By: Pastor Mark Wood – Seed Of Hope Church
What are we as Christians supposed to do when faced with disappointment, disasters, and all the other things that come up in life? If you look at Romans 8:28 it tells us that, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Yet when we encounter difficult situations in our lives, we often wonder, Why?
Searching for answers and learning to view “bad things” as “good things in disguise” is a discipline that God wants us to develop.
Look at 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” and 2 Corinthians 12:10 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
We may experience that God’s grace is sufficient for our every need, not only to enable us to get through our trials and tribulations but to do so triumphantly!
So let’s break down 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 and see what it tells us.
- THE SUFFERING PAUL EXPERIENCED
Every Christian experiences trial and testing. First, because this is the common experience of all members of the human race as seen in Job 5:7, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” and second, because it is the common experience of all Christians as seen in Philippians 1:29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”.
In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 let’s look at verse 7, Paul tells us about a very hard trial / tribulation he was going through – “a thorn in my flesh”. So what was the thorn?
(a) The Nature of it. It was real, and not imaginary. It was not a recurring carnal desire, otherwise Paul would not have gloried in it (verse 9); nor does it seem likely that it was some fellow-believer or an unbeliever who was ‘a thorn’ in his side; nor was it remorse over his pre-conversion persecution of the saints. It was an infirmity, a weakness, a handicap. It is helpful to us that we do not know what that ‘thorn’ was, other than that it was physical and painful.
(b) The Purpose of it. When unpleasant things happen to us we naturally ask ‘Why has God permitted this?’ In Paul’s case the purpose was revealed to him (verse 7), And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”.
One of the things we know about Paul is that he was particularly susceptible to the temptation of pride and conceit because of his very great gifts, and because of his amazing experience at Lystra fourteen years previously – read 2 Corinthians 12:2-6. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.”
I believe that God gave Paul a ‘thorn’ to keep him humble. It was purposeful, as are all our trials and tribulations. Look up John 13:7, and take courage – for the Lord is working out His purpose in our lives. “Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
In other words you may not understand it now but He has something great and mighty coming your way.
(c) The Result of it. What effect did Paul’s ‘thorn’ have upon him? It drove him to prayer.
- THE SUPPLICATION PAUL MADE
In verse 8 we are told that Paul prayed about his infirmity. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me”.
Look up James 5:13-15, and notice:- 13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
- Paul prayed definitely – “…to take it away from me”. See what the Lord Jesus said in Luke 22:31-32. “31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
- Paul prayed earnestly – for he tells us that he “pleaded with the Lord…” probably with tears.
- Paul prayed persistently – for he tells us that he made his request “three times” – and yet after praying three times the ‘thorn’ still remained!
But notice, his prayer was answered – not in the way he expected, but in the way God wanted. When we pray, sometimes the Lord answers our prayers with a YES, sometimes with a NO, sometimes with a WAIT, and sometimes He answers quite DIFFERENTLY from what we expect – as He did here. What a good thing it is that He does not always answer our prayers in the way we want but he does answer them in the way that is best for us!
- THE SUFFICIENCY PAUL RECEIVED
Paul’s prayer was answered in the greatest possible way – by a revelation of the Lord Himself! The greatest answer to prayer is not the thing we pray for – but HIM! Study verse 9 carefully, and notice that with the revelation of Himself the Lord gave the promise of His sufficiency. “9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
- It was a Powerful Sufficiency – for the Lord said, “My grace…My power…” will be upon you; we can back this up with Isaiah 40:28-31. “28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
- It was a Personal Sufficiency. Notice also in verse 9 – “He…me…My…you.” That is very wonderful! – grace sufficient for you in your need, and grace sufficient for me in my need!
- It was a Present Sufficiency. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient…”, not ‘will be’. The grace was already there for Paul to draw upon. All he had to do was to appropriate, to take, to receive, to experience, and to enjoy!
- It was a Plentiful Sufficiency. The Lord said, “My grace is enough…”; and as the need increases the grace will increase – 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:”. In our Lord Jesus Christ is all the grace we need to make us the people He wants us to be, to keep us doing God’s will and to enable us to finish our course with joy – and all we have to do is to draw upon His plentiful supply!
- It was a Practical Sufficiency. The grace of the Lord became operative in Paul’s weakness; therefore the ‘thorn’ became the channel of the power of God, for His strength was made perfect in weakness! ‘And,’ says the apostle Paul in the last part of verse 9, ‘it really works!’
So if we call upon the Lord through our trials and tribulations He will give us grace to face them head on and great things will happen when we get to the other side of them.
So let’s be ready, pray and seek Him through all our trials and tribulations and know that His grace is sufficient for all of us. Satan may send battles our way but Jesus has already won the war.