Summary: Suffering, no one likes it. However, it is something we all experience at sometime or another. Here is what the Scriptures say concerning it.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [vs. 1-6], for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. [NASB]
The context surrounding this text finds Paul defending himself as being a legitimate Apostle before the Corinthian church. In this defense, we see Paul bragging about just who he was and his qualifications as an Apostle. And as a part of this boasting, Paul spoke of his vision and revelations he partook of in the third heaven. Because of this vision and revelation, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment him – to keep Paul from exalting himself. Due to this, Paul sought the Lord three times to remove it and was told that the Lord’s grace was quite sufficient for Paul. Consequently Paul states how he has learned to rely on Christ instead of himself.
1. What of us today?
Are we like Paul, here in our text, suffering from some calamity over which we cannot escape?
Are we crying out to the Lord, “Take away this physical pain & suffering; take away my soul’s heartache; take away this misery that has surrounded me – Oh Lord, I beseech you, take it away!”
No normal person enjoys pain and suffering – no matter what type it is:
▪ Physical - Sometimes our bodies just wear out and we suffer physical inabilities.
▪ Mental – Sometimes occurrences take place which never fade into obscurity.
▪ Emotional – Sometimes scars are etched for a lifetime and never smooth over.
▪ Spiritual – Sometimes memories of past actions haunt us and never relent.
There are times that no matter what we do or what someone has done for us can we find relief.
When this happens to us we can be like those of Israel of old and end up murmuring against God (Exodus 15:24; 16:2 & 12; 17:3) when things are not going our way or we can become like Paul here in our text and learn to be content trusting the Lord, no matter the weakness (vs. 10).
2. Cause of Suffering
Ultimately – Part of the curse from the fall – Genesis 3:17-19.
۰ When God created the heavens & the earth and all things pertaining to them, He pronounced them good –
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good … He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
۰ Through Adam’s sin all was cursed –
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope and that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves …”
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned -”
** Whether your suffering is heartache or a heart attack, pain of grief or groaning from pain – whatever the source of your suffering, it is something that we all become partakers of through out our lives.
3. Purpose of Suffering
۰ Result for Sin
“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses … And the Lord heard it … So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold Miriam was leprous … Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us” … Moses cried out to the Lord … But the Lord said to Moses … So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days …”
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”