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Pastors Column

By Sam Belz

“Go and find out who God made you to be.”

In a recent Facebook video, a woman stands at the pulpit and tells the audience about her late husband. It’s his funeral, but she refuses to eulogize. Instead, she zeroes in on his foibles, specifically the way he snores and passes gas during his sleep. Sometimes, she says from the pulpit, his gas actually woke him up, because it was so loud. “It’s just the dog,” she would say, but later in his life, when his illness was at its worst, these “imperfections” assured her that he was still alive. She thanked God for them! Signs of her husband’s imperfections, his beautiful powerlessness, proved to this woman that her husband was still alive.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, the Apostle Paul explores weakness, fear and trembling. In other words, and surprisingly so, Paul explores the real power of God. He concludes that, for an apostle, power comes not from lofty speech or wisdom, from plausible words of wisdom, the wisdom of men. Power emerges from weakness, because weakness exposes the true source of our strength and power.

Today, I ask you, how do you handle weakness? Let me tell you a story.
In the Bible, the Corinthian church, which Paul himself founded, rejected Paul. They rejected his apostolic authority. They rejected him as a pastor, preacher and guide, because, they said, in so many words,
“You are not the leader we had in mind.
You walked into our town like a bum.
You did not drive in on a motorcycle.
“You are poor.
You make a meager living through manual labor.
You are under constant persecution
You are basically homeless.
And most of all,
You are not an impressive public speaker.
Paul, you are not a super-apostle.
Goodbye.”
On hearing this, circumstances tempted Paul to respond by comparing himself to these eloquent, polished super-apostles, but Paul takes the high road. He insists on boasting in his weaknesses. Jaws, I’m sure, dropped in Corinth, when they read this letter publicly for the first time, because, among other things, Paul could have written,

“I am the Apostle Paul.
Besides Jesus, I am literally the most important person in the history of the church.
I founded your church.
I gave spiritual birth to your congregation,
not to mention the whole Greco-Roman church.
You would not exist without me.
In every category, I am better than the super-apostles.
Respect!
Sincerely,
Paul”

Instead, Paul boasts in his weakness, in all of the insults, hardships, persecutions, poverty, near-death experiences, the thorn in his mortal flesh, but never in a showboat way. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves his people and he says to the people, “Be the Lord’s people. Be teachable. Make my life easy by being compliant.”
So, in the Spirit of Paul, whether you are a pastor, priest or person in the pews...

Know who you are in God and who he made you to be. Prepare to be stretched. Strive to be authentic. Be people of faith. Recognize the gift of a handicap, whether literal or figurative. Know your limitations. Set strategic boundaries in your life. Enter the good life. Embrace self-deprecating humor. Remember the difference between what you know and what God only knows. Relish what you do not know! Keep an eye out for beautiful powerlessness. Be a glass-half-full kind of person. Fulfill the calling that God has given you. Be the Lord’s people. Take it easy on your leaders and always have a gracious reply on the tip of your tongue.

My friends, good times are coming, so are bad times. Don’t let your hopes ride on either one. Instead, remember that you can do all things through the one who strengthens you. In this way, do not settle for perfection as the world defines it, but beautiful imperfection, the powerlessness through which the power of Christ will be displayed in you.
And with that, go and find out who God made you to be.

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