After praying repeatedly for the removal of a problem in his life, the Apostle Paul got a startling answer from the Lord. He described the problem itself as “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.” “Torment” is a very graphic word indicating that this was no light-weight problem. As any other believer would do, Paul prayed that this problem would be removed from his life. Instead of getting what he asked for, he got this answer from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Having strength looks so good to us. We would all like to have more. But human strength is nothing compared to the power which the Lord makes manifest through our weakness. Freedom from problems in this life may be comfortable, but that comfort does not produce the kind of power mentioned here. That power is perfected in weakness.
Paul himself provides a riveting example of the difference divine power makes in the life of a believer. The scene is Philippi. The ministry there was brand new, but had already seen significant fruit. The people of the city reacted violently against the life-changing power of the gospel, and Paul and Silas became the objects of persecution. They were carried before the city leaders, stripped and severely beaten with rods. Then they were thrown in prison, and their feet were placed in stocks. The violence against them was officially sanctioned, but was also a serious breach of Roman law. It was unjust persecution being carried out by official consent.
The results of all this were very painfully for the two missionaries. They were bloody and bruised from their beatings, and were sitting on a cold floor in the dark, unable to move around. They were not in any way a picture of human strength at this point in their ministry.
Here is the biblical account of what happened next: “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
There was no complaining. No whining. No crying and asking God why he would let this happen to them. There was no shouting to the guards, “You can’t do this to me!” There was something here that is far more significant than human strength. Had the text said only that they prayed, we might assume they uttered a complaint. But they were singing hymns of praise to God. Such songs are the very opposite of complaining. Bloody and bruised, sitting uncomfortably in the darkness, with an uncertain future, they were giving glory to God in song after song. This is the power of God in the life of a believer.
Such power has a definite impact on the world around us. Scripture says, “And the prisoners were listening to them.” Though it was midnight, no one was scoffing. No one was shouting at them to “keep it down in there.” The particular segment of humanity occupying the prison that night recognized a power that stunned them to silent attentiveness.
The fruitful ministry in Philippi that Paul and Silas enjoyed cannot be separated from the weakness through which God made his power known. If you have a thorn in your flesh which God will not remove from you, remember that power is perfected in weakness. There will be fruit from what he allows you to endure.