Made Perfect in Weakness

I was sitting with a gentleman who had traveled a good many miles to spend a little time in counsel and study. He was a new Christian and had just a few weeks previous heard the Seventh-day Adventist message; so he had a number of questions to ask. He was burdened about the healing of someone connected with the group he had been with that had cancer and he was anxious to have him healed. It was apparent from his questions that he thought that according to the Scripture if a man had enough faith that there would certainly be no question about the healing. So together we opened the word of God and began to look at some things.

First we looked at 2 Timothy 4:20. This is an interesting question: If we have enough faith, will we and the people we pray for be healed and if not, does it prove that we or the individual prayed for lacks faith? Here Paul is writing from Rome to Timothy, his dearly beloved son in the ministry. “Erastus (one of Paul’s helpers) abode in Corinth: Trophimus (another fellow minister) have I left in Miletus sick.” I asked my new friend, Why did Paul, who had healed many people, go off and leave Trophimus sick in Miletus? The Bible does not say, but the point is that Paul certainly had faith enough to heal hundreds perhaps thousands of people but somehow Trophimus was not healed.

In 1 Timothy 5:23 is an earlier letter Paul wrote to Timothy apparently dealing with some sick spells that Timothy suffered from time to time. He did not tell Timothy that he needed to pray more or have more faith but gives him some practical suggestions. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine” that is, pure grape juice, “for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” This was not just once that Timothy felt bad, under the weather as we would say, but it happened every now and then. Paul said, Timothy, you need something more than water; get some grape juice when you feel like this for your often infirmities.

My new friend began to see some things in the Bible that he had not seen before. We considered the experience of the apostle Paul himself. In the earlier part of 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes some of the wonderful visions that the Lord gave him of the glorious things in heaven. But in the 7th through 10th verses he describes the program that God allowed him to be on so that he would not get exalted about what he had seen. “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Notice, He did not say Paul, the matter with you is that you don’t have enough faith; you haven’t prayed enough. No!

The apostle Paul, one of the greatest men of faith, perhaps, in all the sacred Scripture history, was not only able to heal hundreds of people and win thousands to Christ, but we read that he, himself, had to put up with infirmities. After he prayed so earnestly about it, finally the Lord said, Paul, that’s enough! God was more anxious to save Paul than He was to heal him. Apparently, God saw that if Paul was too full of zip and energy and had these wonderful revelations and felt good every day he might get exalted. It was exultation that caused Lucifer’s fall, but do not misunderstand—a person who is exalted does not have to fall. Lucifer did not have to fall. Because of the abundance of the revelation Paul was given from God, it was safer for his salvation that the thorn in Paul’s flesh remain there. He said that it was going to hurt you every now and then, but never mind, I’ve got it all taken care of. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

With this new information my friend said he did not know how to put it all together. He asked, “What thermometer is there for measuring faith? The man had in his mind that the more faith a person had, the more answers to prayer there would be and if they prayed for people and they got well, it would prove they had a lot of faith and if they did not get well, the faith thermometer would show that the temperature was not very high. I suggested that my friend was actually thinking about hope. Hope and faith are not the same thing at all. I can hope for a lot of things, but one must understand what faith is. Romans 10:17 tells how faith comes, what it is based on: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

The word faith is sometimes used in a rather loose way. We may speak of a man buying some stocks on the stock exchange and say that he has faith in that company. I would say that he had hope in it, and faith after a fashion, but when the Bible talks about faith, it is not talking about believing in something; it is believing that what God has promised will come to pass. That is faith.

Now I can hope for all kinds of things, but I can only have faith when the thing that I ask for and expect is what God has promised. My friend began to understand and began to help me finish the little study I was sharing with him. His mind was led to the Savior’s prayer in Gethsemane when three times Jesus prayed that the cup might pass, but each time he added, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Luke 22:42, literal translation). Certainly Jesus did not lack faith. In fact, He exhibited the highest expression of faith. Can you think of any greater expression of faith? Jesus was there in the garden, faced with that awful agony and longing to be relieved from it and hoping that He might be. Yet His faith said, Father, I know that You will do the thing that is best; so not what I ask, but what You will be done. He had taken our humanity and in our human flesh He was crying out. Only the burden that He carried was infinitely heavier than ours.

There is wonderful encouragement as you meditate on that promise to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8: “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” Most everyone has pleaded with God for relief from a problem or concern, maybe physical, or mental concern, or some spiritual struggle. Paul had that experience and “He [God] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9). He did not honor the apostle’s faith by taking away the thing that Paul longed to get rid of, but He gave him the grace to bear it and to go ahead and accomplish something for God with that thorn in the flesh afflicting him.

