As a model to pastors, the Apostle Paul had an interesting perspective on his own weaknesses: to the Corinthians, he said that he preached to them in “weakness and fear” (1 Cor. 2:3). Paul didn’t want these believers to put their faith in human “plausible words of wisdom” but “in the power of God” (v. 5). Paul wanted it to be about the demonstration of the Spirit’s power and not himself or his style of preaching (v. 4).
Another way Paul highlights his own weakness is by describing himself, along with his companions, as “clay pots” (2 Cor. 4:7). A clay pot was made of baked clay and was perishable. Hear Paul: “Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7 HCSB, emphasis added). Paul knew how to get out of the way so that others may clearly see that the power in his ministry came from God. Wow!
When we come to 2 Corinthians 12:6-10, we find Paul shifting perspective on his own weaknesses and afflictions. To keep him humbled after the abundance of revelation he had received, God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh.” Yes, Paul prayed on three occasions to have the “thorn” removed. Instead of granting Paul’s repeated request, the Lord says to him, “For my grace is sufficient for you, for my power in made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).
Once he got this revelation from God, Paul’s perspective changed:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (vv. 9-10 NIV, emphasis added)
Note how Paul moved from requesting that the “thorn” be removed to delighting in his weaknesses among other things. Like Paul, the pastor is going to experience “weaknesses” in his own ministry. And like Paul, the pastor needs that “revelation” from God to still be able to delight in weaknesses.
The pastoral ministry has a way of revealing the pastor’s weaknesses. But in these moments, the pastor, like Paul, can say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”