The last shall be first. The hungry shall be filled. The meek shall inherit. The weak shall be strong. The Christian walking by faith faces many paradoxes. God often chooses to use us in our brokenness and weakness.
Paul certainly recognized this paradox in his own life. He first preached to the Galatians because of an illness (Galatians 4:13-14). To the Corinthians, he admitted his lack of eloquence and fear (1 Corinthians 2:1-3). He also reminded them that they were not the most influential of people by human standards, although they were God’s chosen (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Paul struggled with his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and he gave this beautiful word picture that describes the paradox:
But we have this treasure [i.e., the gospel] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV
Walking by faith isn’t easy. We grow through trials. We are like metal tools tempered by the fire. Finding our own strength insufficient, we must turn to the source of strength. Like Paul we cry, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV). Listen to the following prayer by an unknown Confederate soldier. I suspect he knew something of the struggle of walking by faith.
I asked God for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things; I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among men most richly blessed.