11.30.2018

The weaker we are - the stronger we can become!

Last week Dennis and I were unable to join our church body for worship because we needed to stay home while he recovered from shoulder surgery. We enjoyed a nice, quiet morning together, but soon learned we had missed out on a most excellent sermon. I was finally able to sit uninterrupted to listen to it in its entirety this afternoon, and my goodness was I blessed by doing so!

Whether you read my notes below or listen to the actual sermon, I pray you will be equally encouraged, challenged, and convicted to stop focusing on the thorn that causes your particular suffering, but instead focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you in the first place.

Suffering Grace
The strength of weakness

Our text: II Corinthians 12:1-10
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Our human nature wants the thorns of life removed.
But what if there is a beauty, and a purpose, in KEEPING them?

Our thorns make us weak.
Our weakness makes us needy.
Our need points us to God.
God makes us strong through His grace.

Suffering handled correctly will see an increase of grace in our lives!

➤The PROVIDENCE v.7

●The Picture of the thorn 
(ambiguous because the Scriptures do not name it)
- painful and hurtful, Greek word means "a stake"
- possibly a physical ailment/sickness
- possibly a reoccurring temptation
- possibly the constant opposition to his leadership
- possibly oppression by the enemy

●The Purpose of the thorn
(not at all ambiguous)
- to buffet Paul (buffet = to hold someone down and beat them)
- to keep Paul from being conceited with spiritual pride
- to give Paul a supernatural strength through grace

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an advantage!

God uses discipline to correct past sins
and
to prevent future sins.

●The Providence of the thorn
- While satan is the one who attacked Paul, God permitted the attack. (Job 1, 2)
- God, in His sovereignty, will use satan's harassment to strengthen and humble His people

Paul's difficulty had Divine design written all over it.
There IS a purpose in our pain for God is WORKING in our pain.

There is a GOOD "bad."
"Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Apparently, he roars to frighten us, he stalks and plots against us, but like the lion at the zoo, he is only free within the parameters of his cage. He roams only where God permits." - Erwin Lutzer

➤The PRAYER v. 8
- Paul naturally and rightly prayed for relief from his thorn
- He prayed repeatedly for relief
- Finally, Paul concluded that God was not going to answer the way he wanted God to answer, and the thorn was going to remain

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an ally!

The thorn is a weapon in the hand of satan - and a tool in the hand of God.

●God does not always heal.
Our health and our happiness are not Gods main concern.
God is concerned with our HOLINESS.

The outer man is dying
but
the inner man can be renewed day by day!

God healed Paul from the need to be healed.

●God does not always answer prayers in the fashion we prayed them.
He answers: "Yes", "No", "Wait", and sometimes, "Yes, but not the way you imagine it."
God did not remove the thorn from Paul but gave Paul the ability to BEAR the thorn through His grace.
Are you willing to trust God with His answer? Even if it looks nothing like your own will?

➤The PROMISE v. 9
- the thorn will remain but God promises to help Paul ENDURE the pain through the gift of His abundant grace and His sufficient strength
- His grace is CONSTANT
For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
- His grace is sufficient to fill us up WITH that grace so we are able to face the trials of life day after day no matter how difficult or how long they may last
- His grace flows freely, pouring over us again and again as long as we need it
- As it flows over us, we will GROW in grace!

➤The PERSPECTIVE v. 10
- Thorns have a value!
They are tools in the hand of God. So put down the hedge clippers!
- We may not want the thorn or like it, but we must appreciate it and trust that the Lord leaves it where it is for a reason
- Our weakness shows His strength because we know we could not do it on our own. We need Him!
- Paul's physical weakness guarded him against spiritual weakness (pride)

Stop focusing on the THORN and focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you.
For the harder we lean on Christ - the stronger we become.

LISTEN to the sermon here ...

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