We are never stronger than when we can’t do anything about a situation. Not our will; His will. Not our strength; His strength.
3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9
God knows all that is going on and He makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The problem is that He thinks in eternal terms and we don’t. We expect Him to work things out on this side of eternity–during our lifetime, even in the next 24 hours! What we fail to take into consideration is that God has much bigger and greater plans than the things that happen to us in this life. In fact, all the bad stuff that happens to us, He uses to increase our godly character. I don’t exactly know what the payoff is on the other side, but I figure that it’s pretty big. Learning through suffering is not for the faint of heart. Come to think of it, neither is growing old!
Paul had more than his fair share of suffering. Here’s a list:
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
Not only that, he had chronic eye problems. We know this because of his ailment at the church in Galatia and by his signature at the end of his letters.
13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Galatians 4:13-15
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Galatians 6:11
There is speculation that Paul had problems stemming from the scales that fell from his eyes when he was saved (Acts 9:18). It has also been speculated that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was his poor eyesight and chronic eye problems (2 Corinthians 12:7). Whatever the case, Paul had problems. How did Paul deal with these problems? Let’s read the next verses:
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 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. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Paul had learned from the Lord that as long as Paul stayed in the center of His will, he would receive everything he needed to accomplish that will. Eventually, Paul testified to Caesar (Nero) and was then beheaded by him. Paul was willing to do God’s will in testifying even at the cost of his own life. Read it for yourself:
23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ Acts 27:23-24
We know from history that Nero had Paul beheaded. Paul understood that God’s Plan is much larger than just this life. He was confident that the Lord would provide everything he needed when he needed it. When we act out of our own strength, how is God glorified in that? It’s when we reach the end of our strength that God finally gets the glory. How about we go there first and not try to do things in our own strength and understanding? If we can learn to not act out of our own knowledge, then we will finally understand Paul’s position:
12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength [when I need it, to accomplish His will]. Philippians 4:12-13
Abba, May we all learn this valuable lesson. Rather than doing 90% and leaving You 10% for Your glory, I want to learn at 10% to let You have it so that You will receive the 90%. Not only will You receive much more glory, but You will do things in ways that I can’t even imagine! Keep teaching us, Lord. Keep giving us opportunities to practice and hone our faith. You have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). May we learn to trust You in all things. Amen.