This week we’ve seen that Paul suffered so much that he considered the situation a death sentence – and saw God rescue him. We’ve learned that Paul’s attitude of trust in God had much to do with the outcome of his problems. Today we close out the week by hearing more wisdom from Paul.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:7-10 (ESV)
Paul had seen a vision. He had special revelations from God. Like any human, he was prone to boast of things like that, and God wanted to put a stop to it. So he gave Paul a thorn. Paul wanted it gone – and what did God tell Paul? How did it affect his life? Did his attitude toward weakness change?
In our society, the weak are overpowered. They are looked down upon and walked over. It’s a dog eat dog world. But here, Paul tells us that weakness is good. What is his reasoning?
Grace means graciousness, unearned merit or favor. We need to realize that we are weak and that He is our strength. We must bow our knee to the One Who gave His life for us. We must submit ourselves to His leadership and correction.
But Paul didn’t just have a thorn. He also suffered imprisonments for the cause of Christ. As you read these words, try to put yourself in Paul’s place. How would your words and actions stack up against his?
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Phil 1:12-14 (ESV)
What would you do if Christians were persecuted in America like they are in other parts of the world? Would you be able to speak boldly, or would you want to avoid prison? Would your testimony be an inspiration to others to become more bold to speak the word without fear? Sometimes I get scared to say things about Christ and there is little or no persecution. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to know that my words might be the justification for imprisonment!
Is “imprisonment” jail? Could it be a physical limitation? How could a physical limitation show Christ’s strengths and make others much more bold to speak the word without fear?
We’ve seen a lot of suffering in Paul’s life, but he didn’t just suffer. He also lived victoriously in the midst of his sufferings!
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered*.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)
*From Psalm 44:22
We’ve heard these verses over and over. We may have heard them so frequently that they now just pass right through our consciousness. Let’s slow down and really look at them.
Paul is talking about US in this passage! Who is stronger than God? If He is for us, does it really matter what the world throws at us?
WHO can condemn us?
WHAT can they condemn us of?
WHEN can we be separated from Christ’s love?
WHERE is Jesus as He intercedes for us?
WHY are we more than conquerors?
I challenge you to memorize these verses and take them to heart each time you face a trial. The key to victorious living is in knowing Who you are living for, and knowing that only by acknowledging your weaknesses and giving the problem fully to God can God’s strength shine through.
Make a list of your current problems – money, school, family strife, job woes, lack of a home, grief, despair. Seriously. Write them all down. Then, honestly evaluate each problem. Which portions of the problem have you given to God (write it down). Which portions are you still trying to control yourself (write it down). Can you see a pattern? Can you find places where you need to ask for God’s forgiveness for your controlling spirit as well as giving Him the problem to solve? How will giving your problems to God allow you to live victoriously?
I pray that you take time to assess the areas where your living isn’t victorious because you don’t choose to allow God to control your life. I’ve got areas – and I know you do as well!
I pray your weekend is peaceful and that your pastor’s sermon is as inspiring as my pastor’s sermon! Stay in the Word, friends. It’s the only way to get through this life.
See you next week.