Weakness: your secret to success

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians leaves 21st-century readers puzzled. The theme is this: our weakness is the platform for God’s strength.

“No way,” say the positive-thinkers.

“Anathema!” scream prosperity-gospel followers.

“Poppycock!” murmur strategic business planners.

But Paul has a different message. Relying on God, not our own strength, is the key to spiritual accomplishment. Doubt me? Check out verses 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. “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. 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” (NIV).

Some may say, “Great advice for pastors, but it has no place in the real world.” This thinking is a mistake and supports the sacred-secular divide our current culture promotes. That thinking assumes God is only interested in matters such as church, worship, private devotions, pastors and Sundays. Anything outside these boundaries (“secular” areas) is of little interest to God, and we are free agents to think and do as we please.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God created the world and everything in it. He knows how everything should work and how it works best. He is the ultimate creator, engineer, artist, HR advisor, educator, architect, scientist and theologian. Paul understands this truth, and therefore directs his letter to the entire church at Corinth – business people, politicians, educators, builders and farmers, not just clerics.

Fred was a former military officer and a general manager with presence and a definite air of authority. His natural instincts were to conceal weaknesses in his business career, especially from employees he managed. His promotion path was impressive, and when he heard this concept in 2 Corinthians, he rejected it as foolishness.

Fortunately, he was also a man of prayer and understood he was a man under authority, so the principle gnawed at him for several weeks. In a talk to his associates, he decided to tiptoe into this unknown stream. He honestly revealed his fear of failure in a small area and assumed the experiment would fail – thus proving that his original thinking was correct.

Surprisingly, the opposite happened. Immediate subordinates shared that many who thought he was wooden, unreal and unapproachable, were softened. He had made himself vulnerable, sociable, more human and respect-worthy. His concern for what others might think began to be replaced by “all that matters is what God thinks and knows.”

The one-time experiment led him to additional ventures into vulnerability, and the already successful executive experienced a new world of opportunities, relationships and success. The truth of 2 Corinthians became an integral part of his thinking. It changed his life, and God received the glory.

One warning: Discretion and good judgment are essential. Deciding what needs be shared and what should remain private is critical. “Spill it all, always, in all circumstances, ASAP” is a fool’s errand. God, by His Spirit, guided Paul, and He will guide us if we ask and listen.

Whatever your profession may be, remember, your weakness is the platform for God’s strength, and we too can delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. All to the glory of God!