Uncovering Our True Strength
We all crave to be strong, resilient, powerful, and able to overcome any trials that come our way. We live our lives pushing down vulnerabilities or anything that shows weakness in order to prove to ourselves that we can do anything.
We are taught as children that we can do anything we set our minds to. However, this creates a mentality that ends in disaster when we recognize that we are only human. This has been my journey. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that I realized this was how I was living my life. I was trying to prove that I was strong enough to deal with anything the world threw at me. Despite the faith that I had in Jesus as my Savior, I was still living in my own strength, trying to prove that I was enough, and ignoring the darkness within me that terrified me.
The Apostle Paul is an amazing example to us of a man who came from a life of striving to prove his worth in all that he did, and had an encounter that changed it all. He was climbing the ladder among the religious authorities in Israel with all of his prestigious accomplishments and discipline in obeying the law. He was trained under the best of the best when it came to scholars, and he was zealous to obey the law. However, his passion to pursue “justice” ended in the destruction of many innocent Christians' lives, and an encounter with the blinding light of Jesus on the road to Damascus. It was on that road where he encountered the truth about his own depravity and darkness, in contrast with the glory and perfection of Jesus Christ. That moment was when he trusted in Jesus as his Savior and stopped being his own Savior. The rest of his life was spent sharing the gospel, or “good news” of this salvation to everyone he came into contact with. He found his true strength that day, in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, a city similar to our country today with opportunities for success, for pleasure, and religious diversity. The “ministry” that Paul is talking about is the gospel of Christ. That we are all in the same boat with respect to sin, but God provided us redemption. We have all done evil in this life and the punishment for sin is eternal separation from God. This is why God came down in the form of man to take that punishment for us. He was condemned so we would have the opportunity to live with God for eternity. We have more darkness within us than we could even imagine, but we are more loved and desired than we could ever dream. If we place our trust in Jesus’ sacrifice as full and free payment for our sins, we have eternal life and we are born into God’s family. This is the reason that we do not lose heart. This is the reason we can keep facing trials in this world and yet retain that hope. This is the message we must give to the world.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (AMP)
Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as we received mercy [from God, granting us salvation, opportunities, and blessings], we do not get discouraged nor lose our motivation. But we have renounced the disgraceful things hidden because of shame; not walking in trickery or adulterating the word of God, but by stating the truth [openly and plainly], we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is [in some sense] hidden [behind a veil], it is hidden [only] to those who are perishing; among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves [merely] as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give us the Light of the knowledge of the glory and majesty of God [clearly revealed] in the face of Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote about not practicing cunning or tampering with God’s word, but rather letting the gospel speak for itself. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands to do what we think is right. Sometimes we twist the Word of God to match our desires and plans, or to justify our own sin.
What is an example where you have tried to take matters into your own hands instead of waiting on God or allowing His power to perform through you?
2 Corinthians 4: 7-12 (AMP)
But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves. We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body. For we who live are constantly [experiencing the threat of] being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced in our mortal body [which is subject to death]. So physical death is [actively] at work in us, but [spiritual] life [is actively at work] in you.
God has given us these human bodies, that can’t even compare to the power of the least of the angels. Yet, He offered us His power if we trust in Jesus as our Savior. Living in this world, we will encounter darkness, pain, and loss regardless of who we follow or trust in However, if we choose to follow Jesus, receive His love, and become a conduit of that love, the suffering and darkness chips away at our own darkness and reveals our true inner beauty, strength, and power. This is the God given power and beauty that displays His glory through us as we become partakers of His glory, and experience an abundant life here and now. On this path, afflictions are seen as light, and the pain as only temporary, because God’s love and glory outshines and overcomes everything else.
What is an example in your life where you faced incredible pain or hardship? What kept you going?
Careers within the military and in the first responder arena can be tremendously stressful and take a toll on our bodies. Our experiences catch up to us and we can feel it within the aging process, injuries, aches, and pains, and feeling like we are wasting away at times. However, our inner self, or our new nature continues growing and transforming even when our body gives out on us. The “light affliction” Paul is referring to is all of the hardship he experienced. He was beaten with rods, left for dead, shipwrecked, stoned, betrayed.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
What are things that are unseen that can transform our perspective about trials in life? What would make Paul see his affliction as “light?”
The more we are connected to God, the more He fuels and transforms our inner being. When trials and tribulations come, this is when our inner being is transformed the most and prepares itself to shine. It is God who transforms us, we cannot transform ourselves. The fires and trials in life are what bring out the inner treasure in us as the light of God shines through the wounds in our souls.
The Dark Side of Love
Is there no other way, O God,
Except through sorrow, pain and loss,
To stamp Christ’s likeness on my soul,
No other way except the cross?
And then a voice stills all my soul,
As stilled the waves of Galilee.
Can’st thou not bear the furnace,
If midst the flames I walk with thee?
I bore the cross, I know its weight;
I drank the cup I hold for thee.
Can’st thou not follow where I lead?
I’ll give thee strength, lean hard on Me!
Identify times in your life where you felt vulnerable, weak, or endured trials and temptations. Ask God for forgiveness if you tried to hide your vulnerabilities, covered up the pain, or pushed through it on your own. Ask God to help you go directly to Him in order to tap into His power. In our weakness, we find his strength. Try going to Him ASAP from here on out.