My heart thrills that I can bring you this wonderful fact: that you do not have to wait until you get your problems solved to come to God. You do not have to wait until God removes all the difficulties from your life before you step out to do something for Him. The glorious good news of the gospel is this: No matter what situation you are in, no matter how many problems surround you, no matter how many weaknesses and infirmities you have, God has a way to use you right where you are with all the difficulties and problems that beset and upset you. God has a way to do it. His grace is indeed sufficient for you.

There are people who have been praying a lot longer than Paul prayed for something to be removed from their life so they could do something, but Jesus said, My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in your weakness. Do you have weakness to deal with? Well, He has got the strength to go with it! Which is bigger, your weakness or His strength? Our infinite God has infinite power, infinite might and infinite strength. If you were ten times as weak as you are, He could still handle the matter. Oh, you may say, I wish that He would do it so that I would just feel strong, but Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Dear friends, it would be far better to have God work through a weak man than to be strong and God not have so much chance to work. Some may say, But can God not work through a strong man? Yes, He could if they would let Him. But remember Samson, the strongest man that ever lived. God had him born for that very job and he was given strength for that job, but God had a very hard time with Samson. I believe the reason God had this story recorded was so that you and I could understand that being strong is not always the answer; it has its problem. It is so easy for a strong man, whether it is strong in muscle or strong in any other way, to depend upon that strength instead of the power of God. There have been plenty of weak men who have accomplished far more than Samson ever did.

Think of Solomon’s uniqueness. He was the wisest man that ever lived, but do you know of anybody that ever did any more foolish things than he did? What was his problem? Solomon got to the place where he depended on his own wisdom instead of the Source of his wisdom. He had the right answer so many times that he got to the place where he thought he always had the right answer.

Some of us thank the Lord that we get the wrong answer often enough to humble us. If that is what it takes, so be it. I so wish that God could trust a lot of us with much more power and strength and wisdom than we had ever thought of having. He would like to, for God takes no pleasure in our sickness, our infirmities, these thorns in the flesh. He would like to deliver all of us from ulcers, cancers, high blood pressure, nervous breakdowns, and all the rest of our infirmities. He would like to lift us out of every trial and difficulty. When we weep, He weeps. But listen, He is taking the long view; He wants to save us and He would rather that we have some problems now that help us to feel our need of Him and stay close to Him and be saved at last than miss that fellowship throughout all eternity.

“He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And if that means hobbling along with one lung, it is all right. It is better to go to heaven with one lung than to miss it with two. It is better to be used in God’s work with one leg or even no legs at all, one hand or no hands at all; it is better to be used in God’s work, to spend our time and energy working for the world which will come to an end with all kinds of handicaps than it is to be strong and healthy and full of vigor and do nothing.

Why, think of Ellen G. White, the young woman called at 17 to be God’s messenger to the remnant and to the world. This was God’s channel through which these wonderful revelations for the last generation were to be given, and whom does He pick out? The weakest of the weak. There were others that were called before her. They were educated, they were strong, they had the things that she lacked, but she had what they lacked. God chose to use her weakness because He could not get full opportunity to use their strength and wisdom. Finally, when the Lord kept pressing her on accepting this call, young Ellen prayed, Oh Lord, I know there are others that You have used and they have been exalted and lost their way. Oh Lord, if this is what you want me to do, will you please keep me from being exalted? God heard her prayer and He said, Your prayer is heard and it will be done, and if you are in danger of being exalted, trials and things will come that will humble you.

Look at her life. From Portland, Maine, to St. Helena, California, from 1844 to her call unto 1915, her final call, her call to rest, is one long series of difficulties and problems. Think of the diseases that she suffered, her experience with tuberculosis, cancer, heart trouble, neuritis and all kinds of afflictions. Think of her sorrow and bereavement, losing her little baby in her arms, losing her teenage oldest son, Henry, a beautiful singer at the age of 16. Think of her husband, cut down in the prime of life, leaving her to struggle on through many years. Nevertheless, God always sustained her. Think of the many problems she had with those that should have appreciated her message and instead circulated lies about her, or what was sometimes even more frustrating, to see those she was instructed to help simply have read the messages and put them aside, doing nothing about it. Problem after problem!

