Today’s scripture reading is 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 Surrender your agenda to Him today, ask God to remove the distractions, and ask Him to speak specifically to you this day through His word!
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,(A) there was given me a thorn in my flesh,(B) a messenger of Satan,(C) to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.(D) 9 But he said to me, “My grace(E) is sufficient for you, for my power(F) is made perfect in weakness.(G)”(H) 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(I) in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,(J) in persecutions,(K) in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)
7-10Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. (The Message)
Can you truly be thankful for a handicap or limitation that you have? That’s so against what the world says is “normal”. Even though I’ve read this passage many times, I’m still amazed at the “perspective” that God calls us to, in living a Kingdom life here on earth. His ways are so contrary to what we are bombarded with every day through the world’s view. The world says, “what did you do to deserve that?”, or “life stinks”, or “it’s not fair!” But God says that I can be happy and boast in the challenges I have because they help me receive His power and His power shows through me more when I’m weak and trusting Him. When I think of the world’s view, I definitely understand how He can use the way I handle my challenges and weaknesses as an example and encouragement for others, especially people far from Him. But before I can be an example to others, I have to live it... and learn to handle my challenges and weaknesses from the perspective that Paul talks about in this passage. If I’m not walking through something challenging (sickness, hardships, difficulties, etc.), then I’m probably not growing. Without challenges, my faith life would be very small. That’s why Paul says, “bring it on” because he knows that God’s power will rest on him and make him strong and he has nothing to fear. He will experience God’s grace in a very tangible and powerful way through his thorn.
For some reason, it seems that God is really speaking to me about handling challenges. If anyone read my blog last week, it was about experiencing pure joy in the midst of trials, from James 1: 2-5! I don’t choose these passages... I’m assigned a day to do the blog and use the scripture passage from the message notes that day. Hmmmm...having pure joy in the midst of trials and taking delight in weaknesses, hardships, persecutions and difficulties...I see a pattern here God! I’m a little worried at this point that God is preparing me and I’m going to need this teaching and greater understanding of handling trials and challenges very soon. (smile) And yet I’m remembering the words from Jesus that Paul quotes in this passage, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I know, and I mean I really know, that God will give me the strength and power to endure anything, if He is my focus. If my Kingdom perspective is one of hope, not fear.... trust, not despair. The quote from Jesus is a promise... not just words. And although I have experienced my share of challenges, thorns, and difficulties in the past, I know they don’t compare to what many others have had to face. But in my challenges, I have experienced His grace and power... and I’ve seen His grace and power in the lives of others who have endured challenges as well, and that’s been a great encouragement for me.
In VBS last week, I had the opportunity to be a crew leader for a boy in wheel chair whose name is Drew. Drew has Cerebral Palsy and is 8 years old. He has been a “perspective” changer for me. Drew loves life and wants to be a part of everything, even in his wheelchair. He laughs, giggles, jokes around, and even though he has limited use of his arms, he raises them when he sings and worships. Drew knows God in a deeper way than most of us, I think. And there’s no doubt in my mind that God’s grace fills him and empowers him to see life differently than most people. His legs and arms may not work, his mind and words might be slow, and his thorn is obvious to everyone, but he lives life with a trust and acceptance of God’s love for him - even when his two “normal” brothers are running around playing in front of him. You see, I believe when someone surrenders their thorn to God, He touches them and fills them in a special way that others cannot understand and they experience strength, power, grace, determination, and joy that just doesn’t make sense. This is what God means by, “My grace is sufficient... my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
So Lord, when my trials come and challenges seem too big to handle...after I’ve pleaded with You to take them away, and You say, “not now”... I will surrender to You and trust the promise that Your grace will be sufficient for me, and I will delight in the deeper connection with You that will surely result through my suffering. I love you, Amen.
How did this speak to you today? I would love to hear your thoughts!