Sermons

Summary: Paul, Pt. 12

MY GRACE IS SUFFICENT FOR YOU (2 CORINTHIANS 12:7-10)

Do you know that people who think they are treated unfairly are more likely to suffer a heart attack or chest pain? According to a report published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, those who thought they had experienced the worst injustice were 55% more likely to experience a coronary event than people who thought life was fair.

The study was funded primarily by health agencies in the British and U.S. governments. One of the largest and longest of its kind, it examined medical data from 6,081 British civil servants. In the early 1990s, they were asked how strongly they agreed with this statement: “I often have the feeling that I am being treated unfairly.” Unlike previous studies, the subjects were questioned before they showed any signs of cardiovascular disease. That way, the results weren’t skewed by people who thought life was unfair because they were already sick.

The subjects were tracked for an average of 10.9 years. In that time, 387 either died of a heart attack, were treated for a nonfatal attack or diagnosed with angina (chest pain). The researchers found that the rate of cardiac events among civil servants who reported “low levels” of unfair treatment was 28% higher than for those who had no complaints. People who reported “moderate unfairness” saw their risk rise by 36%. (“People Who Feel Wronged Can Really Take it to Heart,” Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2007)

The list of people saying or added to the “life is unfair” game on the internet over ten pages of search includes people who face rebuilding their homes, being alone in one’s 50s, a person with a skin disease, disable people, women, the poor, and the overweight person. Many say life is unfair to me, or life is unfair to all.

How do we handle a seemingly unfair situation in life? How do we ensure that our passion and purpose in life is not dimmed or snuffed by the problems of life? What spiritual resources are available in Christ when the physical body fails?

Embrace Your Weakness; Don’t be Embarrassed of It

7 To 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. (2 Cor 12:7)

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.” “Why do you say that?” asked the customer.

“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving a God who would allow all of these things.” The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt.

The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.” “How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”

“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.” “Ah, but barbers DO exist! What happens is, people do not come to me.”

“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist! What happens, is, people don’t go to Him and do not look for Him. That’s why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”

Paul’s struggle to accept his physical condition is heightened in the light of the Corinthian church backdrop, with her carnal, childish and conceited believers. His stress on spiritual growth was often disrupted and hijacked by their sharing of grandiose spiritual activities. Their fixation and obsession were on the talk of visions (derived from “eye” in Greek - Luke 1:22, 24:23) and revelations or “apokalupsis” in Greek (v 1), signs, wonders and miracles (v 12). The apostle set them up by claiming he, too, can boast about knowing inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell (v 4).

“Boasting” (v 1, 5, 5, 6, 9), or Greek for “glorying” or ‘rejoicing,” can be in a good or a bad sense – negative or positive. Legitimate boasting in the Bible includes glorying God (Rom 5:2, 5:11, 1 Cor 1:31, Gal 6:14), persevering faith (Rom 5:3, 2 Thess 1:4), enthusiastic giving (2 Cor 9:2), growing believers (2 Cor 10:15) and exercising humility (James 1:9) – basically, never in sensational claims or outward appearance. Inferior boasting in the Bible includes bragging about the law (Rom 2:23), boasting of works (Eph 2:9) and of tomorrow or longevity (James 4:15-16).

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