One is to magnify our weaknesses. The other is to belittle our strengths.
Most of us mix up a cocktail of both, inflating our failures so we can’t possibly be held responsible for using our gifts.
The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of his own struggle with insecurity here in this verse:
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Colossians 4:3-4).
Paul — the greatest apologist of all time, the master reasoner and writer, the man whose words spill out as holy scripture upon parchment — asks for prayer from these new believers that he would make his verbal declarations of the gospel clear.
And that’s because Paul, with all of his gifts in thinking and writing and rhetoric for Christ, is not so great at talking for Christ. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge, he says (2 Corinthians 11:6). Christ sent me to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, he says (1 Corinthians 1:17). He once even killed a young man with one of his sermons (Acts 20:7-12).
So often, we are paralyzed by our good or our bad. We’re overwhelmed by our weaknesses — it’s not safe to use them. We’re shy about our strengths — it’s not humble to use them.
Paul models the way forward for us:
Just use them.
We must stop hiding behind our limitations, as if God is too small to shine around them. We pray for the opportunity — that God may open a door for us to step forward and lay even our flaws and failings at His feet. We pray for effectiveness — that God will make it clear despite the confidence we do not have. We boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And we must stop holding back our strengths, as if we were afraid that our glory could somehow eclipse our God’s. Paul had position, education, ability and history — and he poured them all out like a drink offering for the gospel. He wrote half the New Testament, raised people from the dead, defended Christ before kings, and died for his faith by the sword, yet his resumé cries out the name of Jesus Christ, not his own.
Paul trusted God to weave his good and his bad into the story of Christ’s glory. And God did it, over and over; the Apostle might have never even written the strength of this letter to the Colossians had he not opened the weakness of his mouth and landed himself in jail.
In the end, our features and our flaws become the same through the purification of surrender.
God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, and our strengths are made perfect in His power.