“…I am nothing” (2 Corinthians 12:11)

I am in a race, but it is not a worldly one. That realization dawns on me daily.

I have been in many worldly races, but I have known only defeat. There are many stories in my life that I would like written differently, but then it wouldn’t be the truth. As a young boy, in primary school, we used to run what we called the Cross country race. The entire school would be lined up and, at the blow of the headmaster’s whistle, we would all begin a 20-mile race that would take us to the village square and back. Of all the hundreds of students who participated I was always last. Always.  And not by a small margin; many times I would arrive back at school long after everyone else had forgotten there had been a race going on.

But there was one thing that I somehow managed to do well. Many of the students took shortcuts to reduce the distance; but I had that keen sense of what was right and wrong and, although many times I was embarrassed to find myself turning back at the main market square all alone, I never took a shortcut.

And then there was the year our class teacher decided that I was bright enough to represent my class in the annual recital presentation. On the day of the recitation, I stood there before hundreds of parents and students, and as I stared out at the crowd, suddenly I felt my jaws lock. For what appeared to be hours without end, my lips trembled uncontrollably as I made every effort to utter something…. But I would have been better advised to let matters be, for when I finally managed to move my mouth, I began stuttering with a rapidity that would have made a Kalashnikov green with envy. The crowd and the teachers looked on in horror as I bravely struggled to say something intelligible. It was all in vain, however, and nothing would come out except for that rapid-fire stutter. Finally, exhausted and stone-dead on the inside, I sort of floated down the podium and fumbled about for my seat.

The teacher was not aware that in my family we had a serious stammering problem.

Later on in life, after many such painful ordeals, I decided I was never meant to be on this planet, and I cursed the day I was born.  i deliberately would steer clear of any speaking engagements.

After I got saved, not understanding how the spiritual Kingdom works, I began running the same race I had been running: a race to prove myself. Suffering from a serious personality problem as a result of my crushed childhood, I took every opportunity to demonstrate my ‘capability’. Somehow, I was now able to speak in front of small gatherings, and I found I wanted to speak. I wanted to be heard, to be noticed.

How wrong I was! When, much later, the Lord began revealing the Cross of Jesus in my life, I began to understand that God did not want me to be strong. In fact, He did not want me to be anything remotely related to that word. He wanted me to be as far from it as possible. I understood then why He would not remove the thorn from Paul’s flesh.  He wanted to be strong in Paul. He told the him, “…my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

The revelation of the Cross of Christ in my life brought me to understand that the very weaknesses and incapacities that made me a ‘nothing’ in this world were what the Lord needed in me. He could more easily use a broken vessel to glorify His Name.

It has taken time, but I have learned to accept, and even to rejoice in my weaknesses, the lack of things that would mark me as a ‘somebody’ in this world. Now it is no longer because I cannot, but I want it to be so for the sake of Christ. It is not a very easy lesson to accept, because the flesh “kicks against the pricks”. The flesh sees no profit in it. But I know deep in my heart that God wants me to cease existing and for Christ to rise and rise in me. The Apostle Paul’s words, “I am nothing” were not words written lightly. They were meant to rid the self in Paul’s life, that Christ could reign supreme in him.

i now exult in the revelation of the Cross in our lives. i do not want to run the race of worldly competition. My race is different. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It has nothing to do with how the world views me. To the extent that the Lord gives me grace I now gladly accept to be derided and held in contempt for His Name’s sake. The world system is against the Kingdom of God, and do not look to conform or to be accepted by the world. Paul says that he and the other apostles of his day became “as the filth of the world, and as the offscouring of all things” (1 Cor. 4:13). i need to understand these words more.

We have a price to pay if we want to identify with our Lord Jesus Christ, and to “sit us together in heavenly places” with Christ (Eph. 2:5-6). The price is to allow the Cross to crush our pride, our very self. Then and only then can Christ come to reign supreme in us. Only then can we be considered truly spiritual men and women. Only then can we please the Lord who so lovingly died for us.

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