Grace to Nurse Our Weaknesses

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 . . .“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Mention “salvation by grace alone” and immediately most people think, “The Apostle Paul”; but mention “speaking in tongues” and most people think, “Pentecostals” or “Charismatics.” And this, despite the fact that the Apostle Paul claims to have spoken in tongues more than even the Corinthians themselves (1Cor.14:18). This illustrates how much most of us read the New Testament through the filters of our own experience of the 21st century church!!!


On the Day of Pentecost, over 2000 years ago, the followers of Christ "were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). The Apostle Peter explained this Spirit-inspired language came from Heaven. The spectators in that place acknowledged that the disciples were speaking of "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). Notice the relationship of a spirit of praise and worship to the exercise of speaking with tongues in Acts 2. It's often debated as to whether speaking with tongues is or isn't a sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not the subject of this text message you are now reading, but I do believe the Word of God makes it clear that this language of praise (the gifts of tongues – 1Cor 12-14) is a dynamic privilege available to people who are filled with the Spirit. In this text message (2Cor.12:8-9), I want to propose that the Apostle Paul’s understanding of “Speaking in Tongues”is to be found in the paradox of 2 Corinthians 12:9, that “[God’s] power finds perfection in [human] weakness,” and that speaking in tongues therefore reflects a position of weakness, not of strengthThe Apostle Paul does not ‘pray in tongues’ from a position of ‘strength,’ as though being filled by the Holy Spirit put one in a position of power before God.Rather, Paul is completely dependent on the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul sees a closes correlation between the Spirit’s power and his present human weaknesses. Such passages as Romans 8:17-28; 2 Corinthians 12:9; and Colossians 1:9-11 indicate that the Spirit is seen as the source of power for the believer in the midst of affliction or weakness. In Paul’s view, “knowing Christ” means to know “both the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” in which life in the “already” means to be “conformed to his death” as we press toward the “not yet” — the final prize (Phil 3:9-13). Paul longs to know ONE thing: to know Christ. However, this type of discovery is a “relational discovery” – Truth is a Person (Christ), and to know this Truth we must “live” into it to discover it. One of the ways Paul came to know Christ was through the visible demonstrations of power through the Holy Spirit manifested in the midst of his human weakness, as God’s “proof” that the Lord’s power resides in the message of a crucified Messiah.

1) In 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, Paul talks simultaneously about the reality of his own weaknesses and the Spirit’s power in his preaching and the Corinthians’ conversion;

2) In 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 Paul reminds the new believers that in the midst of suffering they were also accompanied by the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Now for us to truly understand the type of prayer Paul was talking about in Romans 8:17-28, we must understand that speaking in tongues reflects a position of human weakness, not of human strength. We pray in tongues from a position of weakness because we “do NOT know how to pray as we ought” (Romans 8:17-28). At such times, when we do not know what is going on, the specifics of the situation or answers to our problems, we desperately need the Spirit to help us in keeping with God’s purposes. Although the spirit of the prophet is under the control of the prophet (1Cor.14:32) when we speak in tongues, one is NOT actually “in control” because when we speak in tongues, we are giving up control of our life and agendas, so as to put ourselves – especially that most sinful part of ourselves – the sinful mind and sinful tongue – under the Lord’s control. Praying from a stance of weakness in the spirit shows our utter dependence upon God for all things. Thus, our praying in tongues, while it shows the fact that we have entered Christ’s Kingdom, it also serves to remind us that we have still “not yet fully arrived” into the Kingdom that is to come. Since we have not fully arrived, we must trust the Spirit to keep us aligned with the Lord’s purposes in this world. Such praying in tongues is freedom and power, God’s power being perfected in our weakness.

I have a personal testimony about the Holy Spirit working in and through my weaknesses. A few years ago, the Holy Spirit helped guide me through the area of conflict management. The Holy Spirit helped me align with the Lord’s purposes. Conflict was not a word that brought wonderful pictures to my mind. When I thought of conflict, I used to think of anger, lack of self-control, violence and struggle. During times of prayer, I saw that I was unassertive and perhaps a bit uncooperative during a conflict. I had a tendency to diplomatically sidestep an issue or to postpone it to a later time. Sometimes I neglected my own concerns in order to satisfy the concern of others as a goodwill gesture to help maintain a cooperative relationship. There had been a heavy dose of self-sacrifice in my conflict resolution technique. The Holy Spirit showed me that sometimes this was not a healthy way to relate with my community. The Holy Spirit showed me that the Bible never leads us away from conflict. Conflict is central to the Christian experience.Personal transformation-in-Christ is a journey filled with anguishing choices. We can find encouragement in that we are not alone, nor unattended.We do NOT manage conflict by our strengths but by our weaknesses through Christ. Through our dependence on God through power of the Holy Spirit, our weakness can be the Lord’s strengths... I suppose that is why the Apostle Paul spoke about boasting in his weaknesses (2Cor.11:23-30)

In my case, through the power of the Holy Spirit I learned that conflict is often the result of sin and the consequence of living in a fallen world. In leadership, we MUST learn to deal with conflict without avoiding them (in most cases). Not all conflict is due to sin. However, sin makes conflict necessary. Life requires conflict. It is the essential part of God’s redeeming plan. Through conflict, I will learn to know my need, acknowledge sin, recognize truth and perfect my faith.

Conflict is neutral and by the way I handle the conflict, I decide if it is good or bad. Only by trusting God through the pain, uncertainty and opposition do we prove God’s will and demonstrate His power. Spiritual leadership means making decisions that cause and resolve conflicts. IT IS UNAVOIDABLE! Therefore, I have decided to look at conflict through the Lord’s eyes and manage it through the Lord’s wisdom. In this way, danger becomes an opportunity to discover the Christ. It becomes an art of obeying Christ and discovering the truth in the person of Christ Jesus. Conflict is now a learning experience. Avoiding and compromising now transforms into discovery and dialogue in Christ. Instead of avoiding the conflict as I have done in the past, I can now ask a more relevant and deeper question: “What does it mean to discover my Christ in this conflict?”

Resolving conflict is a spiritual exercise. We must have God’s eyes – a spiritual insight, vision and discernment – attributes not possible without the Holy Spirit’s gracious gifting through our weaknesses. I have learned that managing conflict is NOT about knowing the right answers. It is the divine enabling to ask the right questions. Leadership is a process, not a position. It is learning and serving by following the lead of the Holy Spirit and NOT trying to control the outcomes. The Holy Spirit is my guide and government. One of the ways the Holy Spirit helps me is when I pray in Spiritual Tongues  A LOT when I “do NOT know how to pray as I ought to pray” (Romans 8:17-28). Speaking in tongues (SIT) reflects a position of human weakness, not of human strength. When we do not know what is going on, the specifics of the situation or answers to our problems, the Holy Spirit will help us and guide us in keeping with God’s purposes for us. Therefore, when we Speak (Pray) in Tongues (SIT),we give up control and put ourselves – especially that most sinful part of ourselves – the sinful mind and sinful tongue – under the Lord’s control. So, SIT much!!!

“Good, then, is this water, even the grace of the Spirit. Who will give this Fount to my breast? Let it spring up in me; let that which gives eternal life flow upon me. Let that Fount overflow upon us, and not flow away.”

ST. AMBROSE (339-397AD)


  • Jack W. Hayford, “Living the Spirit-Formed Life.”
  • Gordon D. Fee, “Listening to the Spirit in the Text.”