Paul's Source of Strength – Part II

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington and Three College Students


New insights from answers to the question, "Why does Paul say, 'When I am weak, then I am strong'(2 Cor 12:10)?"


Three more college students (numbered, rather than named) comment on Paul's startling statement, touching on true leadership, goodness, and healing.

Student 1
I, too, think it is important to put Paul's comment in historical context. It is quite possible that Paul de-emphasized his own strength in order to discourage his converts from focusing on him. In many, if not most, of the churches Paul founded, either Paul was criticized and maligned as a false apostle, or factions erupted in the church with each faction professing to follow a different human leader.

In I Corinthians, Paul chastises the Corinthians for following Apollos or Cephas or himself. Such factions could threaten to destroy the church. So Paul de-emphasizes his own strength and points the Corinthians toward God, as when he writes, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (I Cor. 3:7 NIV). A strong church comes not as a result of any human leader's strength, but due to faith in God.

Perhaps Paul realized the importance of humility in letting God lead from such statements of Jesus: "I can of mine own self do nothing . . . I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30 KJV). Jesus acknowledges that he follows no human leadership, not even his own. Instead, he does God's will. Humans can make mistakes, so accepting the weakness of human leadership opens the door for acknowledging our ability to follow God's leadership, and thus be made strong.

Student 2
So many people during Paul's time, and now, are built up with pride and confidence to the point that they are blinded from seeing God's work in their lives. But Paul strives for humility in everything he does. Paul makes it clear that strength comes from God alone.

Jesus does the same thing. In a conversation, a ruler addresses Jesus as "Good Teacher" (Luke 18:18). Jesus refutes the acknowledgement of his personal goodness, and declares God as the only one who is Good. Paul sees that God is strongest with those who are "weak" by human measure. Paul writes, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" (1 Cor 1:27). In this sense, we see that Paul means that purely human strength is weakness, for it leaves God out of the equation. But even if we're weak humanly, we can find strength in God.

Student 3
When we are faced with trials that look too big to overcome, we tend to find ourselves in total surrender. We feel so weak that the only hope we have is to turn to a divine power. Although we are expected to trust God for any and every situation, we sometimes turn to God more completely in tough situations. Thus, we see God's presence in our lives. The moment we surrender to God, knowing that we are weak and God is strong, we see and feel God's strength – and this brings healing.