Three times Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away a “thorn in the side.” Do you have a thorn in your side? Something in your life that is painful, that seems like a curse?
- A chronic illness…
- Low-self esteem…
- A person in your life…
- Your job…
What is it that plagues you? That seems to haunt you? That no matter how good you are doing, this thing is still always hanging over your head?
Take a few minutes here to read: 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
We can all relate to Paul here. He didn’t’ just ask… he pleaded… he begged… he anguished… he was in utter distress.
Maybe your asking, “what was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?” We don’t know for sure. But here is what we do know. He had started the church in Corinth. They were his good friends. But something happened and they hurt Paul. They betrayed his trust…they talked about him and told lies about him…they had left the faith and begun following false teachers.
We know he was heart-broken when he wrote this second book to them. Many of you can relate to being heart-broken. And few things hurt more than when you are hurt, let down or betrayed by loved ones or close friends.
This was Paul’s situation.
And understand when it says “three times” that isn’t a literal three times – it can mean many, many times. You know what it is when you are desperate how much you think about it and pray about it.
This is where Paul was. Perhaps you are there as well.
But listen to Christ’s answer. “My grace is sufficient for you…”
Here we see that word again – GRACE. What is grace? If you are going to understand and relate to God’s story both in the bible and in your own life, you need to understand it.
It is the cornerstone, above all else, of the Christian faith. It is what makes Christianity unique among all world religions.
Grace is more than being nice… it is more than sparing punishment on someone.
If this were the case, it wouldn’t have done much for Paul. It wouldn’t have been much of an answer.
No, grace is the dynamic, supernatural power of the living God! It is God stooping down from his lofty throne into our lives to make up the difference in the midst of our needs, weaknesses and shortcomings.
Many people think grace is what God does for you when you initially come to Christ and ask Him to be a part of your life. And that is true. But that is only half of it. God’s grace is not something to be experienced only once in your life. Rather it is a way of life.
We often talk about getting “saved” (having our sins forgiven initially) by grace; but then we go back to living as if it all depends on us and our good living. Even though we go to church, we sort of forget God – put Him on the back burner – and go on trying to do the best we can in our own strength.
Grace not only opens the door to a relationship with God, it sustains that relationship on a daily basis.
It is like marriage. There is grace to be experienced when you exchange your vows on your wedding day. But it is also grace that sustains a marriage. What does that look like?
- Standing with
- Providing for needs
- Being there “in bad times” and “in poorer”
But then look at what the Lord says, “…for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Here is what Paul finds out – God’s grace works in the good times; but it really works in the hard times.
A famous book was written years ago by Rabbi Cushner entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” But as one writer said, I’m going to write a book called “Bad Things Happen to Everybody…why limit it to only good people, because bad things happen to everyone.”
Everyone needs GRACE! Sometimes we escape the storms of life. You know, sometimes the storm that is headed in our direction that could do real damage, is moved out of our path. The test result was wrong and you are okay. Your house ends up selling for more than you thought… the noise in your engine that you didn’t’ know how you were going to pay for ends up being something minor… or you’re getting a fat tax refund this year!
But then there are times when the storm is headed right for you and it hits! This is where Paul was. There was no avoiding it. God seemed to allow it to hit you head on.
And the question is always the same, “Why?” Phillip Yancey has a book entitled “Why, The Question That Never Goes Away.” I would recommend you reading this book if you are struggling with the “why?” question.
And though the storm moving off course and not doing any damage is always preferable, we all know what it is like to live with chronic thorns in the side or to be devastated.
But because we live in a broken world where nothing works as it should – the weather…people…families…us…we are going to encounter evil, heartache, disappointment and losses.
And it is in the midst of this that Paul pens these words:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Here Paul found the key to living in a broken world – the power of Christ! But here is the catch. You only get His full power when you are completely broken… when you have no more answers… when you have run out completely of energy and your own power. It is only then that the full power of Christ – the power that raised Him from the dead – comes into your life and fills you.
When things are going well for you, you don’t get that power. When you are hanging on to your crutches and security blankets, you don’t get all of it. But when you are broken, and out of self; then His power becomes real in your life.
This is the only way his words at the end make any sense at all – “that he delights in weakness.” Who delights in weakness here? Do you like to appear weak? Do you like to be embarrassed? Do you like to be made foolish?
Does anyone like to be insulted? Go through hardships? Or like to be persecuted? Who likes difficulties?
No you! Not even Paul. Some might say he is deranged or psychotic. But perhaps, he was simply stating the truth that when he was done and out, with no where else to go and totally out of options, this is when God emerges on the stage of our lives to show us both His grace and power is far superior to anything else we could possibly depend upon. It is something to think about!
Questions to reflect upon:
- What do you depend upon most when hard times hit?
- Have you ever experienced the power of Christ work in your life when you were out of answers or other options?