Paraklesis. Delighting in weakness

Dear friends, It all came about last Monday because I had prepared a meditation on the cross for the ordinands at Ridley College. I decided to challenge them to reflect on aspects of the cross of Christ which were not familiar to them. [You will find the diagram, digitally sculpted by Albert Young, attached to this message]. 

Peter Adam – March 2021 (web page: stjudes.org.au/peteradam )


During the time for their personal meditation, I thought I should join in too! My eyes fell on these words in 2 Corinthians 12:10, ‘I delight in weaknesses’. 

Well, I have several life-long personal weaknesses, and am now experiencing a new one, the declining energy of old age. I thought to myself, ‘I have come to terms with my weaknesses, accepted them, but I have never delighted in them.’

So I wrote this prayer.

Dear heavenly Father, I am very far from delighting in my several weaknesses [naming them]: instead, I constantly feel their pain, get discouraged and disheartened by them, and at most I grudgingly accept them and try to live and work despite them. Please forgive me and change me.

Please renew my heart, mind, emotions, reactions and self-perceptions, that I may grow to delight in my weaknesses, knowing that Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weaknesses, and that our sufficiency in ministry comes from you. Help me find your strength in my weakness. Help me know that light momentary afflictions work an eternal glory, and that you are renewing me inwardly day by day. In Christ’s name, Amen.

In the context in 2 Corinthians, Paul has written of his ‘thorn in the flesh’ [a ‘messenger of Satan’!]; his fervent prayer that God would remove it; and Christ’s reply, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is perfected in weakness.’ [10:9].

Paul’s response is to ‘boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses’ [10:9]. And then to ‘delight’ in them [10:10]!1

The full verse is ‘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.’ [12:10]. Here it seems that Paul has in mind four kinds of weakness: ‘insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties’. 

On his statement ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’. Paul Barnett comments,

Such strength is not automatic to weakness. Rather, weakness … creates the human context of helplessness and utter vulnerability in which Paul … pleaded with the risen powerful Lord … who is now strong in resurrected power, to give his grace and power to the one who calls out to him.2

In the first years of our ministry, we delight to discover our God-given strengths and gifts, and rejoice to see how God uses them for the benefit of others, and for his glory. It is often in later years that we come discover our weakness; that God can use us despite our weaknesses; how God can use us and our weakness; and then learn to delight in our weakness. 

This illustrates this basic truth: ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us’ [2 Cor 4:7]. If we are truly doing gospel ministry, it will be beyond us. 

Basic management and administration and ministry maintenance are mostly within our [God-given] power: gospel leadership, gospel transformation, gospel prayer and gospel ministry are beyond us. But when we are weak, then we are strong in Christ’s strength perfected in our weakness.

May we share in this delight together!

A paper for Ridley College Anglican Institute

Furthermore:

  • Here is another new prayer I have written. 

Dear heavenly Father, help me to: love lavishly, without recognition; serve generously, without reward; give cheerfully, without grudging; listen lovingly, without impatience, forgive fully, without resentment; forbear fruitfully, without frustration; minister patiently, without murmuring; serve hopefully, without hesitation; remember thankfully, without regret. May I live in your love, stand in your grace, grow in your wisdom, walk in your ways, and serve in your power, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and for your glory.

Here is a useful article to help us understand the various political stances of Reformed Evangelicals in the USA.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/why-reformed-evangelicalism-has-splintered-four-approaches-to-race-politics-and-gender

  • Here is a useful article to help you understand how others dismiss you, and how you dismiss others [unhelpfully].

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/c-s-lewis-on-the-ubiquitous-fallacy-that-lies-at-the-foundation-of-modern-thought/

With warmest good wishes for your life and ministry.

Yours,

Peter Adam


Endnotes

1 Gk εὐδοκῶ. NIV 11 has ‘I delight’, ESV ‘I am content’, HOLMAN ‘I take pleasure’. The parallel with ‘I will boast’ in v. 9 suggests a very positive meaning.

2 Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, Eerdmans 1997, 577.