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Power In Weakness

2 Corinthians 2:14-17
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. (NIVUK)

These verses seem to interrupt Paul's narrative about how he left good ministry opportunities in Ephesus and Troas to search for Titus, who was bringing news from Corinth. The story has a happy ending in 2 Corinthians 7:2-16. The digression was sparked by Paul remembering how the Lord sustained him through many troubles, personal assaults and inner struggles, while trying to find Titus in Macedonia. So, Paul then used the next four chapters to describe the reality of Christ's power through human weakness.

He used the picture of a conquering army, marching through the streets of a vanquished city. Their captives were paraded in chains to demonstrate the supremacy of the new ruler: their power had gone but the conqueror's power was glorious. It is a startling analogy because Paul said that he was happy to be Christ's captive (Ephesians 4:7-8). The imagery is even more graphic because the captives were spat on, beaten and verbally abused by people in the city. That was exactly what happened to Paul in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:5); it was all part of the pattern of his ministry.

Paul would rather be ill-treated for the sake of Christ than well-respected for being in opposition to Him. Those ancient victory parades were marked by two smells: the burning of incense by the victor, and the smell of unwashed clothes and rotting flesh from the captives. Paul said that his sufferings for the sake of Christ were sweet smelling to God, and attractive to those who also wanted Jesus to be their Lord. But to those who resisted Christ's Lordship, Paul's humiliation reminded the world that their refusal to submit to Jesus would bring them death. Being a gospel-bearer is an impossible task except for the indwelling power of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:5). There was no personal benefit for Paul: no money or prestige. He simply told the truth about Jesus, and got into painful trouble with the world. But despite all the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual heartache – Paul was still committed, and glad, to be God's gospel-messenger.

Naturally, we want people to like us and affirm what we do. But when we speak truthfully about Jesus our Saviour, many will not. They think there is something badly wrong with us, that we should gladly submit to Jesus. They wrongly believe that welcoming Jesus would be death to all their ambitions. Their verbal insults, social rejection, physical attacks and emotional manipulation are all part of their power-play, trying to drown out the irritating reminder from our lifestyle - that Jesus is Lord. Of course, some watch because they want a faith like ours which will withstand suffering for Jesus' sake. So, do not be silent or invisible. Despite the pressures against you, live and speak for Christ. You do not know who is watching. They want to see the power of Christ at work in your weakness.

Powerful God. Thank You for giving strength to weak people who love Jesus. Forgive me for being intimidated by powerful people. Help me to draw my strength from you so that others may see how You uphold me, and desire Jesus for themselves. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams