The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 219)
God Uses Broken Instruments
2 Cor 12:6-10
The Corinthian church was founded by Paul during his Second Missionary Journey. In his second letter to the Corinthians he addressed many problems that arose in the church. Just prior to the verses quoted above, he was talking about the false apostles (2 Cor 11:13) who had come into the church. These apostles boasted about their visions and revelations which they claimed came from the Lord and they despised Paul. The church was so enamoured by their so-called special experiences that they began to doubt and despise Paul as well. They should not have doubted Paul at all seeing that they had come to faith through his ministry. Moreover they had witnessed the signs and wonders accomplished by a true apostle of the Lord Jesus in the person of the apostle Paul.
Therefore, Paul had to put up his defence. Since the false apostles had been talking and boasting about their visions and revelations, Paul had no choice but to address this issue too. However, Paul would not talk about it in the first person although he himself had the very special experience of being taken to Heaven. He would talk about it in the third person. That person was taken to Heaven fourteen years ago, but in what way he could not tell. He heard inexpressible words which were not lawful for a man to utter. Paul would boast of such a man, but of himself he would not boast. He would talk about the experience of the Paul of yesterday. But the Paul of today had only weaknesses to talk about. In fact, to keep him from being highly exalted, a thorn in the flesh was given to him. What followed such a heavenly experience was this thorn in the flesh which troubled and irritated him constantly. The problem, although not mentioned, was almost likely a physical ailment. God did not grant his prayers to remove the thorn but assured him with these words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). These words were to echo in Paul till the end of his days on earth.
From this passage, and from the examples of God’s dealings with His children, we learn that God uses broken instruments. This was in direct contrast to what the false apostles in Paul’s day were thinking and also to what many believers today are thinking. The false apostles believed that God used only special people. The Corinthian church was so taken in by them because they seemed so compelling, riveting and attractive. The people soaked in the false apostles’ so-called visions and revelations so much so that they felt strong emotions when listening to them.
The notion that God uses only special people still exists today. So if there is an evangelistic meeting with testimonies, they will be given by some great sportsman, or someone well known in the entertainment world, or someone high up in public life. Very rarely will it be a schoolboy, or a housewife, or an ordinary worker. It is because some people believe that God uses only special people with qualification and influence.
Paul insists in this passage that God uses ordinary people. He uses people who have the message of the cross on their lips, and the message of the cross in their lives. God uses people with setbacks, temptations, problems, failures, oppositions, lack of success, buffetings and anything that will make them obviously weak. It is this sort of people whom God uses — the weak people. The false apostles taught that God uses power in the powerful. However, Paul teaches that God uses power in weakness. If you are aware that you are nothing, then you are a perfect candidate for knowing the power of Christ. You can count on Him to work in your life, on your behalf and for His sake.
In Paul’s experience, he prayed that the thorn in the flesh be removed. God did not remove it but gave him the assurance that He will strengthen him in his weakness. We all can identify with Paul in his plight. Our thorn may be a physical ailment, a mental illness, or some debilitating circumstance. It is alright to be like that because Christ speaks into that situation. Our Lord assures us that His power, strength, upholding, support and comfort are always enough. That is why Paul can say, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9b). Our witness and testimony to His gracious work in us give glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.
God uses broken instruments for His work. He uses people with a deep sense of their own unworthiness and weakness, who rely completely on Him. Moses was sent to Egypt, but not until he said that he could not speak. God sent Isaiah to Judah, but not until he confessed that he was impure. God sent Jeremiah to Judah, but not until he had said that he was too young. God sent Amos to Israel, but not until he said that he was untrained. God made Peter a fisher of men, but not until he confessed that he was a sinful man.
God used ordinary people to spread the Gospel in the early church — not many nobles but slaves, not well-trained academics but fishermen, tax collectors and housewives. Many have talked about the eloquence of Whitfield in his Gospel preaching, but he also said that he would not speak again unless he was sure that Christ’s righteousness was imputed to him. Jonathan Edwards, who was so instrumental in bringing revival to North America, had a deep sense of personal unworthiness and wrote constantly about it. John Knox, who in the sixteenth century transformed Scotland, also wrote that in youth, mid-age and after so many battles, he found nothing in himself except vanity and corruption.
One thing stands out in the people God uses. They acknowledge that they are weak instruments all the time, however many or few gifts they may have. The only thing they have in common is that they know they are not up to it and God must uphold them. They rely totally on Him and not on themselves. They trust Him to do the good work. God’s grace is always sufficient. If He does it, it is because it pleases Him. If He does not do it, it is also because it pleases Him.