Sermons

Summary: Surprising source of a strength for the Christian: his "thorn"

1I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. 3And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- 4was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But 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. 10That 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.

How is life going, people? Are u having a good day or a bad day? Author Max Lucado shares the story of a parakeet named Chippie who had a very bad day. It began when the bird’s owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum cleaner. She was almost finished when the phone rang, so she turned around to answer it. Before she knew it, Chippie was gone.

In a panic she ripped open the vacuum bag. There was Chippie, covered in dirt and gasping for air. She carried him to the bathroom and rinsed him off under the faucet. Then, realizing that Chippie was cold and wet, she reached for the hair dryer! Chippie never knew what hit him.

His owner was asked a few days later how he was recovering. "Well", she replied, "Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore. He just sits and stares."

I wonder if sometimes we just sit and stare at life as we look at life’s hardships. Have you ever felt like that? One minute you’re whistling through life, and the next you’re caught up in a whirlwind of stress. Life sucks you up into its vortex and just when you think you’ve recovered from one trouble another wind of adversity blows in your direction. My suspicion is – all of us can identify with Chippie. But something in us throbs… we want to sing again. We want our spirits to be free… we want our lives to soar beyond the natural into the supernatural…

Ask the millions who go Mecca, or the Ganges River in India, to Lourdes, France, and those who tune into soap operas on a daily basis, and millions who build their own altars of worship in their homes. Do they not want their lives to soar like the eagle? In Canada, they are stories of images of the virgin Mary appearing in the close to the Saskatchewan Nunavut border. People are drawn to such stories.

There are others such as German novelist and poet, Herman Hesse - "I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me" Sounds cool, but does it make sense? Like this story that Madame Chiang Kai-shek once told. It’s the story of a young Buddhist monk, who sat outside his temple two thousand years ago, hands clasped in prayer. He looked very pious and he chanted ’Amita Buddha’ all day. Day after day he intoned these words, believing that he was acquiring grace. One day the head priest of the temple sat next to him and began rubbing a piece of brick against a stone. Day after day he rubbed one against the other. This went on week after week until the young monk could no longer contain his curiosity, and he finally blurted out, "Father, what are you doing?" "I’m trying to make a mirror," said the head priest. "But that’s impossible!" said the young monk. "You can’t make a mirror from brick." "True," replied the head priest. "And it is just as impossible for you to acquire grace by doing nothing except chant ’Amita Buddha’ all day long." And sure we can sit all day listening to our blood whisper, but does it change anything?

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