Main Passage:2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Key Verse: I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:13NIV
After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I encountered several circumstances beyond my own limits for me to handle. Amazingly, I was enabled to do incredible things for my health condition. One time, when I served the members in the fitness center, a group of teens came in and began to goof around with the equipment. As they slammed the weight stacks and loudly spewed foul language, I approached them, "Gentlemen, I am glad you like working out in the fitness center. Stop slamming the weights because it damages the equipment. Also, keep the language clean, please, or I will have to ask you to leave."
The smallest of the four decided to step forward toward me, "I will do what I ____ well please. I have a membership here!" he sneered. The other three stepped up dutifully behind him giving me their best rendition of being "bad dudes". Something odd happened. I felt compelled to sit down. Yes, this third degree black belt with fibromyalgia sat down on a piece of exercise equipment in front of them. Their gestures were threatening. Could I kick their backsides? On a good day, yes, but it wasn't a good day. As soon as I sat down and spoke to them in a normal tone of voice, they suddenly backed off. Image by Kaan Oruc from Unsplash.
"Gentlemen, you are welcome to work out here, but you need to follow the rules. Otherwise, you will have to leave. These rules apply to all members and guests," I pointed to sign with the rules clearly posted. The leader of the bunch made the decision for the group to leave. He motioned them to head out the door and turned as they followed his lead. I was shocked at the response because I expected the situation to get ugly.
What's the Deal?
People with health conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune diseases struggle with self confidence. The tasks they were once able to handle are overwhelming now. Even the people who know and love them don't always understand when they have to say, "No." to the activities they once enjoyed. Deadlines loom like specters scaring them into a huddle on the couch. They often retreat into depression as a result.
There are people with serious pain and fatigue conditions who are absolutely amazing in what they accomplish. I know some pretty awesome ladies who wield the "Power of the Pen" with ease, travel to speaking engagements, and gracefully teach at conferences. Their health conditions are no easier than anyone else with the same condition, yet they aren't huddled up on the couch with a blanket over their heads singing the "Whoa is me" song. What makes the difference for these warriors in the Lord? Why are they able to do what they do? Why was I able to disperse a group of confrontational teens who could beat me up on a really rough fibro day?
In our main passage, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Corinth after they responded back from a harsh letter regarding this troubled church. Some false apostles had boasted about themselves in such a way as to discredit Paul's authority. In contrast to this, Paul breaks 14 years of silence since he received an incredible vision from the Lord by sharing this vision, a revelation God gave Paul. It was certainly an amazing vision in which God revealed some things he couldn't describe. Revelations of such magnitude were usually given to bolster the individual's faith in the face of very difficult circumstances. Paul was boasting in the Lord, not himself. To prevent conceit, he was given a "thorn in the flesh" as a means to remain a humble servant of God. This was in contrast to the false apostles. This thorn in the flesh, likely a physical affliction, was bad enough for Paul to ask God to take it away three times. God did not remove it. Image from Freely Christian Images by Aaron Burden.
Our key verse comes from Paul thanking the Philippian church for their care and concern for him, even though they had no opportunity to help him at the time. They may have been prevented from helping him so the power of God could shine through Paul. Paul gives God all the credit: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
As for the situation in the fitness center, evidently God prompted me to sit down in a non-threatening, peaceful posture. My normal response from my training would have been to set up in a defensive posture instead. But the Lord knew it was a bad day physically for me. Even though my training included dealing with more than one attacker, God had a much different, peaceful plan.
The power of God is shown greatest in human weakness. Because the person could not do something of his own power, the only reasonable explanation is the power of God working through the person to do what he or she couldn't do themselves. God often uses people without influence, of lesser status, and having little means to accomplish big things for His good purposes. Image from Freely Christian Images by Alexsandr Ledogorov.
Often, God chooses to work through people who would not be able to do the amazing things they do without Him. I have done amazing things I couldn't have done on my own power. I could only give God the credit. No other explanation was able to be given. Those pen-wielding warriors of faith know where their strength comes from because even on their best days, they couldn't accomplish what they do. God enables us to do the work to which He has called us because He is able and we are not. Our limitations serve as a reminder of Who is really at work, that we might boast in the Lord's mighty work and not our own. It serves as a testimony of our amazing God!
As you sit feeling horrible in your illness, reflect on the call God has placed on your life. First, you are a person of worth because He gives you worth. Second, He has called you to do something for Him. Prayerfully ask Him how He wants you to do these things and acknowledge your weakness compared to His strength. Just as He assured Gideon, Moses, and Isaiah that He could work through them, He can work through you, too. If God has called you, He will also equip and enable you to do His work. Always give Him the credit that is due Him. That is your testimony of the amazing God we serve!
May God bless you!