in our weakness...

The Hidden Powers of Weakness Emerge in Difficulties!

I know what you're thinking. Didn't we already talk about this one? We've talked about struggles, suffering, insults, hardships, persecutions, but now we'll just talk for a minute about difficulties. The word for difficulties is sometimes translated calamities. Calamities can be big things like natural disasters, or it can be a personal calamity that strikes all of a sudden. I still hear people talk about how the Body of Christ came together in the aftermath of Katrina and showed the world the power of God's people when motivated by the heart and love of God to help those in need. It was a very difficult time for many people, and in many ways we were weakened by the storm. We went from 398 people one Sunday to just a little over 80 people meeting in the parking lot two weeks later. But the power of God became evident in our weakness as we did what He had instructed us to do in Galatians 6:2...

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

As many of you know, we have a family that faced a personal calamity just a few weeks ago. Mike had two more successful surgeries this week and is off the ventilator. We asked our people through our meals that heal ministry and through their community group to help prepare meals. Within about two days, around 30 days of meals had been covered! Our mens Community Groups have decided to help with some yard and home maintenance. When we are weak we are strong because of our great and mighty Savior and because of the amazing family He has given us the privilege to be a part of!
I'm so honored to pastor such an amazing Church family! Let's pray!