“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We live in a culture that prizes strength. In the heat of competition, one of the ways opponents attempt to show strength, expose weakness in their adversaries, and gain the edge of intimidation is the fine art of “trash talking” – or perhaps you know it as “talking junk”. Talking trash to your opponent is an attempt to create the mystique of power, poise, and capability.
In the history of sports, few athletes are as renowned for their trash talking as the boxer Muhammad Ali. He turned talking junk into a fine art form, adding poetry, rhyme, and rhythm to his words to intimidate and gain the edge over his opponents.
One day, Ali met his match in the unlikely adversary of an airline stewardess. She repeatedly asked the world champion boxer to kindly put on his seatbelt before the airplane could take off. Ali ignored her time after time, until in frustration he resorted to some trash talking. He looked her in the eyes, and in a loud voice he proudly, confidently, strongly announced to the entire assembly of passengers that “Superman don’t need no seatbelt!”
Without skipping a beat and showing any signs of being phased by Ali’s trash talking, the stewardess simply replied back, “Superman doesn’t need a plane to fly. So please put on your seatbelt, sir.”
Today you may be feeling the tremendous pressure to be strong, secure, successful, beautiful, smart, athletic, fun/funny, deeply compassionate, holy, social, and creative all at the same time. “All you have to do is be strong all the time,” our culture seems to constantly tell us. Even though we know all-too-well our limits, failures, weaknesses, and temptations, we often feel as if we need to keep up the appearances and project an image of strength and power.
What if, though, our limits, failures, weaknesses, and temptations were not invitations to keep up the appearances and boast about our power? What if our limits, failures, weaknesses, and temptations were an open door to the power, strength, ability, and success of God’s unfailing, powerful love and grace?
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, the apostle instructs us to do something that seems crazy. He tells us to boast in our weakness so that the perfect strength of God’s grace can be maximized in our lives. Because God’s strength is all-powerful, because God’s grace is all-sufficient, we can boast in our lack of strength and drop the appearances and cover-ups. If God is strong for us, we can admit that we are weak, needy, and desperate for God’s strength. If God is strong for us, we can admit we are exhausted by keeping up the sham and leave the trash talking and boasting behind.
Today you face a challenge, a relationship, a task, a temptation that will expose your weakness and need of God’s grace. That much is certain. The question before each of us is whether we will ask for God’s strength or boast of our pretended ability. May you have the strength to be weak – to boast about your weakness – today so that you can stand on the solid ground of God’s perfected strength and grace!