Think of the financial burden in New England and New York as a young wife with her husband, when it was hard to know just how to get enough food to keep them living from day to day, as they were struggling to get the publishing work started and to preach the message. Abundance of revelations, yes. Abundance of afflictions, yes. Some people would rather have fewer revelations and fewer trials and some people are content to have no trials and no revelations. But thank God, the apostle Paul, called by the Master Himself, got the view and He was willing to accept God’s program. He was willing to let God use what he had regardless of what it cost him. He did not wait until he got strong but allowed God to use his weakness. More was accomplished by him than ten strong men could have done.

What are you struggling with? Whatever it is, it is your privilege to pray as Paul did, Lord, please remove this. God may do it; He does sometimes. God answers prayer. “Sometimes when hearts are weak, He gives the very gift believers seek; but often faith must learn a deeper rest, and trust God’s silence when He does not speak.” Myra G. Plantz, (1856–1914).

Oh, let me tell you, friends, if short division is learning to get answers to your prayers so that you see the answers, long division is learning to pray when the answers are not apparent, while still maintaining your faith. If kindergarten is praying and things happen just like that, real school is getting down to the practical business of letting God use your weakness to magnify His strength. “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). [Emphasis added.] What a paradox! Let us be willing for God to use us, all there is of us.

If you have a problem, whatever it is – whether tobacco or liquor or any other problem concerning some physical craving, perhaps it’s overeating, what is your prayer? Do you pray, oh Lord, deliver me from this craving and I’ll never fall again? There is nothing wrong with asking God to remove the craving for any of these things, but we must always pray, nevertheless, not as I will but as You will. Remember, there is one thing that we can know is always God’s will, and that is for you to have victory. There is no question about that. Can you furnish the weakness? Well, let God furnish the strength. Put Him to the test, His strength is made perfect in weakness.

A man may come face to face with God’s message for today and see that the seventh day is the Sabbath and that God’s true creation Sabbath is the seal of the living God. He sees that it is a great issue in this last generation but asks, What can I do? I have got to make a living; I have got to support my family and the job that I have requires me to work at least part of the time during the 24 hours from Friday sundown till Saturday sundown. What can I do? He may pray and get his family to pray and he may get others to pray, Lord, open the way so I can keep your commandment. This is a good prayer. He steps out in faith and obeys his conviction and says, “Dear Lord, I’m going to obey You whether I know how it will work out or not.”

Another man’s problem is losing his temper. Every now and then he tells his family off, he scolds his children and talks mean to his wife. He feels sorry about it and gets down on his knees and prays, “Oh Lord, help me; I wish You would take that angry temper out of me so that I would never feel mad again and always feel like a meek lamb for this is what I want.” He means it and God hears his prayer but the way God answers may not be to fix him up so that he never feels anything but a lamb. The book of Romans teaches that it is possible for the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled in us even though the flesh is clamoring against the spirit (Romans 8:4). Thank God the Spirit can rule in our lives if we allow it to. There are many people with angry tempers, but believe this wonderful promise of God that you do not have to act like you feel. You do not have to say everything that you feel like saying. There is victory in Jesus Christ. It is not necessarily the victory of a calm summer evening with everything peaceful and feeling that this is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to hurt anybody. No, but the victory comes in knowing that we don’t have to act like we feel, that we can talk about Jesus and His love. Victory is, if necessary, to close our lips through faith in God and say nothing rather than dishonor our Redeemer.

Whatever your problem, whether it be physical, mental or spiritual, pray anything you want and ask God for any method of deliverance, but remember to ask as did Jesus, Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt. I wish I didn’t have to drink the cup but if that is the way then I’ll drink it. I wish I could feel strong, but if it is necessary for me to feel weak lest I be exalted above measure, Lord, I’ll carry that thorn in the flesh, I’ll let Your strength be made perfect in weakness. And if I can’t be as strong as Samson, if I’m as weak as Ellen Harmon was back there in Portland, Maine, in 1844, I say, here I am Lord; use whatever you can of me and I’ll let Your name and Your throne get the glory.

Step out in faith today and do what God says no matter how you feel, and if you believe God will give you the strength, you will find victory. Jesus is our wonderful Savior; He will carry you through.

Elder W.D. Frazee studied the Medical Missionary Course at the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. He was called to Utah as a gospel medical evangelist. During the Great Depression, when the church could not afford to hire any assistants, Elder Frazee began inviting professionals to join him as volunteers. This began a faith ministry that would become the foundation for the establishment of the Wildwood Medical Missionary Institute in 1942. He believed that each person is unique, specially designed by the Lord, of infinite value, and has a special place and mission in this world which only he can fill. His life followed this principle and he encouraged others to do the same.