LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“You can’t be full of pride when you fall out of your wheelchair in the midst of the snow,” Scott Blue admitted April 29 to his fellow seminarians at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Following the example of the Apostle Paul, the physically impaired master of divinity in missiology student preached that he “boasts” in his weakness in order to rely more on Christ.
The first-place winner of the annual Clyde T. Francisco Preaching Award, Blue preached in chapel of the Louisville, Ky. seminary. The student preaching competition is named in honor of the late professor of Old Testament interpretation for 36 years at Southern.
Blue, a native of Laurinburg, N.C., who was injured in a diving accident nine years ago, related his struggle as a paraplegic in following God’s call to ministry.
“The sticking point wasn’t necessarily uncertainty regarding the call, a question of finances or even the priority of other commitments,” Blue said. “No, what caused the 24-month struggle within me was my own physical condition.”
Blue explained, “When confronted face-to-face with God’s desire that I serve him full-time, I couldn’t believe that God could use someone whose very appearance was the picture of weakness.”
In his introductory remarks, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. reminded the seminary community, “It is a remarkable thing to have an opportunity to stand in this pulpit. … As he comes alongside this piece of furniture, I want you to know that in every way he will fill this majestic pulpit.”
Preaching from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Blue related how Paul’s weakness, his “thorn in the flesh,” became a source of boasting rather than an obstacle to service.
“I think there is a heavenly reason why we don’t know what Paul’s thorn was. We all have that nagging weakness that in our minds keeps us from accomplishing great things for the Lord,” Blue suggested. Nevertheless, “We should boast in our weaknesses because God uses our limitations to accomplish his will.”
Blue cited three reasons why Christians should boast in their weaknesses. First, it prevents pride.
“Paul had a problem, but God had a purpose,” Blue stated. “God allowed Satan to torment him with this thorn in order to keep him humble,” he said. Because Paul received revelations and insights into heaven, he had reasons to boast. But God kept Paul humble by allowing this persistent problem.
Boasting in weakness also is valuable in ministry because it promotes prayer.
“In his weakness, Paul prayed at least three times for the thorn to be removed,” Blue said. “Jesus also prayed three times to his Father … for the removal of a cup, the cup of God’s wrath that would soon be poured out upon him.
“Rather than be consumed by the despair of unanswered prayer … we can boast of our weaknesses because they have led us into the very presence of God, and they’ve allowed us to understand all the more the sufferings of our Savior,” Blue said.
Boasting in weaknesses also provides power, Blue said, noting the third reason. “In our lives, though we may be unpolished, inexperienced and full of weakness, our Master can surround us with the power of Christ and create a thing of beauty,” he said.
Noting that “Paul didn’t receive the answer he wanted,” Blue suggested that “Christ came with the answer he needed.” The answer to Paul’s situation was a message of sufficient and strengthening grace. “Jesus said, ‘Paul, despite your thorn, despite your weakness, the unmerited favor and kindness of Christ will see you through,'” Blue said.
Blue reminded fellow seminarians, “God wants us to boast in our weaknesses. It’s not always easy to do so. It’s not easy to take pride in a physical disability when it takes you twice as long to accomplish a task as everyone else.”
Choking back his emotion, Blue admitted, “There are those times when the weight of my disability seems too much to bear … when all you can do is pray. But time and time again when I say, ‘I can’t,’ God says, ‘I can!'”
Other Francisco preaching award winners included Kyle McClellan, a master of divinity student from Fremont, Neb., and Rhett Wilson, a master of divinity in missiology student from Greenville, S.C. Each winner received a certificate of honor, $300 scholarship and the opportunity to preach in chapel.