In just a few weeks Linda and I will be with the supporters of Camp Elim in Colorado for their Heritage Retreat (Sept. 23-24). These posts allow me to work on my messages from 2 Corinthians 12.
Let’s read over our text one more time:
We have seen that Paul’s tour of heaven — 14 years prior — was life-changing for him. But it brought him a thorn to keep him from becoming conceited about what he had experienced.
We’ve suggested that four challenges or truths can be gleaned from Paul’s description of this event in his life. First, living now in light of the future means that we have a biblical view of boasting (vv. 1-16). Second, we have seen that, taking Paul’s words seriously means that we have a clear focus on the future (vv. 2, 4, 7). And, third, Paul’s example here provides us with a practical primer on prayer (vv. 8-9).
Let’s notice a fourth — and final — lesson or challenge from this text and it is this: We now receive —
IV. A God-Honoring Perspective on Problems (vv. 9-10)
Let’s look at these two verses carefully: 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We all have problems, don’t we? But how to we look at them? As irritants? As dead-end streets on our journey to happiness? As inconveniences, monkey-wrenches thrown into our self-focused itineraries? Christians are nowhere told to become passive, masochistic puddles that siliently “suffer for Jesus.” Problems and difficulties give God the opportunity to show us the sufficiency of His grace and us the opportunity to face the naked truth of our weaknesses. Such “weaknesses” — sovereignly given to us — allow us to recalibrate our priorities.
Such a perspective does not remove from us the power of repetitive prayer, but will sometimes change our praying from escape to submission. For Paul God’s refusal to remove his thorn led him to gladness (v. 9)! And he achieved a biblical delight (!) in his weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. [I will certainly need to do a bit of a word study on each of these four terms]. But, would you not agree that Paul has pretty much covered all circumstances in life by the use of these four words: WEAKNESSES, INSULTS, HARDSHIPS, PERSECUTIONS, and DIFFICULTIES?
The Challenge: What specific difficulty are you facing right now? Have you given it over to the Lord and prayed something like this? “Lord, I don’t want this. But more than that, I want Your strength to be shown in my weakness. Help me, Lord, to trust You in this circumstance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”