Summary: We find that the trials and the sufferings of life refine and prepare us to take flight for the glory of God.
[Announce Text] Please take your Bibles and turn with me to II Corinthians chapter twelve. I would like to thank each and every one for all of the calls, cards, emails, flowers, and, most of all, prayers surrounding the event of my brother’s death. Your efforts were a tremendous blessing to me and my family. And I would like to thank everyone who made the two-hour trek to be at the funeral. With the distance, I certainly would have understood if you weren’t there. But with that being said, your support was a great source of comfort and strength as I preached the service that night.
[Scripture Introduction] The scripture we are about to read likewise finds the Apostle Paul at a point in his life where he is experiencing great pain. Amazingly, Paul found that his pain came as a result of his great privilege. It was fourteen years earlier that Paul was “caught up to the third heaven…into paradise” by God and was able to see and hear the things which transpire there. Just so you understand what an awesome privilege this was, note the following; the Greek word for “paradise” only occurs two other times in the New Testament (Luke 23:43 and Revelation 2:7) and on both occasions it refers to the place where Christ lives with His Father. Furthermore, what Paul saw was so sacred that it could not be revealed to anyone else.
Yet, God knew the inherent risk in allowing Paul to witness such great things. With God knowing this, as always, He had a plan. This is where we pick up in our reading tonight.
[Reannounce and Read Text] If you have found your text and are able, I would like to ask that you please stand in honor to the reading of God’s holy Word. I’ll begin reading at verse seven and will continue through verse ten.
[Prayer for wisdom and anointing] Let’s pray.
[Illustration] There was once a little girl who found a cocoon hanging from a limb in the forest. She took it to her room and placed it in a jar, expecting one day to see a butterfly emerge. Some days later, she noticed that the butterfly within the cocoon was trying get out. There it was, struggling and trying to push its way out of the tight opening. In an effort to help the insect, the little girl took the limb and very carefully enlarged the opening in the cocoon. After that, the butterfly was able to easily exit. Unexpectedly though, the little girl noticed something strange. Instead of spreading two beautiful wings, the butterfly possessed two withered, shriveled, useless, ugly wings hanging by its side. The little girl wondered why? What God knows is that He designed the butterfly so that the tight opening of the cocoon would straighten and strengthen the wings of the butterfly. Without the pressure of the tight opening, the butterfly was robbed of the beauty of its wings, and more importantly, it was robbed of its ability to fly. The butterfly was condemned to a life of walking around on the ground.
[Introduction] Likewise, there have been some who have allowed the pain of life to destroy their faith in God [FCF]. One example is cable television mogul Ted Turner. Although he now calls Christianity “a religion for losers,” Turner testifies to a strict Christian upbringing and even considered becoming a missionary at one point in his life. The Atlanta Journal Constitution quoted him as saying that he was saved seven or eight times in his life, and USA Today reports that Turner has twice read the Bible cover to cover. Yet, Turner states that he became disenchanted with Christianity when despite his prayers that she would get well, his sister still died.