JULY 8, 2018 WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE
WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Have you ever felt enough is enough in your life? Was reading something recently and this fellow kept repeating enough is enough of things in his life. The everyday grind, the everyday hassles, the everyday problems, the everyday things that add more stresses in life. He said, like what happens in some of our lives these days, that when those things that bother us seem to be gone, POP, new ones pop up out of nowhere. Just when we feel comfortable and at peace, then something new happens. His remark…. enough is enough. That kind of has hit home lately.
His thought…when will he have the victory? The answer is simple for him and for us today and it is the message from God for us, for the world. Those wonderful words of life we find in the Scriptures are there to help us through those times when we feel enough is enough. And as we know, as we’ve read, as we’ve often prayed, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, for he gives us a way out. The key is found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. I believe it is found in two key factors in that passage where Paul tries to let us know how God has worked in his life. He tells the world though he has had a close spiritual walk with God, something happened in his life that keeps him even closer to God. He has a thorn in his side. And at least three times he asked God to remove it, and three times God said to him words that we need to hear when we go through such testing in our own lives. God said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” That’s the first phrase. The second is the end of that passage where Paul can say, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Praise the Lord, Amen, thank you Jesus, are words that come to my mind after reading those words. God’s grace is sufficient for me always, and when I am weak I am strong because of God’s sufficient, wonderful, matchless grace. That’s enough to set me on fire. I must open my life and live what it says. I have to remind myself that though “Satan should buffet. Though storms shall come. Though difficulties arise, because of that wonderful grace of Jesus, it is well, it is well, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
This past week Carole and I have seen the hand of God’s grace working through this congregation. With just a phone call many people were lifting Carole and me in prayer. And not just me, but John Tobias called me after his procedure and said that he was okay and home. As we know, prayer really does work. Prayer is our life-line to God. It is our connection and when God’s people pray many things happen. The heavenly messenger brings those prayers to the altar of grace into the presence of our God and let’s say they tell God “Father one of your children needs your help” and God takes those prayers and begins to work. He begins by reminding us it is okay. He reminds us that in any and all situations his grace is sufficient. He reminds us that when we are weak we really are strong because we trust in the only one who can handle the situation.
We humans may not understand the workings of our God. We may not understand how prayer works. We may wonder when some get answered and some do not, at least the way we want them to be answered. But this one thing I believe. God answers all prayers. But not just the way we may like them to be answered. I remember a Garth Brooks hit song from years ago that said, “Thank God for unanswered prayers” for when he was a in high school he and his girl went different ways and he was praying they’d get together again. Then in one of their high school reunions he meets her again, sees how she has changed, and thanks God that he didn’t answer his prayer to mend their ways. We may not like it, but our Father, with a capitol “F”, knows best.
Paul the apostle had an unusual prayer request to ask God. He records it in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Maybe it will help us to understand what praying and God’s grace have in common.
Paul writes, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. 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.”
So, declares the Word of God. And you can take God’s wonderful words of life to the bank!
A thorn, a prayer, an unexpected answer, so that we could learn from Paul’s experience. We would think God would have answered all of Paul’s prayers in a positive way. But you know, that’s not how God works. And that is because that is not how the world works either. What gets us through each moment of each day is our prayers counting on God. Sometimes we get a quick response. Sometimes we get an amazing answer. But then there are those times we pray and pray and pray and pray and still we wait for an answer. And sometimes, here is the tough one, that healing, that answer to prayer may not come until we are in heaven.
We need to remember this. God is not like a slot machine where you put a coin in and you wait to get a big bonus. He is an all knowing, all powerful, all loving God who knows exactly what we need and when we need it.
We never find out what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Many thoughts on it have been out there, but it does not matter. He realized that it didn’t come from God. He realized it was a trick of Satan, and then he realized, God was going to use it for his good and Paul’s spiritual growth. Three times he asked God to fix it. And three times God’s answer was this. “MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU. FOR MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.” That was not what Paul was looking for. But through those years, while in prison, while chained in the deepest part of a cave, and even when beaten and rejected, Paul prayed for help, for deliverance and what he heard were those words over and over again. “My grace is sufficient for you.” And Paul tells us how he coped with that thorn in his flesh as he came to realize and accept and count on. “That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” His answer to all these things is this. “For when I am weak I am strong.”
I like what an old Biblical scholar wrote about this situation when he wrote his explanation about Paul’s thorn in the flesh experience. He said, “What a contrast between Paul’s two experiences! Paul went from paradise to pain, from glory to suffering. He tasted the blessings of God in heaven and then felt the buffeting of Satan on earth. He went from ecstasy to agony, and yet the two experiences belong together. His one experience of glory prepared him for the constant experience of suffering, for he knew that God was able to meet his need. Paul had gone to heaven, but then he learned that heaven could come to him.”
There was another fellow who had a problem one day. His name was Jacob. His problem a dislocated hip that never got well. He wrestled with God one day and we might say he won. But to remind him of this encounter, to remind him where his power would come from, he ended up with this bad hip and each step he took from then on, it was a reminder of God’s presence with him. And might we say, that like Paul, God may have said to Jacob that day, “Jacob, for the rest of your life, this thorn in your flesh, this limp in your walk, will remind you that my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknesses.”
What ties both these stories together and it helpful for us in our walk with God is the simple, but powerful word called “GRACE.” What is grace, you might ask. Grace is something you receive but you do not always deserve. Grace is the time a police officer stops you and instead of giving you a ticket he gives you a verbal warning. Grace is when you owe someone something and they tell you to forget about it. That scholar I used before said, “Grace is God’s provision for our every need when we need it.” In other words, He gives us grace that we do not deserve, and in his mercy, he does not give what we do deserve. Here is a good way to remember what grace is. God’s riches Available at Christ’s Expense.
And think of it. There is an endless supply of God’s grace because it never runs out. That well keeps pumping grace into our lives 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and even that extra 24 hours when that year is a leap year.
So, what do we learn from all of this? Well, I hope, like I continue to learn from the wonderful words of life out of God’s word, that no matter the situation, prayer does work, and while it is working, while it is in the process of being answered, God’s amazing and wonderful grace is sufficient to get us through those times. God’s wonderful working miracles, and his power gives us strength to get through those times that we struggle with health issues, kid issues, job issues, relationship issues. You name it, God’s grace is sufficient for each and everyone of those situations. As Paul reminds us, “For when I am weak, I am strong.”
You see, it is when we are weak, when we can’t take care of the situation, when we are at our wits end, that’s when we call out to God. It is at that moment of time that we have to let go and let God work. We have to surrender to a more powerful one than we are. And that takes us to the cross of Jesus. For through all of this we become more powerful, more dependent on the God of grace and mercy. Or as a chorus says, “Through it all. Through it all. I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust in God.” It’s sometimes a tough road. But God’s grace is sufficient. May it always be…. amen!