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Philippians 4:13; 12:9 1

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Background

The “Little Engine that Could”

There are really several parts to this positive, “Yes I Can” message. To set out with any objective, the first step is to identify our weaknesses, those things that may keep us from successfully reaching our goal. We can also conclude that when objectives include God as a partner, a positive outcome is easier to achieve.  But that is where the second part, our Corinthians verse points. To receive God’s help begins with humbly admitting we need the help.

From this comment from the Apostle Paul, it would be easy to conclude that he was strong; there was no task or hardship beyond his strength. Paul could bear any trial, perform any duty, subdue any sinful weakness of his own nature, and meet all the temptations and adversity that life could throw at him. However, the exact opposite was true. Through his own experiences in life, Paul arrived at a different conclusion. First, Paul was confident that nothing would be required of him which he would not be able to handle. His declaration was not based on vanity or self-reliance. It was not even based on experience. Paul learned where the strength was to be obtained by which to do all things, and  it was that knowledge that was sufficient to uphold his confidence.

Paul’s source of strength was Christ. It would be Christ who was his provider. Paul had abundant experience but even this would not be enough to either carry him through his trials or to achieve the successful growth of Christ’s church. It would be his faith in Christ that enabled him to bear cold, fatigue, hunger, temptations and persecutions. And what exactly did his faith and belief in Christ bring to us?

  • One does not need to sink under any trial; there is One who can strengthen us.
  • We do not need to yield to temptation. There is One who is able to provide a way for our escape.
  • Sins of the mind need not  torture us with improper thoughts and unholy desires. There is One who can enable us to banish such thoughts from the mind, and restore the right balance to our lives.
  • We do not need to fear what is to come. Trials, temptations, poverty, want, persecution, may await us; but we do not need to sink into despondency. We have One to place all hope in.

Paul had learned that for every step and circumstance of life, Christ was able to strengthen  him, and bring him triumphantly to Him. Paul saw that to be a Christian was a privilege.  Paul would say that to feel, in the trials of life, we have one unchanging and most mighty friend who can always help us was truly God’s gift to humanity. With God’s Son, Christ, we now can cheerfully engage in our duties, and meet the trials that are before us, leaning on the arm of Christ Himself. When we has such a friend, no one needs to shrink from their duty or dread persecution, even death itself. In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can and will uphold us.

Items for Discussion

  • Do you think the world views Christianity today as a obligation, a crutch or a privilege? Why?
  • How would you go about identifying your own weaknesses?
  • Why should we know what our weaknesses are?
  • If you could honestly create a list of weaknesses, what would you do with it?
  • Paul learned that he could do all things with Christ–How do we learn the same thing?

 

2 Corinthians 12:9

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.

Background

In the verses before our study verse, Paul is praying for relief to emphasize how desperately he wanted God to remove an affliction. We do not know what the affliction was but it had plagued Paul for a long time. In Paul’s moment of desperate prayer, Christ answers him. “But he said to me, My grace (Greek word is charis) is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (teleo) in weakness.” The key word here is grace, a significant word in the New Testament. The use of the Greek word charis in the New Testament has its roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God’s lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness. Christ Himself (God), was telling Paul that His grace would help him to overcome his affliction.

Paul prayed that the affliction might be taken from him, but Christ answered that prayer as He answers so many prayers–He did not take the thing away but gave Paul strength to bear it. That is how Christ (God) works. He does not spare us things, but makes us able to conquer them. Was Christ’s promise of all-sufficient grace enough?

  • It was sufficient for physical weariness. It made him able to go on. 
  • It was sufficient for physical pain. It made him able to bear the cross for himself.
  • It was sufficient for opposition. All his life Paul was up against it and all his life he never gave in. No amount of opposition could break him or make him turn back.
  • It made him able, as all this letter shows, to face slander. There is nothing so hard to face as misinterpretation and cruel misjudgment. 

The glory of the Gospel’s message is that in our weakness we find His wondrous grace. God’s opportunities can usually found at man’s wit’s end.

Items for Discussion

  • Virtually all “self-help” programs begin with admitting you need help–Why?
  • Are people really open to someone boasting about their weaknesses? Why or why not?
  • What happens to a society when too many live in an “Asking for a Friend” kind of world–Where we never really admit we have a problem?
  • There are great “Influencers” in our world, Internet, media, entertainment, sports, advertising, etc. Why would most people NOT add churches to the list of influencers? Why?

Discussion Challenge

  • What do churches have to do today to change the way we view weaknesses in each other?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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