“…to keep me from becoming conceited… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me… I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Do you feel weak today—spiritually weak? Do you make resolutions and promises to yourself and to God, only to fall short? Do you measure your own spiritual walk against that of other Christians and think how pathetic your own walk is by comparison? Do you have an issue in your life that you see as a major limitation to your spiritual progress (a tough marriage, financial struggles, regret from your past, depression, struggles with a particular sin, a heightened sense of your own sin, worry, fear, a physical ailment, etc.)? Do you feel that if God would only remove this one issue in your life you would be much more faithful to Him?
The Apostle Paul certainly felt that way. In the verses above, Paul describes something—“a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me” and it had a purpose behind it—“…to keep me from becoming conceited…” See, Paul had been extraordinarily blessed by God. He was allowed to ascend into Heaven! Yet, because of this spiritual blessing, God had to allow Paul to experience something very painful, certainly something Paul did not want to be in his life to keep him from becoming puffed up with pride.
We have no exact proof of what his thorn was. Maybe it was an eye disease, malaria, depression, sexual temptation, or heretical teachers who were trying to discredit his ministry. It is a blessing that we don’t know what his problem was because then we could use the excuse that God doesn’t know about our own special limitation. I believe that God has specifically hidden that from us in order to show us that He knows our problem, too, and He can work through us, even in the midst of our weaknesses.
Maybe God has given you victory over a particular sin, but still you feel its pull. You feel its power calling you, seeking to drag you back into its grasp. You feel yourself to be very weak against it. Maybe you even feel shame that you are even tempted by its power. You don’t want to be tempted; you want to be strong and victorious. Yet, God in His Divine wisdom allows the temptation to continually plague you, to show you your weakness and to cause you to cry out for protection from falling…
This is where the secret of contentment with weakness comes into play. Paul said that he learned to boast about his weaknesses so that the power of Christ would rest upon him. What is God calling you to do that you are refusing to do because you have this “limitation” in your life? If God is calling you to trust Him and step out into obedience to Him, He certainly knows your weakness. Why don’t you trust Him today with your thorn in the flesh? Trust Him enough to step out in faith to obey Him. When you walk by faith, even though you may be limping, you will experience the POWER of Christ upon your obedience because you are dependent upon Him to come along side you to accomplish His will. And He will work. And you will be amazed when He uses you.
(If you would like to listen to the audio sermon, you can find it here).