Summary: The final sermon in the summer 2006 Series, “Being God’s People by Serving, Obeying, and Giving.”
The summer before my senior year in high school I had one of those spiritual experiences that is hard to explain because it was only God and me in my bedroom one warm August evening. It is the kind of experience that made at least one of my parents, when all was said and done, scratch their head and wonder about their son.
As I lay there, I was thinking about my senior year and how great the year, I thought, was going to be. I thought, ‘Then there is basketball season and I am going to be a manager again this year and get my second year award.’ All of the sudden I heard this voice say, ‘No Jim, you are not to manage the basketball team this year!’
I realized that it was God because there was no sense of anxiety present within me when I heard the voice. So, I began to argue with Him. (Not a good thing to do.) ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘What is wrong with me managing the basketball team?’ The same message came back, “you are not to do it.”
Well the year started and when it came time for basketball season, I ignored my August conversation and agreed to be one of the managers.
As the season began, I was miserable. There was no joy in what I was doing and it was not the same fun that it had been during my junior year.
Then an opportunity to go to Florida over Christmas vacation with a group of teens from my church and other sister congregations presented itself. But, the basketball team played in a holiday tournament and was I not one of the managers?
What would you do? Would you go to Florida or be there for the team? ‘What,’ to use a popular phrase, ‘would Jesus do?’
I went to Florida. I had a great time. And I got close to God again.
The first week back home and back in school had winter weather bring a hard snow and school closings and, my infamous auto accident that I shared with you back in January that resulted in my totaling my mom’s car. Now, getting home from practice would be come a challenge and for mom to get to work would become difficult.
Now what would you do? How would you handle your responsibilities? How do you think that you would honor God?
I resigned as manager because as I processed that experience…. You guessed it! My August conversation with God came to mind and I knew what I had to do.
My dad did not understand my reasons. He thought that I was letting the team down. And down through the years, I have had a greater understanding of his point.
But, I resigned, because I thought that it was the right thing to do, and there was a peace about the whole thing that came to me.
Ever had such an experience? You knew God spoke… you searched the Bible to be sure that what you were hearing or experiencing was not contradictory to what the Bible said (very important to do)…. You tried to explain yourself to friends and family and they looked at you like you were crazy….
How did you resolve it? Did you ignore what you were hearing? Did you dismiss what the Bible clearly said? Or did you change directions and obey the Lord?
Now it would be easy for me to claim some important spiritual success in this story. But that is not why I shared it. To me there was failure – a failure to obey – in this story. That I learned from my failure is ‘the success’ of the story but that is because I obeyed God, which is the real point of the story after being humbled, not humiliated, by Him.
In our text for this morning, Paul tells his readers that he had had a wonderful spiritual experience that was so profound that he could not talk about it.
‘But I do know that I was caught up into paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be told. That experience is something worth boasting about, but I am not going to do it. I am going to boast only about my weaknesses.’
Spiritual superiority is not a good thing. Granted we can share of times when God moved in wonderful ways that can help others be encouraged. But the point in sharing is to give credit to God and not ourselves.
And that is what Paul does because as we read in verse 7, ‘But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud.’
God has His version of speed bumps that He places in our path to slow us down, to get our attention, or to get us to stop so that He can get our focus on Him and not our spiritual ness. Paul had such a speed bump placed in his path. You and I have them as well because in giving it is not about us… but about the Lord!