I was raised by my parents to be pretty self-sufficient. I remember one thing my dad told me after I had grown up and left the house was that the one thing he was happy about concerning my brother, my sister, and myself was that we never came back asking for money.
Self-sufficiency, in terms of independence from our parents, is a good thing. We all need to grow up and strike out on our own.
But self-sufficiency in terms of our relationship with God is never a good thing. There will never will be a time when we can truly claim independence from God. We will always need him. We will always need his power and strength in our lives if we are to make it in this life. In our relationships. In our work. And definitely in ministry.
The problem with self-sufficiency is that it keeps God’s power from truly becoming complete in us. Put another way, we will never have full access to the power of God in our lives as long as we are trying to be self-sufficient.
That’s what Paul learned and that’s what Paul tried to teach the Corinthians.
Paul had received an awesome spiritual experience, having seen heaven itself. And it would have been so easy for Paul to think, “I’ve made it. I don’t really need God anymore. I am so spiritual that I can live this life on my own strength now.”
And so God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble and reliant on God. What that thorn in the flesh was is not clear. But whatever it was, a physical ailment (many people think it was an eye problem), or a spiritual problem, or whatever it may have been, though Paul pleaded three times for God to take it away, God refused, saying,
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (9)
In other words, “I don’t need to take this problem from you in order for you to live. My grace is enough for that. And my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
Because in our weakness we are forced to rely on God’s power and not our own. God’s power will never be made perfect in our lives as long as we are relying on ourselves.
And so Paul said,
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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. (9b-10)
Why did Paul boast of his weaknesses? Because it forced him to rely on God more, and in relying on God more, he knew more of the power of God in his life. And I have to believe that in the process, he was forced to draw closer to God as well.
How about you? Are you trying to make it on your own? To live by your own power and strength? By doing so, you’re missing out on two things: the fullness of God’s power in your life and a closer relationship with him.
I don’t know about you, but I want both of those things in my life.
So let us not boast of our own self-sufficiency, but let us live each day leaning on God’s power and strength.